You might not realize it, but when Chili’s first opened for business, it was considered revolutionary. Today it’s one of America’s most popular casual dining chains, but we bet there’s a lot you didn’t realize about the restaurant that gave us one of the catchiest jingles in history.
Chili’s was inspired by a chili cookoff held in Terlingua, Texas, in 1967. It was attended by a young entrepreneur named Larry Lavine, who was inspired to develop his own chili recipe and in 1975 opened the first Chili’s in Dallas. Focusing primarily on chili and burgers, it proved to be immensely popular thanks to its simple menu, low-key atmosphere, fun Southwest-themed décor, and awesome burgers. No other restaurant around was quite like it, and within a year a second location opened in Houston. By 1983, with 28 locations open, the corporate world began to take notice, and (soon-to-be) industry legend Norman Brinker swooped in to buy the chain from Lavine. He added new items to the menu, like fajitas, salads, Buffalo wings, and chicken sandwiches, and the company continued to quickly grow. Brinker’s company, called Brinker International, still owns the chain, along with Maggiano’s Little Italy.
Today, Chili’s has more than 1,600 locations worldwide, and a menu that still emphasizes burgers, wings, chicken sandwiches, Southwest-inspired fare, and (of course) baby back ribs. It’s experimenting with touchscreen tablets for tables, and is also regularly rolling out new menu items, most recently smoked barbecue chicken, smoked sausage, chicken and waffles, prime rib fajitas, and even Buffalo fried cauliflower. They’ve come long way from just offering burgers and chili! Click here for 15 things we bet you never knew about Chili’s.