How A Texas Liquor Law Inspired The Founder Of Chili's

A restaurant that has been around for 47 years is sure to have gained a loyal fan or two. That's what Chili's was banking on, anyway, when it launched its e-commerce shop. As Michael Breed, senior vice president of Chili's marketing, explained, the store is "a natural next step to engage our most dedicated fans" (via Restaurant Dive). But, long before there was an online store named Welcome to Chili's selling lime, wedge-shaped fanny packs, and dessert-themed socks, there was a man with a dream.

According to D Magazine, Larry Lavine opened the first Chili's location on March 13, 1975, in Dallas. Lavine told the publication, "My friend Malloy Buckner and I talked about opening a neighborhood restaurant that served really great burgers and fries." Lavine was committed, going so far as to sell his car to help pay for the construction of the restaurant. The move paid off, and there was eventually a line of customers "around the block" to get into the new restaurant, according to the company's website. The menu that the first restaurant was serving, as it turns out, was partially inspired by the repeal of a key law.

Mixed drinks weren't always allowed in Texas restaurants

The '60s may have had its freewheeling moments, but apparently, if they involved mixed drinks, they weren't taking place inside Texas restaurants. According to Vine Pair, restaurants located in the Lone Star State weren't given the right to sell mixed drinks until 1972, which turned out to be perfect timing for Chili's. As Chili's founder, Larry Lavine, explained to D Magazine, the laws changed, and not only could restaurants sell mixed drinks, but patrons no longer had to carry a membership card for every restaurant where they wanted to purchase a drink. Lavine was ready: "Our idea was to create a place that was cool enough where you could get a great burger and a margarita at dinner as well as lunch," he told the publication. In addition to burgers and margs, the first location had some other notable food items to offer its customers.

Maybe not surprisingly, the first Chili's sold chili. Lavine explained to D Magazine that he had attended Carroll Shelby's chili cook-offs and thought adding the dish to the menu would make good fodder for the press. The restaurant also offered fresh-cut fries, but one of the chain's most well-known dishes wouldn't make its appearance until several years later. As the Chili's website points out, fajitas were put on the menu in 1984, adding an additional chore for the company — teaching "America how to pronounce it."