Brinker adds second virtual brand to its range

by uchimeshi
  • Brinker International, the parent company of Chili’s and Maggiano’s, is in the process of launching its second virtual brand, Maggiano’s Italian Classics, Brinker CEO and President Wyman Roberts said Wednesday during the company’s 2021 fiscal quarter earnings call.
  • Brinker estimates that Maggiano’s Italian Classics will generate over $100 million in sales. Wyman said the brand is now in 250 restaurants, and Brinker plans to expand the brand to 900 restaurants by the end of fiscal year.
  • Brinker has headed the virtual brand trend since launching It’s Just Wings last year. Roberts said the brand has exceeded its $150 million annual sales target and has reached $170 million in U.S. sales.

It’s Just Wings was profitable for both Chili’s and Maggiano’s, with higher delivery sales for both brands in the fourth quarter. according to earnings statement.

Roberts said Brinker is also investing in various technology developments to better handle growing external sales, which currently represents more than 30% of sales. This includes an advanced curbside takeout system and an online ordering site for It’s Just Wings, where guests can order takeout and delivery. Roberts said this move is expected to increase accessibility for takeout, which was previously only available through Google. maggiano’s Italian Classics currently also has a branded website, but only offers delivery via DoorDash.

While Roberts’ It’s Just Wings launched in more than 1,000 restaurants almost overnight last year when the dining rooms were largely closed, Brinker is launching Maggiano’s Italian Classics at a much slower pace because the brand is more operationally complex and dining rooms “It’s completely clear,” Roberts said. The company is training staff to support the business so as not to harm Chili’s dining room business, he said.

Maggiano’s Italian Classics brand said it provides higher check averages than It’s Just Wings, which has a menu of more value items. “Both brands have different customer goals,” he said. Demand for It’s Just Wings tends to increase on weekends and game nights, while the busiest days for Maggiano’s Italian Classics tend to be on Sundays. Roberts said the new brand is more of a family offering.

However, Brinker does not plan to expand its virtual brand list any time soon.

“We don’t want to have a huge portfolio of virtual brands. We’re very limited. We’re probably going to focus on those two for a while,” said Roberts. “We weren’t going to launch a brand that didn’t have at least $100 million in sales potential, and we’re going to build it from there. …Just Wings has proven that, and we think Maggiano’s Classics will evolve throughout the year as we unveil this thing over the next two quarters.”

In addition to Maggiano’s Italian Classics, Roberts said the company will spend more in the next two quarters to raise awareness of It’s Just Wings. Roberts said the online opportunities to advertise the brand and the knowledge of Brinker’s It’s Just Wings target consumer make this spend very efficient.

Brinker’s expansion into virtual brands is among the most successful of casual brands daring in space. David Deno, CEO of Bloomin’ Brands, July earnings call virtual brand Tender Shack is not at the level the company wanted it to be. Deno said Bloomin plans to expand marketing and product opportunities around Tender Shack and will continue to pursue this virtual brand business.

Applebee had to delay expanding its Cosmic Wings brand to DoorDash – currently only available through Uber Eats – due to chicken wing supply issues. Roberts said Brinker had to make some adjustments to the cost dynamics in the wings, but the supply chain team was able to keep the products in front of consumers.

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