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Brinker posts 4.2% comp-sales gain for Chili’s

Brinker International posted quarterly same-store sales gains today for its Chili’s brand of 4.2 percent in the United States and 3.5 percent globally, with traffic increases factoring heavily into the numbers.

The company did not break out a systemwide traffic figure, but noted that customer counts at company-run stores increased 2.1 percent year over year during the quarter ended Dec. 24, 2014. Franchised stores in the United States enjoyed an average same-store sales increase of 4.9 percent, Brinker said.

Maggiano’s, the company’s chain of family-style Italian restaurants, generated a 1.6 percent increase in guest traffic.

Building traffic has been a top challenge for restaurant chains, and casual-dining chains in particular, since the Great Recession. Restaurant guest counts are down about 11 percent since that watershed time, the research firm TDn2K said last week at its Global Best Practices Conference.

Brinker noted in releasing quarterly financial results today that restaurant-level operating profits for Chili’s had also improved. Lower health-care insurance costs factored into the margin increase, offsetting a mandated rise in wages in many areas of the country.

Brinker’s total revenues increased 4.9 percent for the three-month period, to $717.8 million, and net income increased about 4 percent, to $41.3 million.

Brinker operates or franchises about 1,585 Chili’s restaurants and about 49 Maggiano’s.

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