"Eating good in the neighborhood." "When you're here, you're family." Americans are quite familiar with slogans like these tied to some of the country's most well-known casual dining restaurants.
Casual dining can include anything from an Applebee's to a Chili's or an Olive Garden. They are popular, sit-down restaurants with a more modest menu that have been big draws for diners, but habits seem to have changed.
According to the retail-research firm Black Box Intelligence, traffic at casual-dining establishments has dropped in nine of the last 13 years. And this past December, industry-wide sales dropped 2 percent despite unemployment numbers at 5-year lows.
According to Yahoo Finance, What could be to blame for the decline in casual dining is the rise of "fast casual" restaurant chains like Chipotle and Panera. These types of restaurants offer diners the options to sit down and eat or get their food and get out the door in a hurry. Those two restaurants have seen their sales grow by an average of 15 to 20 percent annually over the past five years, per Yahoo Finance.
To combat the current trend in quick consumption, Chili's and Applebee's are rolling out new marketing strategies and technology, including tablets at the table that pretty much eliminate the need for waiters and waitresses.
Chili's will have these tablets installed at each of its 823 locations by March of 2014.