Food

Chili's takes shot at the Big Mac with new Big Smasher burger

The burger mirrors McDonald’s signature sandwich in almost every way and continues Chili’s efforts to steal share from fast-food chains.
Chili's Big Smasher burger
The Big Smasher is part of Chili's $10.99 combo meal lineup. | Photo courtesy of Chili's Grill and Bar

Chili’s Grill and Bar is coming after the Big Mac.

The casual-dining chain, which has not been shy about challenging fast-food brands with its menu and prices, took a bold shot at McDonald’s on Monday with the launch of a new burger that mirrors the chain’s signature sandwich in almost every way.

Chili’s Big Smasher has diced red onions, lettuce, pickles, Thousand Island dressing and American cheese on a nearly half-pound smashed beef patty. It does not, however, feature the Big Mac’s sesame seed bun or its recognizable middle or “club” bun.

It also packs twice the amount of beef as a Big Mac, which clocks in at 3.2 ounces pre-cooked, according to Chili’s.

And it's positioned to compete closely with McDonald's on value. The Big Smasher will temporarily join Chili’s 3 for Me combo meal lineup, which gives guests bottomless chips and salsa, an entree and a bottomless non-alcoholic drink starting at $10.99. 

That is generally more expensive than a Big Mac meal, but it’s in the same ballpark in some markets. According to the McDonald’s app, a Big Mac combo costs $9.09 in Dallas, $9.39 in Miami and $10.19 in Los Angeles. (Texas, Florida and California are Chili's biggest markets by unit count.)

And Chili’s argues that it’s a better value because of the food quality and the portions sizes, plus the tableside service customers get when they dine in. Of course, the $10.99 figure doesn’t include the cost of a tip. And some consumers would view the relative convenience of ordering from McDonald’s as a value add.

The Big Smasher will only be on the 3 for Me menu for a limited time. After that, it will live on Chili's regular menu, CEO Kevin Hochman said during an earnings call Tuesday.

The jockeying comes as full-service chains look to win back customers who have traded down to lower-priced fast-food brands in recent years. Chili’s has been particularly aggressive in promoting its 3 for Me offer as a QSR-type deal

"We know diners are experiencing sticker shock from the rising cost of fast food, with little change to the actual quantity or quality of fast food combo meals," said Chili’s CMO George Felix in a statement. "We believe that Chili's 3 For Me offers better value than you'll find in any drive-thru and, with the all-new Big Smasher burger, we just made the 3 for Me even better. We believe our guests can enjoy better quality, better pricing and a better experience every time." 

3 for Me has proven to be an effective draw for customers. In the fourth quarter, executives said more guests opted for the value meal and that it is driving incremental traffic.

Chili’s has already put a lot of advertising dollars behind 3 for Me and is launching a series of three new TV and digital spots promoting the deal that take direct aim at fast food. It's also asking guests to post on X (formerly known as Twitter) about why Chili's is better than fast food using the hashtag #Chilis3ForMeRescue.

The Big Smasher is Chili’s first new burger in three years and continues a streak of menu development at the chain under Hochman. Since he took the reins in June 2022, Chili's has refocused on its core menu of burgers, chicken tenders, fajitas and margaritas.

Along with the new burger, Chili’s is adding a crispy chicken sandwich to the 3 for Me menu. 

UPDATE: This story was updated to reflect that the Big Smasher will be on Chili's 3 for Me menu for a limited time.

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