Chili’s First Diners Back Are Young, Kid-Free and Ready to Drink

(Bloomberg) -- Diners exiting quarantine are returning to Chili’s Grill & Bar, but instead of the usual families with kids, it’s mostly younger -- and boozier -- patrons slipping into the booths.

“That first group that comes in, they’re just a little bit less concerned,” said Wyman Roberts, chief executive officer of Chili’s-owner Brinker International Inc. They’re skewing “a little younger, a little more single and less family.”

Chili’s First Diners Back Are Young, Kid-Free and Ready to Drink

They also drink more than the typical diner. “Those folks tend to have a little bit higher alcohol check,” Roberts said. “They don’t have kids, and they may feel more comfortable having a drink or two.”

Restaurants, particularly those without drive-thrus or established delivery services, are anxious to get customers back inside as local ordinances allow. But many diners don’t yet feel comfortable in enclosed spaces like dining rooms as the pandemic continues to spread in parts of the U.S., especially since patrons have to remove masks in order to eat and drink. In fact, Rabobank predicts a food-service rebound will take longer than the seven quarters it took restaurants to recover from the last recession.

Brinker said last week that more than 82% of its U.S. restaurants have dining rooms open now, albeit with limited capacity.

Roberts confirmed that outside of the younger diners coming in to eat and drink, others are “still cautious” when it comes to dining inside. “They’re just continuing to do takeout and delivery,” he said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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