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US casual-dining restaurants simplify menus to focus on strengths

Chicago

CASUAL-DINING restaurants, long known for boasting tome-like menus to appeal to a broad range of customers, are narrowing their offerings to focus on the cuisines they do best.

Red Lobster recently axed tortilla soup, while Chili's got rid of pizzas. Olive Garden, meanwhile, stopped selling hummus. The changes are geared towards winning back customers from fast-casual eateries such as Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc and Five Guys Burgers & Fries. In addition to keeping prices low, those chains have found that offering fewer items speeds up service, which increases sales.

"What we'll see in the next five years is a lot of menu simplification," said Keith Melker, a partner at Boston Consulting...

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