Why A TikToker Compared Chili's To 'A Sweatshop'

While Southwestern-style restaurants aren't all that uncommon nowadays, there was a time when the idea of a place that offered burgers, tacos, and sangria was something that really shook up the market. Enter Chili's, one of America's favorite places to grab some Tex-Mex grub. First built in Dallas in 1976 by Larry Lavine, the restaurant took off in part because of it's unique atmosphere and simple menu, according to The Daily Meal. An estimated 1,289 Chili's in the United States serve up everything from fajitas, chicken, chili, and burgers (via Statista), and no one can deny there's an audience for those seeking the comforts of both American and Mexican cuisine in their own backyard.

But, beyond the catchy jingles and appealing atmosphere, working at Chili's is no different than any other restaurant job, right? According to one TikToker, workers at Chili's found themselves in a rather uncomfortable position during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many users agree the conditions were very similar to that of a sweatshop.

Chili's employees were worked ragged

"This is abuuse & exploiitation!!! Chili's staff deserves better!!!" reads the caption of one viral TikTok video. User alexservestea describes the shocking conditions that Chili's workers endured as the company switched to take-out orders during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As people sent in demands for orders, Chili's employees simply couldn't keep up with the work, she explains, showing take-out boxes stacked on every surface and take-out tickets taped to multiple counters. Food was thrown out as the employees lagged behind in their attempts to keep up and only three cooks were available to prepare the food. The order screen in the kitchen was back-logged with 100 pages of orders, with more coming in constantly.

"There is no extra help and there is no extra wages for all the work they've been doing," she said. She even claims customers who weren't allowed in the store tried to enter, forcing her to threaten to call the police. "Anyone who thinks working in a restaurant is easy and doesn't deserve fair pay should be thrown into a shift during a rush," sympathized one viewer. "AND on top of this you have customers calling and screaming at you for not having their food out," another commenter added.

Chili's has come under fire for poor treatment of workers before. According to Eater, one Pennsylvania Chili's supposedly fired an employee with Down syndrome after he requested a fellow employee stop using offensive language.