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How 28 restaurant companies performed and innovated in their latest quarters

Casual-dining chains launch virtual brands as quick-service restaurants make drive-thru changes

It’s been nine months since the coronavirus pandemic began to sweep the United States, shutting down dining rooms, and as public restaurant companies reported earnings from their latest quarters, we saw an industry launching innovations that will hold long after the unprecedented challenges have passed.

Many of the country’s largest casual-dining companies — Brinker International, Bloomin’ Brands and Dine Brands — have launched and expanded virtual brands in their existing kitchens so they can reach consumers who are dining at home in new ways.

Meanwhile, quick-service and fast-casual companies including Wendy’s, Shake Shack, Del Taco and Restaurant Brands International are updating their store designs to reflect the times, especially at the drive-thru.

Almost every brand mentioned the ongoing success of off-premise programs, with casual-dining chains Chuy’s and Texas Roadhouse both indicating those trends are here to stay. Off-premise isn’t without its own challenges, though, as fast-casual chains Chipotle and Noodles & Co. are experimenting with raising prices on items ordered through third-party delivery companies.

Even as sales seem to improve as compared to earlier this year, the industry is still struggling overall. Potbelly Red Robin, Starbucks, Cheesecake Factory, Pizza Hut and IHOP all either closed units in the latest quarter or said they will in the future.

Click through to see how 28 restaurant companies performed in their latest quarters, and how they’re innovating to stay alive.

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