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8.7% traffic drop stings Chili's in latest quarter

An 8.7% drop in restaurant traffic at company-run Chili's units dragged down same-store sales for the corporate stores by 3.4% for the quarter ended Sept. 27, parent company Brinker International disclosed today.

Franchised Chili’s branches fared slightly better, with a 1.7% slip in comps. Brinker did not reveal traffic figures for the franchised stores.

Outside the United States, Chili's comps fell 7.9%, Brinker said.

The declines came despite what Brinker has presented as a recast of Chili’s, its core brand. New marketing, aired toward the end of the quarter, touts larger and reformulated versions of the casual chain’s signatures, including burgers, fajitas and slabs of ribs.

The operation also trimmed its menu by about 40%, or 75 items, a few weeks before the quarter ended. Chili’s said the move will enable restaurants to boost the quality and speed of its kitchen output.

Chili’s sister operation, Maggiano’s, posted a 2.6% comp-sales decline on a 2.8% slide in traffic.

Brinker noted that its two brands lost about $5.4 million in sales because of hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Chili’s and Maggiano’s were the latest casual chains to post negative same-store sales amid a prolonged downturn in casual dining.

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