There's a new Chili's opening near the Dallas campus of Southern Methodist University that represents a brand new model for the chain.
It's going into the former Starbucks at 3036 Mockingbird Ln., in the same venerable center at the intersection of US-75 that's home to Barnes & Noble and La Madeleine. Starbucks closed in summer 2021.
Construction begins in April and according to a Chili's spokesperson, it'll open in October.
"We are planning to open a delivery / to-go only location in October, with the location being a smaller footprint than your usual Chili’s restaurant," the spokesperson said.
The outlet will serve food from Chili's and at least one of their virtual brands, It's Just Wings. It's Just Wings is a delivery-only brand that was created by Brinker International in 2020. It features three kinds of wings (smoked, fried, and boneless) with 10 sauces, plus curly fries and hand pies.
The new Chili's concept was mentioned briefly on Brinker's earnings call on February 2, when CEO and President Wyman Roberts shared the company's plans to open two smaller footprint locations in areas near college campuses. One of those is SMU; the other location will be near Ohio State.
Brinker Executive Vice President and CFO Joe Taylor said that the new concept would address the growing market for takeout.
"The options we're looking at right now are by college campuses, one here in Dallas and one in Columbus, are going to be in-line, a little bit larger, kind of more in that 1,500 to 1,800 square foot that we would lease and manage," Taylor said. "So they all are kind of off-premise centric in their approach."
"It's just opening up a fairly large addressable market by thinking a little bit differently and leaning into really," Taylor said. "That's one of the COVID takeaways is that off-premise is a bigger component of what we will do going forward. So we want to make sure we're taking full advantage of that consumer shift."
In other recent innovations, Brinker also partnered with Flytrex, which does ultra-fast delivery of food and retail via drones to front and backyards.