Chili’s Grill & Bar is a popular casual dining restaurant chain specializing in Tex-Mex food. It was founded in 1975 by Larry Levine in Dallas, Texas, which remains the location for the company headquarters. Chili’s is now run by Brinker International, which owns over 900 Chili’s restaurants in the US, and more across five continents. Brinker also franchises Chili’s restaurants.
Chili’s ranked #11 on Fortune Magazine’s June 2015 list of 100 Best Workplaces for Millennials.
HR VP Jennifer Hartley explained Chili’s formula for success as follows: “If (company) leaders really engage with their teams, the teams then will drive the guest experience. And when you have (happy) guests, they’ll deliver on sales. That’s really the model that we follow: leaders, team members, guests, sales, and profits. That has worked very nicely for us for many years.”
Hartley added, “Our passion is making people feel special.” That’s reflected by a tale Hartley shared with us about a 7-year-old named Arianna in Midvale, Utah who ordered a cheeseburger and received it cut in half, because that’s how burgers are served from the kids’ menu. The little girl wouldn’t eat it, though, exclaiming, “It’s broken!! I need another one that’s fixed.”
With zero fuss, Chili’s waitress Lauren Wells took it back, saying, “You know what, I’ll have them cook you a new one!” A few minutes later manager Brad Cattermole came to the table, kneeled down, and said to Arianna, “I heard we gave you a broken cheeseburger! I am so sorry about that. We are making you a brand new one that isn’t broken, with pickles!” When the replacement arrived, the little girl was overjoyed, kissing the burger and saying “Oh thank you!!! You fixed my cheeseburger!!!” Arianna’s older sister Anna MacLean posted the entire incident on Facebook—with the explanation that her little sister is autistic.
Everyone at that restaurant going above and beyond standard service resulted in nearly 1 million online views; priceless positive publicity for Chili’s; and a story that inspires Chili’s employees to this day.