- Over 300 Chili’s are expected to reopen their dining rooms by this weekend in Texas, Oklahoma, Utah, in parts of Tennessee, Wyman Roberts, Brinker International CEO, said during a Wednesday call with investors. Nearly 40 restaurants already reopened on Monday and Tuesday in Georgia.
- The company has already brought back 10% of furloughed team members and will bring back more staff as dining rooms reopen, he said.
- Customers will be seated two tables apart. Patrons won’t be allowed at the bar. Tables will be pushed up into the bar so that patrons can still interact with the bartender, but be six feet away.
Chili’s dining rooms certainly won’t look like they did prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, and its social distancing measures reflect what other casual dining chains might need to do to help ensure that dine-in is safe for both employees and guests.
As part of its strategy, Chili's set up a floor plan that would accommodate 50% capacity per several state guidelines with fewer tables being used in Texas, where capacity is capped at 25%.
“If it’s a half dining room scenario, no one will get more out of a half a dining room than we will,” Roberts said.
The company is also putting in touchless order and payment systems for dine-in. It previously converted its tabletop tech into a touchless payment system for curbside orders.
“Those cars became tables,” Roberts said. “We took our tabletop payment system … and converted the technology to be a pay at the car touchless system for our customers that don’t pay online."
Chili’s is configuring its takeout areas to accommodate increased volume of sales and safer practices and is training its team to protect themselves and guests, Roberts said, adding that plenty of masks, gloves and sanitizer will be provided. With takeout and delivery sales making up 50% of its sales over the past four weeks compared to 35% for all of 2019, it makes sense that the chain would want to make sure takeout continues to be a seamless process.
Despite the uptick in off-premise, Chili’s weekly same-store sales for the first four weeks of April declined significantly. For the weeks ending April 1, April 8, April 15 and April 22, same-store sales decreased by 62.9%, 57.8%, 51.6% and 42,5% respectively. By having its dining rooms open even in a limited capacity, it will be able to recoup some of the lost sales.