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Monthly menu check: Casual-dining restaurants cut back on value promos in March

After increasing emphasis on value promotions for the last several months, casual-dining restaurants in March have either maintained or cut back on promoting lower-priced menu items, according to the latest Monthly Menu Check from Brad Ludington, and analyst from KeyBanc Capital Markets.

Among the chains that eliminated value promotions was Red Lobster, which ended its $15 four-course seafood dinner right before Valentine’s Day, while rolling out its Lobsterfest campaign without a price point. In addition, Outback Steakhouse closed out the promotion of its $12.99 steak and seafood mixed grill, and P.F. Chang’s China Bistro ended its Red Envelope bounceback promotion.

Ludington believes the trend, which was also seen among quick-service restaurants this month, could be attributed to seasonality.

“We believe the cut can be explained in part by seasonal factors, such as the start of Lent allowing for more higher-priced seafood entrees,” he said in the report. “It will be interesting to see whether restaurants actually see higher average checks that allow them to consider rolling back value promotions in the coming months.”

While the trend was to cut back or maintain promotions, Ludington did find a few exceptions in a handful of casual-dining brands that rolled out new value offers.

Ruby Tuesday expanded its 30 chef-inspired entrées promotion with a starting price point of $9.99, and Bravo Brio added to its “everyday value” platform with a 3-course dinner for $19.95, offered Sunday through Thursday at participating restaurants. Also, Olive Garden rolled out a $6.95 create-your-own lunch promotion that includes an entrée, side and unlimited breadsticks.

Contact Charlie Duerr at [email protected].

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