“It’s bar food with a Mexican twist,” Petrie said.

Prices range from $4 to $6 during happy hour. After 3 p.m., they’re $6 to $8.

Testing will continue for six weeks.

The El Torito and Acapulco chains recently added a Sunday brunch. Chevy’s will follow suit.

“El Torito and Acapulco do better Sunday sales than Chevys,” Petrie said. “It’s a move to make it more competitive.”


The bar food and brunches add to promotions started late last year at Real Mex’s other chains.

El Torito began offering a promotion in December called Buck It Up, which charges customers $1 more for a happy hour drink made with a premium alcohol brand.

“We felt people are willing to treat themselves, but I would not try to sell someone a $21 plate of food,” Petrie said. “This is just a buck. It’s an affordable indulgence.”

So far, 40% of El Torito happy hour customers spend the extra dollar for a premium drink, and the Acapulco and Chevys chains added it a couple of weeks ago.

The focus on price promotions runs counter to recent trends that have seen other chains move away from discounting that marked the recent recession.

Real Mex is sticking with brand promotions and weaning customers off coupons.

El Torito began offering a three-course Mexi Meal for $12 late last year. The deal was promoted with newspaper and direct mail ads along with a radio campaign.

“El Torito used to do a fair amount of coupons,” Petrie said. “Now, we do one coupon a month and shifted our focus on advertising to the three-course meal and then to happy hour.”

Mexi Meals made up 14% of total company sales for the three months through March 27.

Real Mex rolled out the three-course meal promotion at Chevys in January.

“We’re doing more promotions,” Petrie said. “It’s deal driven versus coupon driven. At $11.99, it’s not a giveaway—it’s value.”