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

If you were alive in the 1990s and ever turned on a television, you're probably familiar with the Chili's baby back ribs jingle that appeared in commercials airing throughout the decade, according to Today. As of 2022, the Tex-Mex restaurant and bar has more than 1,200 locations across the country. There is at least one location in every state but Oregon (sorry, Beavers!), and Texas is home to more Chili's restaurants than any other state, naturally. From sizzling fajitas to Cajun chicken and Santa Fe burgers, there are plenty of Chili's specialties, so it's easy to understand why plenty of customers are satisfied — but what about the staff?

If you've ever considered applying for a job at Chili's or just wondered what it's like to work at your favorite local margarita spot, everything you need to know is below. From schedules and discounts to company policies and the most difficult customers, we scoured reviews, interviews, and reports to bring you the truth from the best possible sources — the employees themselves. In their own words, workers reveal what it's really like to work at Chili's, and we guarantee you'll come across at least a couple of surprises.

Regulars can make or break a serving shift

American servers at almost every restaurant are well aware that their financial success depends largely on how well-liked they are by the customers they serve, since tips remain the name of the pay game across the United States. Of course, bill size certainly helps, as tips are generally calculated as a percentage of the check, but there's plenty of variance in what that percentage will be — and that's often dependent on the server's perceived performance.

At Chili's, employees seem to indicate that regulars can make or break the shift for servers. In the case of one server from The Woodlands, Texas, regulars were reported as the main source of income, and described as a "gold mine." On the other hand, one former server from Fort Lauderdale, Florida reported being unable to make much money at Chili's because so many of the regular customers already had other servers they preferred, leaving newcomers with little opportunity to build their own loyal base and make any significant income. If you're considering taking a gig here and are concerned about the amount of time it may take to find your own regulars, consider the words of the anonymous server who told Cosmopolitan that she observed more regulars during lunch, and especially at the bar. With this in mind, it may be a wise move to opt for dinner shifts to start.

Everyone plays games there

Depending on the type of games we're talking about, this could either be great news or truly terrible news. Fortunately, when it comes to the workplace environment at Chili's, the game-playing appears to be the fun variety, not mind games. Bonus: There are several types of games to play at Chili's, including some for staff and some for diners.

Let's start with the guests. Every Chili's table comes with a tablet loaded with some games (among other capabilities, like paying the bill), and some of those games can be fairly addictive. One server even told Cosmopolitan that she had to remind guests to eat the food she had previously brought them, as it remained untouched while they continued gaming and forgot to eat. A former bartender from Chicago, Illinois admitted to enjoying those same table games in a five-star review of the job, and we bet plenty of additional staff have played, too — but there are also corporate games intended specifically for the staff. An employee from Albuquerque, New Mexico said that participating in competitive sales games with other servers helped lead to a great overall culture at Chili's. And a former bartender in Chesterfield, Missouri said that activities like company softball tournaments with other Chili's stores helped team members get to know each other even better.

The rules at Chili's are super strict

At the end of the day, work is work, and it can never be all fun and games. Large restaurant chains like Chili's should be expected to have plenty of rules in place to keep such a sizable empire running as smoothly as possible, and it appears that the brand not only has a long list of rules, but is seriously strict about enforcing them.

One server from Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin left a terrible review on Indeed, claiming that the rules were strict at Chili's because of its corporate nature. While the server admitted that some good shifts could be truly fun and even easy, the bad ones were "scream in the car on your ride home" bad. A former restaurant manager from Tyler, Texas agreed that Chili's was a "very strict company" and added that the culture included "little room for understanding," but still granted the brand three stars as an employer. 

If these broad statements leave you wondering just how strict Chili's could be, consider the anecdote of one anonymous employee who told CareerBliss that their manager worked for Chili's for 17 years before getting fired for reentering the restaurant alone (which is not allowed) for 16 seconds to retrieve his forgotten cell phone, even after camera review proved that the manager did nothing else while inside. It seems there isn't much gray area at Chili's, where rules are rules and exceptions are rare, if they exist at all.

Most of the employees would work at Chili's again

If you could ask former employees only a single question to gauge whether an employer might be a good one for you, perhaps the most telling question would be, "Would you work there again if you had the chance?" At Chili's, the statistical majority of employees have reported they would return to the Tex-Mex restaurant, and most would recommend others do the same. And we're not talking about a slim 51% margin here — of all employees who rated the restaurant on CareerBliss, an astounding 81% would recommend working at Chili's.

A former dishwasher and prep cook from a Chili's in Fair Oaks, California listed a variety of positives for the position, including tip-outs from waitstaff, good culture, and decent management, and confirmed that they "wouldn't mind working there again." And if that's not high enough praise to convince you that employees would be happy to return, consider the review of a former server from Temple, Texas, who reported they "would do it again in a heartbeat," despite the job and location not being perfect.

It's a fast-paced environment

Chili's is a sit-down restaurant with cooks and servers, not a fast food chain with a counter and a drive-thru staffed primarily by teenagers. Even so, Chili's workers report that the working environment remains fast-paced, no matter the department. How fast? Extremely fast, according to the aggregated replies of employees reporting to Comparably.

A former Chili's manager from Industry, California claims to have generally enjoyed working at the restaurant before having children, despite leaving a lowly two-star review overall, but laments that the environment was fast-paced, and even intense most of the time. For some positions in the restaurant business, fast-paced can be a great thing. For servers, more tables generally mean more tips, so a fast-paced restaurant environment is generally appreciated. A former server from East Haven, Connecticut didn't quite enjoy working at Chili's, panning the brand with a two-star review that listed plenty of negatives and advice to management, but they did admit that the fast-paced nature of Chili's brought the opportunity to make good money through a high volume of customers.

Routines are the key to success

To thrive, or even survive, in any fast-paced environment, it may not be enough to simply understand the ins and outs of the business. In the case of Chili's, former and current employees who have found the most success within the restaurant say that in order to execute all the details of what needs to get done, it's important to develop routines.

A Chili's sanitation technician from Glastonbury, Connecticut reported that developing a routine and sticking to it enabled them to get through shifts without getting too backed up. And since they also insinuated that breaks were only possible when there were no back-ups, we're assuming this is pretty essential for workplace happiness on top of job success. 

For servers, routines seem to be even more critical at Chili's. An anonymous server speaking to Cosmopolitan said the most challenging part of the job was finding a rhythm to get through the day without any major glitches. The ability to move methodically without becoming an obstacle to others is something Chili's calls "moving in circles," the server said, and it's seen as a critical component of a successful shift at the restaurant.

Chili's employees deal with drunkenness more than you'd expect

You may not think of Chili's as the ultimate place for a night of drinking, but it seems that some people do (and it's not necessarily limited to nighttime, either). After all, there's a full bar inside Chili's. As such, current and former employees report a considerable amount of drunkenness among the customers, and those reports are generally unfavorable.

A former hostess from Irvine, California appeared to enjoy the job overall, leaving a four-star Indeed review, but did list the drunk customers at the bar as a notable negative, indicating that such customers weren't exactly one-offs. Unfortunately, heavy drinkers don't appear to limit themselves to the actual bar at Chili's. Servers, like one former employee from Chattanooga, Tennessee, have said that over-drinkers weren't just difficult, but that drunk customers were the hardest part of the entire job

Before you assume that some staff just aren't up to the task of serving in a bar environment, consider that the problem is apparently so pervasive that Chili's had to institute a company-wide policy against not just serving more alcohol to intoxicated customers, but against even seating them at all, as reported by a former hostess who also worked at a Chattanooga, Tennessee restaurant. As you can imagine, this isn't necessarily the most comfortable policy for a host or hostess to enforce, making the job all the more challenging.

Breaks don't come easily

Ask employees anywhere and they'll probably tell you that breaks are an essential part of the day for both physical and mental well-being — which is probably why some states mandate breaks (via WorkforceHub). The fast-paced restaurant environment described by Chili's employees certainly sounds like one where breaks would be required to make it through a shift, but many of its employees report having considerable difficulty securing them.

Most simply worded, one former server from Lewisville, Texas left a fairly positive four-star review of the Chili's gig, but complained that there were "no breaks." More specifically, a former line cook from New York agreed there were no set breaks at Chili's, and even griped that they could only snag five minutes when they did manage to score anything. According to Reddit user skinnygalore, the only way to get any break at all at Chili's is to ask for one. If you consider breaks to be an important part of your workday, Chili's might not be the best place to submit your next application, unless you're comfortable self-advocating.

A Chili's job comes with discounts

Discounts are undoubtedly one of the top perks of any retail job, and that includes food service. While we can fairly assume plenty of restaurant employees snag sips and bites of the store's output somewhat regularly, there's often an official discount policy or meal allowance at restaurants — and it's fair to wonder if that is the case at Chili's.

First, let's take a look at what Chili's advertises to prospective employees who inquire about benefits. According to the company's own website, if you work at Chili's, "you'll pay as little as NOTHING when you dine here" (and those caps are the emphasis of Chili's itself). That's a broad claim — but, in reality, it tells us almost nothing; it's a hypothetical with no specifics, so you could end up paying full price every time. 

Fortunately, the employees themselves have some more details for us. A former prep cook from Elkton, Maryland reported receiving free meals on the clock and a 50% discount on personal meals off the clock. Unfortunately, this experience isn't universal, with employees like one quality assurance specialist from Virginia reporting 50% off salads only and not all menu items – which, if true, is a pretty disappointing discount for a restaurant specializing in meats. More alarming, a former hostess in Saint Petersburg, Florida claimed there was no discount at all, at least until they'd been at Chili's for a significant (but undisclosed) period of time.

It has a friendly atmosphere

While we don't all go to work for the exact same reason (though it's fair to assume most of us are there for the money), a friendly atmosphere certainly makes the idea of returning each day a good deal more bearable. Fortunately for those working at Chili's, many current and former employees report that it's a generally friendly place to work.

One Chili's server from Sandy, Utah told Handshake that the great team and atmosphere at their restaurant made them "actually look forward to coming into work" — and if you ask us, there isn't much higher praise for any work environment. An anonymous employee told Zippia that their "coworkers were friendly," and another said that "the work atmosphere is nice," with a third specifying that their coworkers were better described as family. Finally, a former dishwasher from New York City found the environment so friendly that they "would have worked there for years" if they had been able to get enough hours. Smiles and friendships don't pay the bills, but they certainly improve the experience of earning that paycheck.

Chili's employees wish they had more training

Chili's appears to have super strict policies and that solid routines are the only surefire path to success in this fast-paced environment, so it logically follows that strong training would be critical to learning these rules and mastering these routines. Unfortunately for Chili's employees, many of them report that training is seriously lacking here.

A server from Dallas, Texas claims to have lost most of their previously scheduled training days, being forced to jump straight into the position. If you're wondering how many days were originally intended, an anonymous host from Monrovia, California reported to Handshake that there was one week of training for the position, and it wasn't seen as enough. Perhaps most unnerving of all, a former server from Liberty, Texas said there was no hands-on training, and they were merely given a pamphlet to read at home and some videos to watch at the restaurant.

The schedules are flexible

While we may be stereotyping a bit here, it's not entirely untrue that plenty of restaurant employees fall into one of these categories: students, parents, and second-jobbers looking for a bit more cash. Beyond cash, though, there's something else all of these groups need from a job, and that's scheduling flexibility. At Chili's, most employees report that the schedules are, in fact, flexible, making it an excellent option for anyone in need of irregular hours.

An anonymous server from Logan, Utah told Handshake that schedules at Chili's are "very flexible," which was necessary for their school schedule. For others with special schedule requirements, their specific needs may change from one week to the next. An anonymous server told Glassdoor that they were lucky enough to be granted a "big say" in plotting their own schedules. Finally, a former Chili's hostess specified that the company was even understanding of religious exceptions for scheduling. Whether you need flexible hours for school, family, religion, or something else, odds are good that you'll find them at Chili's.