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Report: Chili’s reviewing ad agencies

Casual-dining chain looks at per-project campaigns, according to AdWeek

Chili’s Grill & Bar has been in discussions with agencies in a review of its creative and digital advertising business, AdWeek reported Friday.

The division of Dallas-based Brinker International Inc. had been with the Hill Holiday agency since 2007.

“According to several parties with direct knowledge of the matter, Chili’s has ended its relationship with Hill Holliday and now looks to engage agencies on a per-project basis for future broadcast and digital campaigns,” AdWeek reported.

Brinker did not respond to emailed questions by press time.

Wyman Roberts, Brinker president and CEO, said in a third-quarter earnings call in April, that “we think there is an opportunity for us to get more out of our messaging, both with regard to the messages that we're putting out there, being more relevant for our guests … as well as maybe a change in some of the mix.” 

In March, Brinker named Steve Provost Chili’s chief marketing and innovation officer. He had most recently served as president of Maggiano’s Little Italy, also part of Brinker.

In the earnings call, Roberts said Provost “comes into the Chili's marketing department with a fresh perspective, really evaluating all aspects of the marketing plan.”

AdWeek said data from Kantar Media indicated Chili’s spent about $129 million on measured media in the United States in 2016, up from $117 million in 2015.

Roberts said Chili’s was testing a menu with about 20 percent fewer items, which was expected to roll out systemwide later in the summer.

For the third quarter ended March 29, Brinker’s income declined 26.3 percent, to $42.4 million, or 86 cents per share, from $57.5 million, or $1 per share, the previous year. Revenue slipped 1.7 percent, to $810.6 million, from $824.6 million the previous year.

Same-store sales for all Brinker restaurants fell 2.2 percent in the third quarter, with a 2.3-percent decline at company-owned Chili’s units and a 1.6-percent dip at Maggiano’s Little Italy. 

As of March 29, Brinker owned and franchised 1,660 restaurants, including 1,608 Chili’s locations and 52 Maggiano’s units. 

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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