Chili's makes it official with Access Brand Communications

The restaurant chain appointed Access as its PR AOR after working with it on a project basis since 2015.

DALLAS: Chili’s Grill & Bar has named Access Brand Communications as its PR AOR after working with the firm on a project basis since 2015.

The restaurant chain appointed the Ketchum agency as its AOR this month. There was no RFP process.

"We had a lot of success and built a strong partnership and relationship," said Ellie Doty, VP of marketing at Chili’s. "We felt the need to bring them on officially so we can do even more great stuff in the future."

She added that Access is Chili’s "first PR AOR in recent history."

Chili’s decided to upgrade its relationship with Access because of the "changing dynamics in marketing," Doty explained, adding that the brand wants to have an organic connection with consumers, rather than "scream offers" at them.

"In the past year, we have also started to dip our toe in the water on cultural relevance and being there in places that guests might not expect us but where we just fit in," she said. "We want to progress that strategy. We want to put the personality vibes behind the brand and build the brand love over time."

In late September, Chili’s cut its menu by 40% to focus on its core items of burgers, ribs, fajitas, and margaritas, explained Doty.

In March, Access helped Chili’s celebrate its birthday with an all-day $3.13 sale on presidente margaritas. The following month, the PR firm supported the chain as it tested burgers, including the Boss Burger, "underground" with bloggers, social media influencers, and reporters. Access also worked on Chili's royal wedding campaign, which included a collection of burger-themed fascinators.

Access also worked with Chili’s sister brand Maggiano's Little Italy when it launched brunch last year. Both chains are owned by Brinker International.

"As we build our brand, we want things to be real, true, and authentic from the ground up, and it starts with the agency partners we work with," said Doty. 

Access VP Ashley Holzhauer is leading a core team of four Access staffers on the account. Budget information was not disclosed.

"We are looking at PR from ideation through execution," said Evelyn Sprigg, SVP and group director of consumer and lifestyle at Access. The firm is supporting Chili’s with earned media relations, thought leadership, executive visibility, experiential, trendspotting, and newsjacking.

In April, Chili’s named Chicago-based O'Keefe Reinhard & Paul as its creative and strategic AOR. Fact & Fiction is the chain’s social AOR.

Brinker International reported fiscal Q3 net income of $46.9 million, up 10.6% from the year prior. Revenue in the period was flat at $812.5 million.

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