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Chili's comps slide, underscoring casual dining's traffic woes

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Sales at Chili’s U.S. restaurants open for at least a year declined year over year by 3.6 percent in the quarter ended March 23, parent company Brinker International announced today.

The decline in comparable sales was even steeper for company-operated Chili’s branches, with a drop of 4.1 percent. Price increases tempered the slide, but were not enough to offset a 4.9 percent fall in traffic.

The numbers provide further evidence that casual dining is suffering a relapse of sorts after posting stronger sales numbers at the beginning of the year.

Brinker’s other casual brand, Maggiano’s, eked out a 0.2 percent rise in same-store sales, largely because of pricing. But traffic also edged upward, by 1.1 percent.

Overall, Brinker’s revenues rose by 5.2 percent to $824.6 million, reflecting the contribution of 103 Chili’s units that were recently purchased from a franchisee.

Net income fell year over year by 12 percent, to $57.5 million.

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