Chili's Gets a New Marketing Boss -- Former President of Sibling Chain Maggiano's

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Steve Provost, exec VP and chief marketing and innovation officer for Chili's Grill & Bar
Steve Provost, exec VP and chief marketing and innovation officer for Chili's Grill & Bar Credit: Brinker International

Brinker International Inc., looking to spark a rebound at Chili's Grill & Bar, named Steve Provost as exec VP-chief marketing and innovation officer of the casual dining chain, which has been posting weak results as fewer patrons dine at its restaurants.

Mr. Provost joins Chili's from Brinker's much smaller chain, Maggiano's Little Italy. At Chili's, he will oversee the consumer insights, culinary innovation, and marketing teams for the chain, which has roughly 1,606 restaurants.

Results at Chili's have been discouraging. Same-store sales at company-owned locations fell in each of the first two quarters of fiscal 2017, continuing a trend after such sales declined 2.6% in fiscal 2016.

Chili's is one of a number of casual dining restaurants seeing sales weakness as patrons opt for less expensive options including dining at home. Visits to company-owned Chili's restaurants have declined in three of the last four fiscal years. Chili's only discloses traffic for the locations it operates, not those run by franchisees.

One reason the chain has acknowledged its sales suffered recently was the bad publicity it received after an Army veteran was questioned about whether he truly served his country as he tried to get a free Veteran's Day meal in November.

It was not immediately clear when Chili's Senior VP and Chief Marketing Officer Krista Gibson left the role. Ms. Gibson joined Brinker in 1997 and was named CMO of Chili's in 2014.

Brinker could not be immediately reached for further comment.

The executive move is just the latest change at Chili's. Last July, the chain began running a new ad campaign from longtime agency Hill Holliday focused on its hippie heritage. In June, Kelli Valade was promoted to president of Chili's after serving as the chain's chief operating officer.

Mr. Provost joined Maggiano's in 2009 as senior VP-marketing and later that year became brand president. Brinker noted that Maggiano's, which has about 52 locations, posted 23 consecutive quarters of sales growth and more than doubled profitability in the last eight years.

Mr. Provost's roles before joining Brinker included serving as CMO of Quiznos, senior VP of franchising and VP of marketing for KFC and chief marketing and innovation officer for the Long John Silver's and A&W brands, Brinker said.

Brinker also said Maggiano's would be co-run by Vice Presidents Genifer Gray and Larry Konecny, who were promoted to chief operations officer and VP-chief concept officer, respectively.

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