10 Things You Might Not Know About Chili’s Grill & Bar
By Emily Becker
After starting with one location in Dallas in 1975, Chili’s Grill & Bar has grown to 1629 restaurants across 49 states and 32 countries, and they still serve up some of the same Tex-Mex favorites that were featured at the first location. Learn more about the casual dining favorite—and celebrate September 3rd's National Baby Back Ribs Day—with the following facts.
1. FOUNDER LARRY LAVINE WAS INSPIRED BY A TEXAS CHILI COOK-OFF.
In 1967, Lavine attended the first Terlingua Chili Cook-off, which happened to be hosted by his father-in-law. Lavine apparently fell in love with with the concept and decided to open a restaurant he hoped would capture the same experience.
2. THE FIRST CHILI'S WAS A CONVERTED POSTAL STATION IN DALLAS.
The menu included burgers, tacos, fries and, of course, chili. Proving it had a penchant for renovation, Chili’s opened its second location in a remodeled flower shop in Houston in 1976.
3. THE FIRST CHILI'S LOCATIONS ONLY HAD ONE TYPE OF BEER: SCHLITZ.
The first Chili's locations also served margaritas and sangria, but Schlitz was the only brewery that would supply Chili’s on credit while the restaurant was still growing.
4. CHILI'S SELLS 60.4 MILLION POUNDS OF FAJITA MEAT A YEAR.
Lorenia via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
That's the equivalent of four U.S. military submarines in weight! Despite being neither the restaurant to invent the dish nor the first to put it on their menu, since the 1980s, fajitas have been one of Chili’s signature dishes. When fajitas debuted on the menu, customers lined up around the block to have the sizzling dinner experience, and the company printed T-shirts that said "I survived the summer of Fajita Madness!" in celebration of the dish’s success.
5. THE COMPANY BELIEVES STRONGLY IN THE "FAJITA EFFECT."
Cooks call it the "fajita effect": as the first order of fajitas of the night is paraded through the dining room, the combination of seeing the food, smelling the peppers, meat, and onions, and hearing the sizzle will inevitably lead to a surge in fajitas orders. The company believed so much in the fajita effect, they featured the dish (and the sizzle) in its first TV commercial.
6. CHILI'S SELLS 13 SWIMMING POOLS-WORTH OF ITS MARGARITAS EACH YEAR.
The chain's Presidente Margaritas have always been popular—135,000 gallons a year popular. In 1981, in celebration of its first Atlanta location, Chili’s offered customers its signature marg for just 25 cents. Cheers!
7. THERE IS ONE PHOTO HUNG UPSIDE-DOWN IN THE DINING ROOM OF MOST CHILI'S LOCATIONS.
The tradition appears to have started with the very first Chili’s, when one of the numerous photos of chili cook-offs was hung the wrong way on purpose.
8. DESSERT ORDERS SPIKED WHEN CHILI'S INSTALLED TABLESIDE TABLETS.
Dehumanizing the restaurant business ended up being good business. In addition to quicker service and higher tips, Chili’s saw a 20 percent spike in dessert sales when it installed 45,000 tablets across 823 locations in 2014. So, go ahead and order that Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie; the tablet isn’t judging you.
9. THE BABY BACK RIBS JINGLE WAS 2004'S NUMBER ONE SONG MOST LIKELY TO GET STUCK IN YOUR HEAD.
The song beat out "Who Let the Dogs Out," "We Will Rock You," and the theme from Mission Impossible for the honor bestowed by Advertising Age. The song had such a well-known phrase it became a punchline in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, and after Chili's sponsored NSYNC's final tour, the group did a couple of commercials featuring their own version of the song.
10. THE MAN WHO WROTE THE JINGLE HAS NEVER EATEN CHILI'S BACK BACK RIBS.
Guy Bommarito, who at the time was the executive creative director at ad agency GSD&M, wrote the song in a last-ditch effort to keep Chili’s from firing his company. Bommarito said he wrote it in about five minutes and then sang it over the phone to his friend, Tom Faulkner, who then used his own voice to mix and produce the completed song. The bass line (the "barbecue sauce" bit) was sung by singer-songwriter Wolf Johnson, who passed away in 2012.