Chili’s opens e-commerce shop to celebrate 47th birthday

Dive Brief:

  • Chili’s Grill & Bar will launch an e-commerce shop featuring branded merchandise on March 13, per a press release emailed to Marketing Dive. The launch comes as the full-service restaurant celebrates its 47th birthday.
  • The shop at welcometochilis.com will feature t-shirts, fanny packs, pool floats and more, ranging in price from $10 to $60. In addition, guests can visit Chili’s on March 13 and purchase a signature Presidente Margaritas for only $3.13.
  • The e-commerce shop taps into the growth of digital channels that is expected to continue, even as consumers increasingly head out to full-service restaurants after nearly two years of pandemic-related disruptions.

Dive Insight:

Chili’s is celebrating its 47th birthday by beefing up a key channel for brands — albeit one not traditionally utilized by full-service restaurants — with its e-commerce shop. The chain has previously given away branded merchandise as part of a delivery push, but welcometochilis.com represents a more serious investment in the channel.

“In recent years, we have focused much of our marketing efforts on digital channels and driving loyalty, so an e-commerce store focused on trendy merch is a natural next step to engage our most dedicated fans,” Michael Breed, senior vice president of Chili’s marketing, said in an emailed statement.

For years, branded merchandise has been utilized by QSR and CPG marketers as they attempt to tie up their brands with consumer culture, an increasingly important imperative that has led some restaurant chains to change their marketing leadership and agency partnerships. Previously, McDonald’s and Dunkin’ launched e-commerce shops to beef up their branded merchandise offerings.

Chili’s is targeting “diehard” fans who follow the brand on Instagram and have the chain’s rewards app on their phone’s home screen, Breed said. The chain plans to further innovate and offer merchandise around key moments and holidays, such as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Chili’s will leverage social media, including TikTok, email and public relations, plus outreach to its team members, to boost the effort. Previously, the chain has embraced TikTok and YouTube, among other channels.

The branded merchandise and e-commerce push comes as consumers continue returning to on-premise restaurants, but as economic pressures might curtail those opportunities. Chili’s parent Brinker International reported fiscal second-quarter profit that far exceeded expectations, but Chili’s higher dining room business was offset by a decline in off-premise business, per MarketWatch. However, Brinker’s virtual brands have continue to perform well and the company has planned to expand the offering.

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