Analysts polled by Consensus Metrix had expected Chili's same-restaurant sales to fall 0.3 percent in the holiday quarter.
Increased restaurant capacity and a 10 percent rise in advertising spending also helped to attract diners.
"Brinker's primary drivers (in the quarter) are a double-digit increase in marketing, ongoing remodels and Mexican launch," Goldman Sachs analyst Michael Kelter said.
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Brinker's comparable sales were "encouraging" despite an unusually cold December, Bernstein Research analyst Sara Senatore said.
Overall same-restaurant sales rose 0.8 percent, beating Consensus Metrix's estimate of a 1 percent fall.
Chili's also recently expanded its Mexican menu items to include enchiladas, fresh Mex bowls, tostadas and crispy tacos.
"We believe these new items will appeal to the core Chili's consumer better than the pizza platform that launched about a year ago," KeyBanc analyst Christopher O'Cull said.
Many U.S. full-service restaurant chains, including Chili's and Darden Restaurant's Olive Garden, have been fighting to boost sales amid intense competition from chains such as Chipotle Mexican Grill andPanera Bread, which offer high-quality meals at lower prices.
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