US restaurant chain scraps tilapia from its menu amid drop in customer traffic

Published on
September 12, 2017

Popular U.S. restaurant chain Chili’s Grill & Bar is reducing the number of items on its menu by 40 percent in what it is calling an effort to simplify operations and improve quality. Among the dishes on the chopping block is its feature tilapia dish – mango tilapia and crispy asparagus, according to a recent report from Bloomberg

The company spent nearly a year deciding which offerings to ax, and ultimately settled on eliminating dishes that were originally added to the menu in an effort to appeal to foodie fads, chief marketing officer Steve Provost told Bloomberg. Chili’s hopes that by elevating chain staple items on its menus – including big burgers, meaty ribs and chicken-fried steak – it will capitalize on its appeal to American diners, who have consistent habits. 

“Quinoa, kale – all those trends come and go,” Provost said to Bloomberg. “But what Americans want to eat doesn’t change that much. It’s the expectations that have changed.” 

Chili’s is paring down its menu during a time when customer traffic to its locations has dwindled, with diners shifting away from casual dining toward more fast-casual concepts and grocery-store food offerings. Shares of Brinker International Inc., which operates about 1,300 Chili’s locations as well as the Maggiano’s Little Italy chain, have plunged 40 percent in value in 2017. 

U.S. casual dining operations such as Chili’s, Applebee’s, and TGI Fridays aren’t in tune with what younger consumers want  – specifically millennials, said Michael Halen, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. 

“They’re not giving people what they want,” Halen said. “There’s a ton of competition and they haven’t been in tune with what millennials want – they’re getting beat up in a lot of different wants.”

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