No matter how much you love or hate a restaurant, it’s always interesting to know what’s going on behind the scenes.
Is food really being dropped on the floor and then served to customers anyway? Are chefs really as nasty and rude as they are often portrayed? Is the food actually fresh, like it’s being advertised, or is it frozen and microwaved before it hits your plate? Are there bugs? And is the dynamic between the employees really like the movie Waiting?
Speaking of Waiting, many say the movie was loosely based on things that went on at Chili’s (and Bennigans). And if you’ve seen that movie, you probably can’t help but feel curious about whether or not Chili’s is really like that.
Fortunately, plenty of employees have taken to the internet to explain the secrets of what really goes on in Chili’s that the customers don’t get to see.
Here are a few secrets from Chili’s employees you should know before you make your next reservation:
1. A lot of their food is frozen
If you’re looking for fresh, farm-to-table food, well, Chili’s might not be where you want to go.
The chain restaurant (like most chains) uses a decent amount of frozen food that is microwaves or heated up before being served to you. Reddit user and bartender/server at Chili’s, accidentchildren, said, “There isn’t a lot of stuff not frozen. Our veggies stay fresh and some of the meat isn’t frozen, but the obvious stuff like fries, chicken wings, and stuff are all frozen.”
Reddit user and former Chili’s employee MeredithGreyMD also said, “The tortillas for the fajitas are all microwaved about 20 seconds to warm before serving. The molten lava cake and cookie skillet are also warmed in the microwave.”
2. But some of the options are actually fresh and homemade
Sure, a lot of things are frozen, but not everything.
Chili’s actually does have some condiments that are made from scratch in the kitchen. Reddit user accidentchildren said, “We make our salsa from scratch, ranch dressing from scratch, pico, guacamole, etc. It’s pretty delicious.” And everyone knows that fresh guacamole is the best guacamole, so that’s definitely a plus.
3. They don’t water down drinks
If you’re looking for a strong alcoholic beverage, then you might want to consider heading over to Chili’s for Happy Hour.
Reddit user snowshredder88, who said they were a Chili’s bartender, says the drinks are pretty strong: “We def do not water down drinks. In fact, I would say Chili’s is a great place to get hammered for cheap. So many promotions and coupons we hand out.”
4. You might want to order a margarita
Inspired to go get a drink at Chili’s?
Consider a margarita. One former waitress at Chili’s told Cosmopolitan that these are probably the most popular drinks there, explaining, “The Chili’s I work at has a 2-for-1 deal, so you can choose from draft beer, house wine, margaritas, so I would say the 2-for-1 margaritas are high up there, especially when people come in with their friends and they can order two for the price of one between them.”
5. Most of the stores are generally pretty clean
Most of the Chili’s employees online said that their stores were pretty clean, which is definitely a relief to hear.
Reddit user accidentchildren said, “My store is probably the cleanest in the area, but while working in almost all six stores in this area, I’ve noticed none are really that bad. Do not let the movie Waiting scare you.” Noted!
6. You probably want to stay away from the seafood
Chili’s has a pretty extensive menu, so you have to think that there’s probably something that you should generally avoid.
Reddit user and former Chili’s cook I_Want_My_Babyback said, “I do NOT recommend the seafood. You’re at a chain restaurant, and one that sells themselves as a Tex-Mex grill.
Are you really expecting decent seafood in this situation?! This applies to ANY restaurant… understand that every establishment has an identity… things they will focus on, and things that are there because they have to be. It’s not that it’s bad… it’s just that it’s not going to wow anyone.”
7. Some of the menu items are definitely better than others
So, what should you make it a point to order whenever you’re at a Chili’s?
User I_Want_My_Babyback said, “I always recommend to people to order something you cannot make easily at home, or get somewhere else. You can get a better burger at Five Guys IMO, don’t go to Chili’s for a burger. The quesadillas are great, but you can make those at home very easily. Get things like the ribs and the awesome blossom, those are very difficult to do well at home – and most restaurants do not offer these items.”
8. You should also always order dessert
Don’t just go to Chili’s for dinner or lunch food – treat yourself and order dessert while you’re there!
A former Chili’s waitress told Cosmopolitan that everyone should get dessert at Chili’s, saying, “A lot of people don’t want to order dessert after their meal, but they have really good Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookies and warm Molten Chocolate Cake.
I like to tell diners that they can get dessert to go, because when they make to-go desserts, the cooks separate everything so it’s super-easy to put it in the microwave and still have that warm cookie effect with ice cream on top.”
9. The most popular item is a little surprising
What do you think is the most popular menu item at Chili’s?
According to a former waitress, it’s one of their pairings.
She told Cosmopolitan, “When I first started working there, I thought it would be the burgers, but it’s actually the Southwest Pairings. A lot of people really want to try the enchiladas, tacos, and quesadillas. Quesadillas are a big thing.”
Consider ordering these next time you’re there!
10. Inexpensive menu items are also a great choice
If you’re looking to save money and eat well, you can do that at Chili’s.
Some of their inexpensive items are their most popular. Reddit user snowshredder88, who was a Chili’s bartender for years, said, “A lot of people are trying to save money when they go out so they always get stuff off the 2 for $22 menu.
So with that said I would guess the 6 oz sirloin or Chicken Fajitas.”
11. A lot of people aren’t into one menu item in particular
Aside from the seafood, there’s one other menu item you might not want to order when you go to Chili’s.
A former waitress told Cosmopolitan, “One of the things that very rarely gets ordered are the Chicken Crispers. There are three kinds. We have the Original Chicken Crispers, which kind of confuses people because it’s in more like a sauce batter rather than a crunchy chicken tender that you’d expect. Then there’s the Crispy Chicken Crisper and the Honey Chipotle Chicken Crisper.
So I find that not a lot of people order the Original, especially after you explain it to them. People normally stick with the Crispy or the Honey Chipotle.”
12. There’s a secret to their fresh ranch…
If you’ve ever had the ranch at Chili’s, you’ve probably noticed that it tastes much better than ranch from a salad dressing bottle.
That’s because the ranch is house made right there in the restaurant, so it’s fresh. Reddit user I_Want_My_Babyback, a former Chili’s cook, said, “I barely remember the recipe because salad station prep was the rookie training station. That was a long time ago. Basically we mixed up a giant bucket with mayo, powdered buttermilk, and a seasoning pack from the corporate kitchen. The trick is buttermilk – just not too much.”
13. There’s also a secret to their ribs
Babyback ribs are obviously a popular menu item at Chili’s, and if you’ve ever wondered the secret for how they taste so well, we now know it.
Reddit user and former Chili’s chef I_Want_My_Babyback said, “Generally speaking, I’ve found that with ANY meat… you need to find a cooking method that doesn’t dry out the meat, but can give it a ‘grill finish.’ Add a good sauce / dry-rub and you’re set. That is pretty universal.
“Chili’s uses a pressure cooker to pre-cook the ribs, which helps maintain juiciness, then finished on the grill to give them that crunch on the outside. Sauce is pre-made from the distributor, it’s not my favorite, but its good.”
14. Yes, gross things have happened in the kitchen
Chili’s may be generally clean, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some disgusting incidences in the kitchen.
Former chef I_Want_My_Babyback wrote on Reddit that they’ve seen some gross things, like, “Dropped hamburger on the floor, chef called ‘5 second rule.’ The kitchen was cleaned for a solid hour every single night, it looked amazing by the time we closed. But over the course of a day… it gets looking like sh*t quickly. By the time this happened around 7-8pm… that was not a pretty looking floor.”
They added, “Most repulsive thing I’ve seen overall though… friers needed to be drained… and they forgot to hookup the hose at the exit end into the truck that drains them. Friers drained into the gated loading / trash area. Didn’t look too bad really… until the next afternoon. You have no idea what used fry oil can smell like until it hits 100 degree July mid-day pavement.”
15. You don’t need to know a lot to become a cook there
Becoming a cook at Chili’s doesn’t exactly require you to go to culinary school.
In fact, you don’t need much experience at all. Former Chili’s cook and Reddit user I_Want_My_Babyback explained, “I had no culinary skills aside from being decent at home economics and growing up with parents that cooked. I basically had to be trained from scratch.”
16. Menu changes happen pretty often
Don’t get too attached to any new or trendy dishes, because chances are good that they could disappear.
A former Chili’s waitress told Cosmopolitan, “We have a different menu per season, but it’s normally just a few items, not huge changes.” At least it’s nothing too big!
17. Those computer systems at the tables? The servers love them
If you’ve gone to Chili’s recently, you might have noticed that they have tablets at the tables where you can play games and even pay.
A former Chili’s waitress talked about them with Cosmopolitan, saying, “We just started with the new systems where you have a tablet on your table so you can check out different foods and appetizers and play games, and you can also pay with your credit card on there. A lot of people say to me, ‘Oh, they’re getting a computer to take your job!’ or ‘Oh, this must stink for you guys.’
“Actually, I love the computer system especially when it comes to paying with your credit card, because then I don’t have to take the card from the table, keep track of it, and make sure that nothing goes wrong. It’s very safe and secure for you to keep it at the table and then you don’t have to wait to sign or anything. People say to me, ‘Oh, you must hate this!’ and I’m like, ‘Not really!'”