Workers Reveal What It's Really Like To Work At Skyline Chili

Care for some spaghetti with your bowl of chili? It's the Cincinnati way, dished up by an institution as revered in Ohio as Cedar Point and the Bengals. Skyline Chili's cheese coneys and soupy stew served in "ways" (three, four, or five to be exact) hold a special place in Midwesterner's hearts, burning as bright as the neon mounds of shredded cheddar topping every plate. Tourists, or even just Hoosiers from across the Ohio River, travel from all corners of the Midwest to try the regional treat — in a dish, on a hot dog, or even in some cases, as a drink – in all of its polarizing splendor.

To stop by isn't to simply fuel up for the day — it's to come home, thanks to the friendly faces behind the counter. The chain operates more than 150 locations across Ohio and three other states, and the family-friendly atmosphere is likely what keeps the joint so humble after decades of delicious service and growth. Food service carries a lot of drudgery, and the Midwestern establishment is no stranger to the aches and pains that come with the territory. But for many people who've worked there, the local titan has opened doors to longtime careers and friendships alike. 

To know what working at Skyline Chili is really like, you'll just have to walk a mile in the practical, well-cushioned shoes of its staff. And with over 1,000 people on board, they're going to have a lot to say. 

Skyline Chili is a great entry-level gig

Teenagers are taking over restaurants. Not as in hoarding ketchup packets from the dining room, mind you, but as crew members running a tight ship. Black Box Intelligence, per Restaurant Dive, finds that almost a quarter of food service workers are young, and it makes plenty of sense why that's the case at Skyline Chili. It's predominately an entry-level job. Unless you're a key-holding supervisor, you're probably pulling in the minimum wage and following orders from management, which is exactly why it makes a great jumping off point for youth. 

For one current Team Leader on Indeed, getting hired at the age of 17 was a fruitful starting point for developing their own work ethic. Another employee remarked positively on the flexible hours, which are a necessity for high school students looking to balance their studies and a part-time job. Even the pay, which is at best serviceable for the circumstances, can be a great incentive for learning the ins and outs of budgeting. And for anyone who's enrolled in college, a Niche review can attest that the chain is more than willing to accommodate your schedule. 

The tasks are simple, the instructions are easy to follow, and there's a clear goal during every shift, which is to serve the public. Really, those form the foundation of most careers whether you stay in the restaurant biz for years — or for life. 

Employees can bounce between different locations

Restaurant employees expect to spend most, if not all of their time at the exact same brick-and-mortar location. At Skyline Chili, it's actually pretty common to hop around different joints depending on the circumstances, and loads of employees on Indeed and Niche are quite favorable towards it. It's not hard to understand why. The short answer? Life. People move, or have a grueling hour-long commute no audio book can salvage, and in those instances, it's a lot easier for Skyline Chili employees to mosey over to another location rather than go on another job hunt.  

For one Kentucky-based staff member, punching the clock at a variety of establishments was a nice way to shake up the monotony. Changing up the scenery, even for a day, is a breath of fresh air. Nevertheless, transferring to a different restaurant can come with its own set of challenges. Many Skyline Chili locations are run by franchise-owners, so the standards upheld at one restaurant won't always apply at another, an issue a former worker on Glassdoor encountered during their time. 

It's one thing to land a job, it's another to know how you'll actually get to the building every day you're on call. So the fact that Skyline Chili gives some leeway to staff members on where they choose to work? It's an attractive perk, no doubt about it.  

It's easy to work your way up at Skyline Chili

Working hard or hardly working? By avoiding the latter, a job at Skyline Chili can flourish into something truly impressive. Service workers who begin at the lowest rung have successfully made the leap over to higher positions of authority, and all it takes to get there is painstaking perseverance. Because of that, you'd be surprised at how fast some employees get promoted. A former staff member based in Eaton, Ohio, says it took under half a year of grinding to eventually become a shift manager, badge and all.

The tales like this can be found in full force across the chili-slinging establishment. However, there's no ignoring that for other workers, the rags-to-riches climb towards capitalist success isn't always promised. While one server grants that the chain is ideal for those seeking out a side hustle, they don't view Skyline Chili as a particularly fruitful option for moving up in the world due to the stagnant wages and lacking encouragement. Failing to get a promotion isn't always a reflection on the candidate's abilities in the slightest, but rather a stroke of bad luck. Having supportive management on your side, according to another shift manager, can foster the conditions for advancement, but without that, you could be looking at a cul-de-sac of stagnation. 

There's not much cooking or prep work involved

When it comes to food prep, Skyline Chili remains one of the easiest gigs you'll land in the fast food business. The franchise makes its signature chili from scratch, but a separate facility actually prepares and cooks the signature dish for restaurants. At most, employees might grate the chain's proprietary cheddar by hand (and blocks of it) and set up the steam tables ahead of their shifts. Beyond that, staff mainly put together orders as they appear on the menu. Feeding Buckeyes' insatiable chili cravings, it seems, takes little more than lifting a ladle. 

More insight into the process can be seen in the training materials, and an instructional video from the company shows the expectations focus less on culinary skills and more upon the maintenance of the kitchen. Incoming hires are advised on keeping a neat, orderly work space. This includes following food safety measures as well as common sense tasks for succeeding a hectic shift. Regular diners already know how busy it gets, so it isn't surprising to see that workers are instructed to, say, replenish their dishes and stash extra platters of cheese close by in the case of a coney-fueled dinner rush. 

Regular customers brighten workers' day

Skyline Chili was founded by locals, for locals. Many of these folks have been ordering there for generations, and it shows by the way they treat the staff like members of their own family. When the going gets tough — say the kitchen runs out of cheese or a Four-Way splatters face-first on the floor — it's the regulars who will be there to brighten their day. The plus side? Since people are absolutely ecstatic over the chain's signature dish (the Cincinnati pride is real, in case you couldn't tell), a former hire writes that interactions will naturally be pretty positive and upbeat.

Fast food restaurants are essentially set up to encourage small talk between guests and customers, but there are specific stations at Skyline Chili where these interactions thrive most. Take the steam table. This is where employees assemble the orders, and where the bubbling vats of beans and chili are visible to customers standing in line or seated throughout the store. Because the setup is communal, a table worker alleges that it's quite easy to strike up conversation with whoever happens to walk through the door that day. If you're a born-and-bred Chatty Cathy who adores small-town gab, then you'll be a natural at Skyline Chili. 

Management tends to play favorites

Managers have a knack for feeling out the employees who step up to the plate. One could even say that's their job. But there's a pretty fine line between recognizing a worker's productivity, and treating that person better than their similarly committed coworkers. Unfortunately for anybody who's ever worked a day at Skyline Chili, it's been said that favoritism is rampant. It stinks up the place like a days-old stew, and many employees have put up with it at some point or another during their experience.

Supervisors repeatedly show bias towards relatives or close friends with the corporate brass (also referred to as good old-fashioned nepotism), and might reward them with better hours or shifts due to their relationship. Management also displays a liking to workers with supposedly more experience, and in their eyes, more authority. A former waiter in Columbus, Ohio, noticed workers who'd served for decades appeared to nab preferential treatment from their boss over younger, less-experienced hires who didn't have the same history with the location. 

Skyline Chili seeks to treat its staff like family, as any family business is bound to do. But having an in, so to speak, may put you at an advantage for succeeding that other team members miss out on altogether.

Benefits can be hard to get

Going to the doctor, the dentist, or even a spa resort for some much-needed TLC is latent in Skyline Chili's benefits package. Much like any restaurant, employees should be eligible for receiving medical insurance and vacation time, yet all the same, it's strangely difficult to get your hands on these provisions. Staff members emphasize that it's especially hard for part-time or non-salaried roles to obtain any coverage on the job. 

According to a food prep specialist, none of the benefits were ever in reach as a result of their schedule, which was often cut below the 40-hour threshold needed to gain them in the first place. This echoes feedback on Glassdoor revealing that health insurance, as an example, was unaffordable for most workers if management even made an effort to offer it as a possibility, which often times wasn't. Even supervisors struggle, with an assistant general manager complaining that benefits for leadership positions were a no-go at franchise-owned restaurants. 

Shockingly enough, one individual claimed that the one and only perk they received during their time on the clock was free food. Getting a Chili Cheese Sandwich on the house is swell and all, but let's be frank — it's not an equivalent replacement for your yearly physical and teeth cleanings, no matter what anybody says. 

Employees aren't told any company secrets

Plenty of debate has transpired around the contents of Skyline's distinctive spice mix. With the exception of The News-Press finally ruling out chocolate in 2015, the chain's keen to rope off its elusive recipe from the rest of the chili-eating public, and that includes restaurant workers. It's not exclusively minimum-wage grunts who are kept out the loop, though that's an easy assumption to make. Higher-ranking positions in the company are also blocked from any information about the ingredients used in Skyline Chili's stew seasoning, let alone the rest of the menu lineup. 

If you don't believe that Skyline Chili would be so tight-lipped about the recipe for its star dish, hearing from those in the franchising sector gives some startling insight into how off-limits it truly is. The News-Press reports that E.B. Yarnell, a franchise owner, isn't in the know about the seasoning blend, or much of anything concocted by the company for that matter. "Everything is proprietary," they said. By plating up Five-Ways or teasing shredded cheddar to its puffed-up proportions, Skyline Chili employees get a bird's eye view into many parts of the business. But when it comes to company secrets, well, they're just as clueless as the rest of us.

Your clothes will reek of chili

Dealing in chili, coneys, and other grease-heavy fare is bound to get sloppy, maybe a little gross, and stinky to boot. There's no skirting around the fact that Skyline Chili's kitchen is a smelly place to be. Across the board, workers say the stench absolutely buries itself into your clothing when given a chance, and this is likely if you're clocking out after hours spent on the premises. As one worker vowed on Glassdoor, "you will always leave work smelling like the chili." 

If you've plowed into a bowl (or many bowls) of Cincinnati chili, then you're well aware that the scent of the dish is quite strong. The chili is heavy on the tomato paste and seasonings, arguably what makes it so tasty. But unlike working in the restaurant, eating in one doesn't require a hot shower afterward to cast out its scent, never mind the fragrant assortment of toppings that are there for the taking, like chopped onions and beans. Of course it's no mystery that, as one employee remarks, the pungent odor clings onto fabric for dear life. In a cafeteria setting boasting bubbling pots of stew, we'd be surprised if anybody's uniform could come out unscathed. Getting messy is apparently the Skyline Chili way. 

A fast-paced environment leads to hefty tips for servers

According to, the busiest time of day at the average Skyline Chili location will fall in the afternoon. No wonder — that's right at the heart of lunch time. And if you work as a server, these hectic hours are prime-time for making a profit. Servers collect tips at every table, which means that the number of guests they wait on, paired with the quick turnaround, can culminate in some very impressive pocket change.

How much money you'll bring in as a tipped worker greatly varies, since the business can ebb and flow based on the time of day — or even week. A current server in Fort Wayne, Indiana prefers hoofing it on the weekends because, unlike weekdays where school and work results in sluggish foot traffic, the cash really flows in. Another employee raves over the tipping potential due to the restaurant's bustling environment, calling Skyline Chili a "great place to waitress!" 

Fast food establishments, by nature, are supposed to be fast. The entire goal is to sling orders out quickly and get customers out the door (or the drive-thru) as swiftly as possible. Skyline Chili runs a rapid-fire operation, benefitting the diners and the staff who are there to serve them. Clearly, waiting on tables is where the money's at. 

Harrassment is a common complaint at Skyline Chili

The restaurant industry has a problem with gender-based harassment, an issue that marketing group Social Science Research Firm found impacts over 70% of female employees, according to One Fair Wage. It's an alarming percentage, one in which Skyline Chili is unfortunately complicit. With plenty of women reporting unfair and inappropriate treatment due to sex, it is unsurprising to find that InHerSight would grade the chain's workplace culture so poorly. 

Feedback provided on Glassdoor and Indeed points to rampant sexism displayed by guests, and in some cases, fellow co-workers and management. One server reports that at their restaurant, women working the same job — and at the same productivity level — as their male counterparts were denied equal pay from their boss. In another account, a former employee reveals management would discriminate against female workers based on their physical appearance, with waitressing roles given out to staff members deemed attractive. 

Workplaces are equipped with Human Resources (HR), the department that's supposed to handle these kind of infractions. At Skyline Chili, however, the response is far from satisfactory. One waitress called the department "a joke" after the chain failed to answer to reports of toxic behavior experienced by female workers.