Chili’s opens first to-go-only location as it eyes denser markets

The 1,600-square-foot location offers a scaled-down menu near the campus of Southern Methodist University.
Chili's to-go interior
Customers can order online, via app or at the counter. / Photograph courtesy of Chili's

Chili’s Grill & Bar has opened its first to-go-only location, near the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

The 1,600-square-foot restaurant is about one-fifth of the size of a regular Chili’s and is designed to get the casual-dining brand into denser markets where more customers are on foot.

The scaled-down menu features some of the chain’s most popular items, including burgers, fajitas and Chicken Crispers as well as margaritas, appetizers and salads. It will also offer Chili’s virtual brand, It’s Just Wings.

Customers can order online, on the Chili’s app or on the new It’s Just Wings app for pickup or delivery. They can also walk in and order at the counter. 

Chili's interior

The location does have a few tables for waiting. / Photograph courtesy of Chili's

The new format gives Chili’s a path into smaller areas that wouldn’t be able to accommodate one of its traditional 5,500-square-foot buildings. A second to-go-only store is slated to open in Columbus, Ohio, next year.

It’s one of a number of restaurants looking to use small-footprint, digital-first locations to break into previously inaccessible markets, particularly urban centers. On Tuesday, Panera Bread unveiled its latest limited-seating format in New York City. Applebee’s and Cracker Barrel are using ghost kitchens to do the same.

It comes as Chili’s seeks to ramp up its off-premise business, which now makes up about nearly 30% of its revenue. Parent company Brinker International last month reappointed Wade Allen as chief digital officer with a special emphasis on growing Chili’s takeout and delivery platform.

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