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Chili’s parent company expects higher delivery and takeout sales to continue long after the pandemic

Chili’s parent Brinker International is expecting that customers will order more takeout and delivery in the months and years to come than before the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t think that we’ll ever go back to the mix we ran prior,” said Brinker CEO Wyman Roberts, who credited the pandemic for pushing many consumers to try delivery through third-party apps for the first time.

Before the pandemic, only 20% of Brinker’s sales came from takeout and delivery. Roberts said it’s unlikely that number will ever fall that low again, thanks in part to the latest addition to Brinker’s portfolio. 

During the pandemic, Brinker unveiled its first virtual restaurant brand, It’s Just Wings, through its partnership with Doordash. Chicken wings, fried Oreos and fries are made in Chili’s and Maggiano’s kitchens but are only available for delivery by Doordash. Roberts said that the virtual brand is expected to gross more than $150 million in sales in its first year.

Roberts said that about half of its sales are now coming from dine-in customers, although Chili’s and its sister chain Maggiano’s Little Italy still lack full dining room capacity. Some states, such as California and New Mexico, have rolled back indoor dining entirely after cases spiked. 

Shares of Brinker rose nearly 7% in morning trading, a day after it reported its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings. The stock, which has a market value of $1.7 billion, has fallen 12% so far in 2020.

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