Restaurant Fajita 'Sizzle' Was A Fallacy All Along, And We're Devastated

This should come as no surprise, but restaurants want to make money. It could be a place that advertises itself as "hanging loose" like TGI Friday's or a place that tries to mimic the feeling of eating an Italian-style Sunday dinner like Olive Garden, but at the end of the day, restaurants want to make a profit.

Of course, you're probably aware of how this business model works. A customer comes in, purchases food to be prepared for them, and then pays the restaurant for its services. What you probably aren't aware of is how restaurants "nudge," or subliminally prod you, to spend a little more while you're in the establishment. A restaurant could, for example, present its prices in a different way, such as presenting more expensive items first to make other items look cheaper in comparison. Servers and hosts may also attempt to upsell you certain products, such as soups or appetizers, using descriptive and flowery language. It's all about trying to appeal to the customer's senses, to try and ease them into a state where they'll be more comfortable spending a little bit more money than they planned. The restaurant has to make money somehow, right?

But what exactly do restaurant-style fajitas fit into this? The answer is simple: Restaurants "enhance" the tempting sizzle of their fajitas by adding a few drops of water to the hot skillet.

That fajita sizzle is artificial

As two TikTok videos show, one from user "sallamibrahmim24" and another from user "scottysdayoff," restaurants that are known for serving up fajitas — like Chili's for example — actually enhance the sound of the fajita's sizzle by spraying either water or oil onto the hot skillet. The water or oil will immediately begin to hiss and pop once it's squirted onto the hot pan. This gives the dish the illusion that it's coming to the customer sizzling hot right out of the oven. In fact, there's even an ingredient known as "sizzle sauce" that's specifically meant to be spritzed onto a warm fajita to give it that trademark sound. But why?

Much like how descriptive language and vivid menu imagery is built around tempting the customer to spend a little more, Chili's fajitas are designed around luring the customer in with its trademark sizzle. Indeed, Chili's is very much aware of how this "sizzle" can attract customers, if the posts on its official Facebook and TikTok pages are any indication of it. While Chili's didn't exactly invent the fajita itself, the company has gone a long way to capitalize on the idea that certain sounds are more pleasing to the customer's ear. If a brand like Rice Krispies could lure people in with "snap, crackle, and pop," why shouldn't Chili's and other restaurants try that same method?

But what exactly do people think about the allure of the restaurant fajita being nothing more than an psychological trick?

People seem to be shocked at how simple the trick is

Now, it's not illegal to enhance the sizzling of a fajita by adding some water or "sizzle sauce" to it. It's like someone putting on makeup before a big date to make themselves more attractive. In the comments of the aforementioned TikTok videos that exposed the secret, many were more surprised rather than genuinely angry.

"Fooled me for 34 years," wrote one user. "Thank you." Another user was similarly surprised to learn it was all steam and mirrors: "20 years to realize it's not being cooked," they wrote. "Jus steam."

It didn't come as a shock to everyone, though. One user is a commenter who might have some personal experience keeping up the fajita ruse: "Hahaha as an employee of a Mexican restaurant this is accurate," they wrote.

While many people seem to be shocked by this revelation, Chili's — a notable user of this sizzling trick — appears to be trying to convince people that their fajitas are "faked" in any way. If anything, a Chili's representative tells TODAY, that final addition of sauce actually increases the flavor of the fajita itself. "As the final step before serving, we use a savory, smoky sauce that enhances the flavor and aroma of our fajitas," reports the Chili's representative. "The sizzle isn't just for show — it's for creating delicious, craveable fajitas."

Although Chili's may claim that the addition of sizzle sauce improves the experience of eating a fajita in both sound and flavor, it's clear many people are now wise to something that was once a sizzling hot secret kept in the back of kitchens of restaurants all over the country.