Ξ Chili’s becomes the first casual-dining chain to do a “better burgers” upgrade twice when it introduces new Handmade Burgers this week. The three new burgers—Rojo (with barbecue sauce), Avocado and Ultimate Stacked—join the menu beginning at just $5.99.
Hand-Made Burgers come to Chili’s less than six months after the chain unveiled a new menu that included a line of “better than ever” Big Mouth Burgers priced from $6.89 to $9.39 (prices may vary). However, the new menu and better burgers didn’t reverse Chili’s red ink: For the 13 weeks ended March 24, 2010, Chili’s same-store sales were down 5%, largely due to a 4.8% slide in customer counts.
Now the chain is lowering prices as well as improving quality and overall appeal. In other words, all the “recession is over” talk is premature until consumers show they’re no longer price-shopping.
Ξ When is a melt not a melt? When it’s toasted, apparently. Checkers/Rally’s this week has introduced yet another new sandwich line, the Toasted Trio. Like the Melts line that Checkers introduced in April, the three new sandwiches sport toasted sourdough bread in place of buns but these aren’t labeled “melts.” They’re sort of a cross between melts and Jack in the Box’s Grilled Sandwiches.
The varieties are the Toasted Cheese Double Cheese burger (with two slices of American cheese, diced onion, dill pickles, ketchup and mustard); a Toasted BLT (with four peppered-bacon strips); and Toasted BBQ Spicy Chicken.
Like Chili’s, Checkers is discounting as well as innovating. The Toasted Trio sandwiches are 2 for $3, compared with the 2 for $4 Melts. Watch the TV commercial for the Toasted Trio here. Meanwhile Checkers/Rally’s also is testing its six-item Flavor Built Burgers line in Florida.
Ξ Ruby Tuesday is no stranger to the better-burgers idea, having introduced its new-and-improved Handcrafted Burgers line last year. Now it’s focusing on building its bar business to increase customer counts. One tactic it’s using is to knock $2 off the price of any Bar Bite or appetizer between 4 pm and 6 pm and again from 9 pm to closing.
Bar Bites include Double Ruby Mini burgers (priced at $7.99 to $8.49, depending on location), three mini fish tacos ($7.99 to $8.49) and a new “Big Adventurous Burger” ($8.99 to $9.49). The 12-ounce burger is topped with aged New York Cheddar. With the $2 discount reducing the price to $6.99 to $7.49, the BAB (at right) is larger and less expensive than the dining-room menu’s Handcrafted Burgers, making it an appealing deal.
Ξ Culver’s has never much been one for spicy foods, but that’s changed this week with the 3 Pepper Chipotle ButterBurger (and chicken version). Jalapeño slices, chipotle-spiced mayo and habanero-spiced cheese account for the three peppers. On the side: Chipotle Cheese Curds. Oh yeah.
The chain also has launched a recipe contest, the Ultimate ButterBurger Build Off. If your submitted idea for the next big ButterBurger wins, you’ll get an all-expenses-paid trip to hang out in Culver’s test kitchens in Sauk City, Wis. Voting ends June 30. Tell me you haven’t been wanting to go.