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Marketing Mix - Product
The product is a restaurant chain; Chili's Bar and Grill. The food served at Chilli's ranges from hamburgers, fries, and a drink to salads, steak and potatoes. As the title of the restaurant suggests; it is a casual dining facility that does not take itself to seriously. According to the company's website: Chili's opened as a "fun Dallas burger joint with a loyalty to happy hour and blue jeans" (Chilli's, 2012). The company was founded in 1975 and has grown from that initial restaurant in Dallas to serving customers in over 23 different nations around the world. The company's mantra is to "cook up the best in casual fare, offering the same genuine service we did way back when" (Chilli's, 2012). Currently, the company's is looking to expand even further while still maintaining the high quality food and service that they constantly strive for.
Scope of product line
Some of the things that Chilli's has undertaken to brand its name includes such things as the 2 for $20 dinner, the lighter choices menu, their well-known Big Mouth Burgers, Custom Combination and (of course) their Chili and other soups.
Their 2 for $20 was one of the first discount 'full meal' deals in the industry. For a set, low price of just $20, two individuals can enjoy one appetizer and two entrees of their choice. The 2 for $20 menu is not as varied as their main menu, but offers a wide variety of meals that include; shrimp, burgers, pasta, steak, ribs, quesadillas, and chicken. Appetizers that are offered are the same appetizers contained on the regular menu.
The lighter choices menu caters to those individuals who wish to dine out, but don't wish to pig out. Each of the meals is a svelte 750 calories or less.
The portion sizes are not as large, and most of the offerings are chicken in one form or the other, but there is also a steak, and a salmon meal offered as well.
The restaurant also offers Big Mouth Burgers; unlike the lighter choices menu, these burgers are bursting from the seams with calories and toppings. Big Mouth Burgers such as the Shiner Shocker is topped with onion strings, cheddar cheese and sweet and tangy BBQ sauce. Another crowd favorite is the Jalapeno Smokehouse Bacon Burger. This spicy treat is topped with jalapenos, applewood smokehouse bacon, smoked cheddar cheese, onions, mayonnaise, and a spicy hot jalapeno-ranch dressing. Other Big Mouth Burgers include; Southern Smokehouse Bacon Burger, the OldTimer and the Mushroom-Swiss Burger. All Big Mouth Burgers are complemented with a large side of French fries.
The key benefits of eating at Chilis Bar and Grill include the food as mentioned above, but it is also the service and the fun and casual ambiance at each Chilis location. The restaurants are decked out in what can best be termed country casual, with plenty of alcoholic and other beverages for the patrons. Chili employees are coached on a fun 'team' approach and it carries over into their work. A recent study that questioned diners at casual American restaurants in Taiwan determined that in the restaurant industry (and other industries as well) the "end goal of a business enterprise is to create a valuable experience for the consumers" (Hsiu-Jung, 2009, p. 994) and Chilis seems to be striving towards that goal with its food, service and environment.
Unlike the restaurant A Better World that only charges as much as the customer can afford to pay (Newhouse, 2011, p. 56), Chilis sets a price on its food that allows the customer to choose what food they wish to consume and then pay a set price for it. There is no bargaining or asking the customer what they would like to pay, rather a fair price was established that allows complete freedom for the customer to get exactly what they desire. Prices for adult meals range from the low end of about 7.50 to the high end of approximately $16.99 for a classic Ribeye steak and potato. For a casual American restaurant the price is about in line with other similar style restaurants and restaurant chains. The restaurant also offers discounts such as the 2 for $20 program discussed above, as well as coupons and other promotional events. Chilis also caters to the lunch crowd by offering a $6, $7 or $8 lunch menu that features speed and convenience. One recent article states that one manner for appealing to the female gender is through "having an array of healthy choices on the menu" (Advertising Age, 2009, p. 14). Chilis has captured a large part of the crowd through its healthy offerings at a reasonable price. Most of their health menu is priced below the $10 mark. The combination meals are also a big seller, especially the 2 for $20 program that is heavily marketed.
Almost every major city in the United States (and the majority of smaller cities as well) feature a Chilis Bar and Grill. Additionally, the company has expanded into 23 foreign markets that have not traditionally been strong points for the American casual dining experience.
This large number of locations available for distributing fairly priced food in a casual environment with great service offers Chilis a number of advantages that similar restaurant chains may not enjoy. Some of those advantages include the branding of Chilis name around the world, along with the flexibility that comes with such name recognition. A recent study on familiarity and name recognition found that "frequency gave rise to familiarity and fame fostered recollection" (Stenberg, Hellman, Johansson, Rosen, 2009, p. 448) and that is a strong advantage for Chilis and their marketing strategy.
Familiarity with a restaurant builds a customer base that will continually and consistently return to the restaurant to experience another unique (and comfortable) dining event. An ever-growing number of locations only adds to that familiarity and loyal fan base. One suggestion that could be considered in this particular case is to have Chili's develop additional items for sale (t-shirts, coffee cups, hats etc.) that are branded with the Chili's logo. Letting the customers promote the restaurant is a strategically sound marketing maneuver.
Other methods for marketing through the various restaurant locations include ensuring that each restaurant presents a similar face to the dining experience; being comfortable goes hand-in-hand with familiarity. Individuals who are greeted with an environment that they have seen (and enjoyed) previously are much more likely to return to the same environment.
A 2007 study confirmed that "market segmentation is playing an increasing role in the activity of enterprises" (Oleneva, Kuzmenko, 2007, p. 300) which is why such market concepts as "market segment, target segment, market niche, window of opportunity, and marketing opportunities have appeared" (Oleneva, et al., p. 300).
Chilis marketing segment tends to be the younger crowd; ages 25+ and the lunch crowd which shows a demographic of 30+. The restaurant chain also caters to families with children between the ages of 9-17. This population segment is offered kids meals that are filling and inexpensive, especially when compared to the adult meals.
The message seems to be the same for each, with slight variances. The 2 for $20 program addresses the need of young people with less disposable income who still wish to enjoy an evening out, while the more affluent (and slightly older) crowd can delve into the steak menu. The primary message is one of good food, served at a fair price, with offerings for everyone. The marketing segments are the same throughout the United States and the same marketing message has worked well overseas also. E. Jerome McCarthy wrote a book that has been used in various marketing courses since the early 1960's. In that book he wrote that "marketing is the performance of business activities that direct the flow of goods and services from producer to consumer or user in order to best satisfy consumers and accomplish the firm's objectives" (McCarthy, 1960).
Chili's has followed that concept in a very efficient and effective manner and has reaped the rewards for doing so. Continued marketing efforts along the same line will likely lead to even greater results.
Advertising Age (2009) McD's moves beyond value menu to rise above, Vol. 80, Issue 38, p. 14
Chilli's; (2012)About Chilli's, accessed on March 15, 2012 at http://www.chilis.com/EN/Pages/aboutchilis.aspx,
Hsiu-Jung, C.; (2009) The effect of experiental and relationship marketing on customer value: A case study of international American casual dining chains in Taiwan, Social Behavior & Personality: An International Journal, Vol. 37, Issue 7, pp. 993 -- 1007
McCarthy, E.J.; (1960) Basic marketing: A managerial approach, Homewood Illinois
Newhouse, C.; (2011) The price is right, Christianity Today, Vol. 55, Issue 8, pp. 56 -- 58
Oleneva, O. & Kuzmenko, T.; (2007) Method of assessing the fit of market segments, Fibre Chemistry, Vol. 39, Issue 4, pp. 300-303
Stenberg, G.; Hellman, J.; Johansson, M,; Rosen, I.; (2009) Familiarity or conceptual priming: Event-related potentials in name recognition,…[continue]
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