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Chuy’s looks to boost awareness, partly through catering

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Coming off a 3.2% increase in same-store sales for the first quarter, the Chuy’s Tex-Mex casual chain is aiming to maintain the momentum by raising awareness of the regional brand through catering as well as straightforward marketing.

Simultaneously, the 101-unit operation intends to drop more dollars to the bottom line by embracing technology and intensifying its focus on labor efficiencies.  

Marketing figures large in the chain’s near-term plans, CEO Steve Hislop told financial analysts yesterday. He detailed plans to use a combination of nontraditional means—paid search, paid social media campaigns and geographically focused mobile messaging—and the old standbys of highway and stadium signage. 

The brand also intends to run adds on digital channels such as Hulu, Spotify and YouTube.

In May, the focus will be on promoting online ordering to foster off-premise sales. Hislop said that aspect of the business now accounts for 13.6% of Chuy’s overall sales. 

Online ordering will serve as “a foundation to our future loyalty program which we will explore in the back half ofthis year,” Hislop said.

The marketing will serve to raise awareness of the brand in new markets for the chain, such as Chicago, where only three units are currently open.

Further awareness will come in established markets from the expansion of Chuy’s catering service. By year’s end, the program will be in place within 11 of Chuy’s 19 markets, Hislop said. 

Catering “gives us another platform for top line growth while at the same time improving awareness of the Chuy's brand,” he commented.

Chuy’s labor initiatives aim to better manage staffing at new restaurants, including for the opening process, Hislop indicated. The chain is also striving to shave its management needs by shifting some managerial functions to selected hourly workers, he revealed. Chuy’s noted that the cost of training managers for new stores is declining.

Technology will also play a role in boosting efficiencies, Hislop said. He noted that the company is currently testing a new POS system, without revealing what capabilities a new network might provide.

Overall, parent company Chuy’s Holdings posted a net income of $3.2 million, a 1% increase from the year-ago profit figure, on revenues of $102.1 million, up 8.8%.

The chain operates restaurants in 19 states.


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