The pandemic year of 2020 was marked by bold moves, but one of the most successful was Brinker International’s creation of a 1,050-unit brand seemingly overnight with the introduction last June of It’s Just Wings on DoorDash.
What the Dallas-based company anticipated would in its first year be a $150 million business, deploying excess capacity in its Chili’s Grill & Bar and Maggiano’s Little Italy kitchens, actually reached $170 million in U.S. annual sales in its first year, according to Brinker CEO and president Wyman Roberts.
The success of It’s Just Wings, which recently has begun rolling out to international partners, led Brinker to introduce the virtual Maggiano’s Italian Classics delivery brand to 250 restaurants this summer, with the goal of having the virtual menu in 900 restaurants by the middle of 2022.
It’s Just Wings didn’t really happen overnight. Brinker’s innovation team had been setting the groundwork for the virtual brand for more than a year before its introduction, testing the limited offerings at a few stores before the big pandemic roll out.
In March, Brinker expanded It’s Just Wings accessibility further, partnering with Google to allow customers to order pick-up from their nearby Chili’s restaurants using Google Search and Google Maps, tapping into the highly used “brand near me” function.
“There are hundreds of millions of searches per week conducted around food in Google, so when you consider that kind of volume, that’s an opportunity we definitely want to play in,” said Wade Allen, Brinker’s senior vice president of innovation. “This partnership allows us to have our virtual brand front and center.”
The incredible development of a 1,000-plus-unit, $170 million brand in the blink of an eye makes Brinker and its It’s Just Wings concept worthy of the Brand CREATOR.