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  • Chili’s, owned by Brinker International, operates 1,200 casual-dining restaurants.
  • The chain is testing three robotics solutions to augment labor and save on delivery fees.
  • Brinker’s top innovation executive explains why it chose to work with the robotics startups.

Fast-food giants, such as Starbucks, Domino’s, and Chipotle, are typically the first movers when it comes to restaurant innovation. Casual-dining chains are often the last to adopt new technologies.

But Chili’s is looking to blaze its own trail by pulling the industry’s version of a technological hat trick. The 1,200-unit chain is leaning into three robotics and automation technologies: autonomous rovers, drone delivery, and robot food runners and hosts. 

“We don’t want to be laggards,” said Wade Allen, the senior vice president of innovation for Chili’s parent company, Brinker International. “We need to be thinking about innovation. We need to be thinking about robotics in the restaurant and making life easier for operators.”

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