Chili's Parent Company Is Opening New Restaurants That Are Entirely Virtual

It's Just Wings will feature three kinds of wings and curly fries.

Courtesy of It's Just Wings
Courtesy of It's Just Wings

Most major chain restaurants temporarily shuttered at the onset of coronavirus in March, but while some have reopened in some capacity, Americans are still turning to delivery. This is a trend the parent company behind fast casual giants Chili's and Maggiano's Little Italy is embracing with its latest projects.

During a call with investors earlier this week, Brinker International CEO Wyman Roberts said the company was exploring two virtual restaurant ideas, according to Restaurant BusinessThe concept will feature chicken wings while the second will be a "sort of Mexican" concept. 

"We tested a couple of ideas, and we pretty quickly decided that It’s Just Wings is the brand we should go with first," Roberts said. 

The business plan is as simple as it sounds. According to Forbes, It's Just Wings is available exclusively through DoorDash and features three varieties: boneless, bone-in, and smoked -- the latter of which is done with the same smokers used for Chili's baby back ribs. Each order also comes with a side of curly fries and ranch, along with 11 other dipping sauce options.

Though Roberts notes the undertaking is small as a result of this -- they've got the equipment and kitchens already -- that doesn't mean it's without risk. "It's a legitimate question: 'Is the virtual brand going to take away from the core brand?'" he said. "We're very sensitive to that." 

Brinker International has yet to announce any sort of timeline for these ventures, but the company seems rather confident in its success. Roberts reportedly expects It's Just Wings to exceed $150 million in its first year, putting it at a "spot in the top 200 restaurant brands." 

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Megan Schaltegger is a staff writer at Thrillist.