What It's Really Like To Work As A Line Cook At Chili's

Chili's debuted as a simple, standalone burger joint situated in a former post office in Dallas (via The Daily Meal). But since its inception, the chain has expanded to 1,600-plus locations worldwide thanks to its earworm jingle, atmosphere, and popular offerings. Back in 2018, Chili's popularity was on the decline so the company took action by cutting menu size by 40 percent (via FSR Magazine). The results benefited both guests and staff by getting food out to tables in a more quickly, trimming ticket times in the kitchen, and simplifying the menu employees had to manage. But that doesn't mean life is always easy for the line cooks in the back.

Over on Reddit, a place where all sorts of secrets are revealed, self-described former and current Chili's employees have plenty to say about what it's like to spend time in the kitchen of the Tex-Mex chain. Someone claiming to be a disgruntled former employee gives a description that seems to line up with the 2005 chain restaurant comedy Waiting... "9/10 employees come stoned. Great for my side hustle, sucks when u want dependable co-workers," says BlueDream. It's important to note that there's no way to verify how accurate or exaggerated that account is. Other Redditors share info that speaks to the speed and efficiency of the kitchen design. Of course, when it comes to busy kitchens, things are only as fool-proof as the folks that are using them.

Ask a manager for a cheat sheet

Newcomers to the kitchen are paired with a hit-or-miss senior cook to train them. "That person may be good or may suck," according to Reddit user and self-described former Chili's manager nsa_k, who also encouraged employees to ask managers to print a station line build chart, i.e. "a cheat sheet" to assembling all items on the menu. The user goes on to explain that the station set up at any given Chili's kitchen ranges from fairly straightforward (think fries, salads, and nachos) to a more labor-intensive flat top that can get super crowded with burgers (as many as "30 at once") during peak hours. One particularly fascinating nugget describes working with a high-temperature conveyor belt oven called the CTX. nsa_k shared that those CTX ovens may hurl pans onto the floor if they're left sitting on the end of the conveyor belt for too long.

Glassdoor clocks Chili's line cook salaries in the $9 to $17 an hour range with an average base pay of $12. Redditor Starxgamer12, who self-identified as a manager, says that as line cooks expand their knowledge of each station, they can negotiate commensurate increases in pay. Reddit users highlight Chili's various practical benefits, including one comped meal per shift, bi-annual raises, and options for 401(k) and health insurance programs.