- Chili’s updated its menu nationwide Wednesday with new Chicken Crisper Combos, a Double OldTimer with Cheese and premium margaritas, the company wrote in an email to Restaurant Dive.
- Among the biggest changes to the menu is the Chicken Crispers, which the company says are now bigger, crispier and juicier and prepared using a hand-battered breading process. Crispers are now being offered in four-, five- and six-count combos, the company said.
- These permanent menu items are part of the company’s focus on its core four menu items of burgers, margaritas, Chicken Crispers and Fajitas, which Brinker CEO Kevin Hochman said differentiate the brand from competitors during the company’s May earnings call.
As part of the menu launch, the company focused on a new breading process for the Chicken Crispers. Originally, the company used two batters for two different Crispers, Hochman said on the earnings call. The original Crisper used a tempura batter, but the company eliminated it from the menu in October since its Crispy Crispers outsold the tempura Crispers four to one, Hochman said. The company didn’t end up losing business by removing the tempura battered chicken and the Crispier sales mix was 3% higher at the end of fiscal Q3 2023 than when it had two different recipes.
Moving to one Crisper recipe allowed the company to move to its new hand-breaded recipe, which uses fewer SKUs, requires “less to train and maintain” and will drive more business, Hochman said. The company also previously served corn on the cob on the side and upgraded it to mac and cheese, he said.
“Our new Crispy Chicken Crisper Combos are so good that I’d put them up against any Chicken tenders in the industry,” Chili’s CMO George Felix said in an email to Restaurant Dive.
Last quarter, the company also soft rolled out its Sangria Swirl Margarita on its happy hour menu and it was popular enough to earn its spot on the permanent menu, Hochman said. It also introduces its Hennessy Margarita that also became a top seller and reached the number five spot in March, he said.
As the company has been focusing on its core menu items, it’s also been shifting its strategy from some experimental moves. It closed its to-go-only restaurant after two months of operations to instead strengthen its core business and focus on innovation inside the restaurant. It also paused its test of Rita the Robot server to instead accelerate deployment of its on its Kitchen of the Future 3, which uses equipment to reduce cook times.