Confessions Of A Chili’s Employee

At this American casual dining restaurant, employees are overworked, because not enough people are booked for peak rush hours, but they’ve got lots of other reasons to complain.

Whether it’s food, drinks, technology, payment options, customer service, or even the way your kids might be treated, you’ll find that there are a number of very HUGE red flags when you look behind the scenes of this restaurant. Just take a look at these secrets and confessions from Chili’s employees.

Watered-Down Drinks?

It might take quite a lot of effort to feel any kind of inebriation effect from the alcoholic drinks from the Chili’s bar, according to employees. That’s because, they claim, the drinks are watered down. And, of course, the trick hasn’t gone completely unnoticed. Some guests report that the drinks tasted weak or watered down, but they seem to chock it up to poor service and overall inferior food and beverage.

There are lots of reasons why restaurants water down the drinks. Not only does it ensure a higher profit margin, but it also means that diners buy more drinks overall. Since most people won’t notice the difference, it’s a win-win for the restaurant and employee (since higher tips are possible, with the bigger bar tabs and happy-go-lucky outlook).

Serving Kids Drinks, Really?

Just when you thought the worst confessions were over and done with, there’s the story of Pamela Bruenning, who brought her kids (8, 6, 1) to Chili’s Restaurant on the Fourth of July. It was a hot day, so she ordered the kids a smoothie (virgin strawberry daiquiri), split between three child cups.

Instead of the “virgin” drink, the waiter delivered alcoholic drinks to the kids. The error was only discovered when one of the kids complained that the drink didn’t taste “good.” The police were called in to investigate the incident, and they referred it to the prosecutor. The Chili’s staff claimed that it was a case of miscommunication and that the note “see server” was not correctly interpreted.

And, More Kids?

One time is bad enough, but after one mistake in serving kids alcoholic beverages, you’d have thought that they’d have learned to train their employees better. But, Chili’s still managed to serve a mudslide to a 4-year-old.

Tyree Davis ordered a chocolate milkshake for her daughter, Brooklyn. Instead of delivering what Davis ordered, the server brought a mudslide (complete with vodka, Kahlua, and Bailey’s Irish Cream). When her daughter didn’t want to finish the drink, she realized that something was wrong. She called the police and took pictures. Brooklyn was then diagnosed with alcohol ingestion overdose at a local hospital.

Chili’s contested the claims.

What’s up with Bottomless Chips and Salsa?

It’s, well, bottomless, but there’s not a whole lot that be said for the flavor or spice of the salsa. Employees constantly hear the complaints that the chips are stale and the salsa needs some kick. But, with TexMex-style of American food, what can you really expect? It’s not going to have the real hot-and-spicy knock-you-over pizzazz of a more Authentic restaurant. It’s not supposed to.

The real purpose of the chips-and-salsa is to keep the guests somewhat satiated while the kitchen and wait-staff all scramble around to try to cover the fact that they’re understaffed. But, that mission is often unsuccessful when it becomes obvious that the “bottomless chips-and-salsa” really do come to the bottom… and they’re not quickly replenished.

What’s Alcohol Got to Do with It?

Chili’s employees say that they both love and hate the alcohol part of the job. It can mean better tips from inebriated sods, but it can also mean that they become obnoxious and difficult to manage.

Chili’s claims to have the “best alcoholic drinks in town,” so of course, that’s a draw, particularly for regular customers. The 2-for-1 deal helps to sell the draft beer, house wine, or margarita selections, but it also encourages guests to drink even more alcohol. The impression that it’s free tends to tempt more alcohol consumption than what you’d expect under other, more “normal” circumstances.

What about Happy Hour?

Happy hour is always one of the most lucrative shift times for Chili’s employees. It draws people in under the guise of relaxation and renewal, after work or group events. The special happy-hour deals in the bar also inspire them all to spend more time and money than they’d at first intended.

But the bar and happy-hour atmosphere can quickly become a source of frustration and complaints when the guest experiences super-poor customer service. When they are forced into the bar due to the lack of response or assistance by other staff members, it’s just setting the bar staff up for complete failure.

Southern Smokehouse Bacon Burger

If you really want a heart-attack then you should take a bite out of the Southern Smokehouse Bacon Burger. It’s loaded up with a high fat, sodium, calorie topping.

With fries, you consume 2,290 calories. In case you were wondering, that’s more fat and sodium than you should consume in two days: 139 grams of fat (211% of the proper daily intake), 46 grams of saturated fat (230%), and a bloodcurdling 6,500 milligrams of sodium (271%). You’ve heard the waiter/waitress list all the ingredients: maple bacon, smoked cheddar, mayonnaise, crispy onion strings, and ancho-chile barbecue sauce. It all sounds good, right? Too bad it’s also so very unhealthy for you.

Talk about Desserts

Chili’s employees say that customers don’t buy enough desserts, but that’s also because they find themselves eating far too many of them, particularly of the Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookies and warm Molten Chocolate Cake.

Of course, the reason that Chili’s employees don’t think you buy enough of the desserts is because they’d like to rid themselves of the temptation. They admit that these delectable have caused them to gain weight while they were employed at Chili’s. The other reason they want you to buy the desserts is because they’re hoping that you’ll love them so much that your tip will quickly increase. Yeah, it’s all part of the same ole strategies. You’ve seen and heard it all before…

And, the Wait?

One thing that’s certain to cause the worst problems for employees and customers alike is the wait time, and that appears to be a serious problem at Chili’s. Servers say that they must move fast, and never stop (they say it’s all about moving in circles). The employees say that it’s because not enough people are scheduled to work, but then too the long wait time also has to do with how fast the food comes out.

But, kitchen employees say that the managers are horrible, with no communication and no breaks. One line cook said that he was forced to stand 8-10 hours/day and was lucky to get a 5-minute break. Other kitchen staff say that it’s a super fast-paced environment and that the wait staff is rude.

A Hostile Workplace

Across multiple locations, employees claim that the managers yell constantly, that it’s a hostile work environment, that they are overworked and underpaid. Yes, many of these complaints are common in the restaurant industry, but some of the complaints also sound serious enough to warrant further investigation.

In particular, the claims by female employees that they are subjected to sexist comments, belittling and discriminatory practices are troubling. One employee claimed that they repeatedly told her that she was only hired because of her smoking-hot good looks. Managers also constantly berated her for her inability to reach the same level of competence, speed and performance on the job as co-workers who were much more senior.

The Food Is Overcooked


Steak was like leather, the nachos are often over-nuked and hard, and other food is often reported to be barely edible. The experience of Chili’s bad food is something that employees constantly are forced to address and deal with.

But, what can you do? You can tell the customer that you’re sorry. You can call the manager, who may or may not give them a discount and/or also apologize. Or, you can offer dessert in the hopes that the sugar will satiate and make them forget. Perhaps the best plan for those employees who are spread too thin with complaints about horrible food is for them to hope that the customers will guzzle enough watered-down margaritas, so they just won’t care anymore about how bad the food is (or was).

They Use a Microwave

If you were looking for good food, really fast, you’ll want to look somewhere else. Beyond the overcooked selections, employees also say that the real truth about all the food that comes out of the kitchen is that most of it is cooked in a microwave and the stuff that’s not started out frozen. So much for their claims of fresh food.

Granted, it really could be true that some restaurants are more conscious about the quality, taste, and timeliness of its cuisine. But, you’ve also got to admit that there are enough complaints from customers and enough employees who are spilling all the dirty little secrets that the food chain has got to be feeling the pain from so much bad PR.

Rant-Worthy Offense

A female server at Chili’s made national headlines when she posted a low-tip rant on Facebook: “Next time you tip me $5 on a $138 bill, don’t even bother coming in cause I’ll spit in your food and then in your f*** face you cheap bastards!!!!!!!!!”

The rant was probably enough to let the employee blow off steam, and probably wouldn’t have gone anywhere, if it wasn’t for the fact that a whistle-blower, Jimmy, reported her to the Chili’s Restaurant, via an online form: “I was browsing Facebook and I came across a post that was both shocking and disgusting…” He goes on to provide screenshots of her profile and controversial post.

Beware the Spit

Gregory Lamica was so annoyed by the requests and complaints of two customers, Ken Yerdon and his wife, that he took matters into his own hands. When Lamica went to fill the take-out cups for the Yerdons, he added a little something extra for the inconvenience and annoyance he felt they’d caused him.

When the lid popped off the cup on the way home, Yerdon saw the loogie in the cup. He immediately took a picture of the cup (with the spit inside), then he dropped off his family (wife and son) at home, and headed back to the restaurant. There wasn’t a whole lot of denying that Lamica could do when they tested his DNA against the sample in the cup.

Table-Side Tablet

One of the newest additions to the Chili’s Restaurant offering is the table-side tablet. Ostensibly, it makes it faster and easier for customers to order. You an also (supposedly) get refills and better service since you can call the waiter in a more expeditious manner. The reality, for the servers and the customers, is very different.

Chili’s installed some 45,000 Ziosk tablets in 823 restaurants. It’s an attempt to dehumanize the restaurant experience, which on the one hand may not be such a bad thing. Just look at the incidents of employees who take the customer-waiter interaction too personally. The tablet solution should streamline the experience, while also making the interactions more streamlined and more of a transaction: the waiter/waitress delivers food, drinks or any other items that were ordered via the Ziosk tablet.

The Case of the Changing Menu

As if all the drinks weren’t already confusing enough, some employees also report that there are multiple drink menus or no menus at all. The problem with this is that you could be charged as little (or as much) as the server determines. And that, of course, is not fair at all.

It’s confusing for guests and creates a frustrating situation for the server as they attempt to explain the sometimes-confusing menu structure. Of course, with so many of the menu items now on the table-side tablet, it’s easier for guests to find what they want (and need).

What’s up with the Kids?

Kids always add another dimension to the job at Chili’s, but with the “Kids Eat Free” promo, it’s definitely more of a consideration. The presence of children as part of a dinner part is bound to add something to the employee’s interaction with the group, but it’s usually not a positive.

Kids are messy, loud, often demanding and can make the whole serving experience a drama show, according to some employees. But, then, employees also admit that the environment is not the most conducive environment for kids. It’s easier for servers to offer up alcohol and soggy food, instead of trying to anticipate the very particular needs of some people’s children.

The Power of Games

With the new table-side tablets, the kids are more blissfully entertained by the games. That means Chili’s employees don’t have to worry about them running around the restaurant and causing chaos. Or, at the very least the madcap energy is stalled for a few minutes here and there.

The advent of the Ziosk table-side tablet is a double-edged sword, though. On the one hand, it keeps the kids entertained, but it also gives them the power (and ability) to send false calls for “waiter assistance,” and other haphazard nonsense. So, the real situation still really depends on the kids (and parents).

Credit Card Shenanigans

According to one Chili’s manager, they automatically add a 20% tip to the credit-card approval, no matter what the tip line says. It’s supposed to automatically adjust on the account, but (based on customer complaints), it doesn’t really appear to work that way.

Customers regularly complain that their credit-card statements don’t accurately reflect the actual bill and tip they’d written in. Even if the actual/correct charge does eventually sync-up, the whole fiasco makes for huge headaches for Chili’s employees. Imagine being forced to explain to guests that “it will be correct.” It doesn’t even sound legit, and it doesn’t bode well for a good customer service experience.

Cleanliness Is Questionable

This probably the most important piece of the restaurant experience. Cleanliness. But, it’s also the most frequent (and serious) problem reported by employees and customers in a myriad of fast-food chain restaurants. Reports of flies, toilet paper on the ground, all around grime and uncleanliness and lack of sanitary practices abound.

It sounds minor, right? It should be easy to accomplish having a consistently clean restaurant, but the lack of cleanliness that is reported at numerous locations may also correlate to the claims that the customers and even employees were sick after eating at the restaurant. Of course, you know that each restaurant is different. You may have had great experiences at all the Chili’s restaurants that you’ve visited. Hopefully, that’s the case. But, if there’s ever any doubt. Be cautious, and always go into your experience with eyes wide open.