Chili’s is giving up on trendy 'millennial' foods like kale and quinoa as sales slump

Chili's has given up on chasing food trends geared to win over millennial customers. 

The casual dining chain announced on Friday that it is cutting 40% of items from its menu.

Chili's new menu — which is launching on September 18 — is focused on classics such as burgers, fajitas, and ribs. Trendier options such as fried cauliflower and mango tilapia won't be making the cut. 

"Quinoa, kale — all those trends come and go," Chief Marketing Officer Steve Provost told Bloomberg. "But what Americans want to eat doesn't change that much. It's the expectations that have changed."

While Chili's executives didn't admit that trendy items had been added to the menu specifically to win over millennial customers, attracting younger diners has been a major focus of the chain in recent years. Efforts such as making Chili's food appear more "Instagram-able" have targeted millennials, despite the generation's general resistance to casual dining chains.

In August, Chili's parent company Brinker International reported the chain's same-store sales dropped 2.2% in the most recent quarter, the latest in a series of disappointing quarters.

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13 chains taking over the US

#1: Subway

Total stores in 2016: 26,932

Photo credit: Reuters

#2: YUM! Brands

Total stores in 2016: 17,504

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#3: McDonald's

Total stores in 2016: 14,155

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#4: Dollar Tree

Total stores in 2016: 14,108

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#5: Dollar General

Total stores in 2016: 13,322

Photo credit: Reuters 

#6: Starbucks

Total stores in 2016: 13,172

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#4: Dunkin' Brands Group

Total stores in 2016: 11,366

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#8: CVS Caremark 

Total stores in 2016: 9,769

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#9: 7-Eleven

Total stores in 2016: 8,256

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#10: Burger King

Total stores in 2016: 8,121

Photo credit: Getty

#11: Walgreens Boots Alliance

Total stores in 2016: 8,053

Photo credit: Reuters

#12: Verizon Wireless

Total stores in 2016: 6,839

Photo credit: Reuters

#13: Wendy's

Total stores in 2016: 5,739

Photo credit: Getty



Chili's isn't the only casual dining chain to get burnt after chasing down food trends intended to win over hip, millennial customers. 

Applebee's attempts to win over "millennials" contributed to the chain's decision to close 105 to 135 locations this year amid slumping sales, according to John Cywinski, the brand's president. 

"In my perspective, this pursuit led to decisions that created confusion among core guests, as Applebee's intentionally drifted from what I'll call its 'Middle America' roots and its abundant value position," Cywinski said in a recent call with investors. "While we certainly hope to extend our reach, we can't alienate Boomers or Gen-Xers in the process."

Casual dining chains such as Buffalo Wild Wings and Ruby Tuesdays have also faced slumping sales and store closures.

"Millennial consumers are more attracted than their elders to cooking at home, ordering delivery from restaurants, and eating quickly, in fast-casual or quick-serve restaurants," Buffalo Wild Wings CEO Sally Smith wrote in a letter to shareholders earlier this year.

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