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A Day in the Life of Suzie Tsai

Being a working mom is no joke! Just ask Chili’s Senior Marketing Director, Suzie Tsai. At home, Suzie and her husband, Denis, are rock-star parents to Sloane (7), Leelou (4), and Perry (3). Around the Brinker office, Suzie is notorious for her infectious laugh that can often be heard ringing through the halls of the Marketing Department. Suzie has an incredible way of blending her personal and professional life. She does it all, and she does it with a smile!

Here’s a day in the life of Suzie Tsai:


Brinker & Me:

Eleven years ago, my life changed for the better. I got married to my wonderful husband, Denis, and took a new job with Brinker International – it was a complete reset of my life! I love that my Brinker anniversary coincides with my wedding anniversary because Brinker has been such an important part of my story. I started a new family, and at the same time, Brinker became my family. As I look back at my journey over the past decade, I honestly don’t think that I could have grown my family in the way that I have without Brinker. It might sound crazy, but being a working mom has made me a better mom and a better worker, too.

Morning Routine:

If I don’t work out in the morning, there won’t be time for it later in the day. So, Denis wakes me up at 6:00 AM three days a week (Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday) for a high-cardio workout routine. He keeps me accountable by dragging me out of bed each morning. On our rest days, our kids act as human alarm clocks! Our youngest and only son, Perry, runs into our room, jumps in our bed, and is closely followed by his sister, Leelou. Our oldest daughter, Sloane (we call her “the teenager” even though she’s 7 years old), doesn’t get up until someone wakes her up, so we usually pull her out of bed around 7:00 AM. Once everyone is awake, it’s a mad rush to get the kids ready for school before we’re out the door at 8:15 AM. Leelou and Perry attend a bilingual Chinese school that teaches the behaviors and lifestyles Denis and I grew up with in our Korean and Chinese backgrounds, and Sloane is in elementary school. Denis and I take turns driving and picking up kids from school each day.

Work Day:

I love walking into the office each morning because my hands are finally free! The work day is a working mom’s escape.  I sit down at my desk around 8:45 AM, and Suzie time begins. My day is dictated by my calendar – open it up, and all you’ll see is meetings. I’m booked solid for the next month! My calendar paints a picture of my life and is layered with both work and family stuff. It keeps me balanced. I even have my team’s stuff on my calendar! I love knowing where everyone is at and where everyone is going. It helps me work and connect with my team better. While I spend a lot of time meeting with people at Chili’s, I also spend a lot of time with our marketing agency partners. I love their creative energy and am grateful for the way they bring creative visions to life.

I’m here to make my team’s life easier – that’s my management philosophy! People don’t quit on a job, they quit on a boss. So, I value and put time into my work relationships. My team is almost all women – they’re like my sisters! So, whether we’re talking about work stuff or just catching up, it’s always a fun chat. Since my schedule is always so packed with meetings, I use my lunch time and drive time for 1x1s with my team. I like to have lunch with my husband sometimes, too. But, we have to book it! If it’s not on the calendar, it’s not happening.

Even though my schedule is always busy, I make time each month to volunteer at Sloane’s school to read with her class. I love this time because I get to see her in action and observe her progress first-hand. It gives me context around her educational development and provides an opportunity to get personalized feedback from her teachers.

Evenings at Home:

I call my mom every night on my way home from work to check-in and catch up on life. Whether we have 5, 15, or 50 minutes to chat, it’s always special time. I’m usually home around 6:30 PM and head straight for the kitchen! I cook dinner for the family three or four times a week. I just want the kids to be happy, so we eat a lot of dinosaur nuggets and frozen corn dogs. But, I’ll also make my favorite Asian dishes, spaghetti, or Denis will throw something on the grill.

After dinner, Denis and I will help with homework, play, or watch some TV with the kids before marching them to bed. It’s lights out for Sloane, Leelou, and Perry at 9:00 PM! They all share a bedroom, so we’ll usually hear giggles for about 30-minutes before they drift to sleep. After the kids are in bed, Denis and I will clean up, do the dishes, and run a couple loads of laundry. To make sure that I’m up at 6:00 AM, I know I have to go to bed at 11:00 PM. So, I have an App on my phone that rings at 10:30 PM every night to remind me to go to bed! Silly as it sounds, it’s easy to forget that you need sleep, too, when you spend your days chasing after three tiny humans. Once my head hits the pillow, I pass out and get a little rest before we do it all again.


Denis and I LOVE Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley, but we hardly ever have time to watch them. So, sometimes we’ll wake up early on a Saturday morning to binge watch a few episodes before jumping into the day’s activities. Our weekends are usually full of soccer games, kids’ activities, and school. (Sloane attends a Chinese Language School every Sunday.) Sometimes Denis and I will drop the kids off at my mom’s house and go see a movie – she helps keep us sane! I’m lucky to have family in Dallas. It gives me a support network and truly helps me survive being a working mom. The weekends are hard. Monday is the routine. So, after working through a weekend of crazy, I’m always grateful to return to my desk every Monday morning.


Questions for Suzie:

What inspires you?  My mom is my biggest inspiration. She was a working mom like me and is always positive and happy! And my husband, Denis, he’s the smartest guy I know who’s always up on the latest technology, current affairs, and politics – he keeps me up-to-date and in-the-know while providing unconditional love for me and the kids.  My mom and Denis make me a better person.

What’s your guilty pleasure?  Wine! I love it. I’m a Pinot Noir kind of gal! I don’t get to have a glass too often because I’m too tired and have to wake up early every day. But, when I get to have a glass, it is wonderful!

What’s the last game you played?  Shopkins Go Fish! It’s one of the kids’ favorites.

When’s the last time you said, “I love you?”  This morning to my husband and kids! We say it every day.  Sometimes I yell out to Sloane from the car window when I drop her off at school. She’s still at the age where it’s cool to love your mom!

When’s the last time you danced?  At Luz’s (Chili’s Social Media Manager) wedding! It was so much fun – we were dancing all night long!

When’s the last time you cried?  Again, at Luz’s wedding when she had her father-daughter dance. It reminded me of my father-daughter dance at my wedding and all the wonderful, happy memories that I have of my dad.

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A Day in the Life of Kelli Valade

The ChilisJobs team is kicking off our #ChilisWTL series by getting a look inside the life of our very own President, Kelli Valade. Kelli has two kids (Morgan and Christian), a pretty awesome husband (Don), a crazy golden doodle (Lucy), and a really busy career. How does she do it all? You’re about to find out.

Here’s a day in the life of Kelli Valade:


5:30 AM: My husband, Don, is usually up and out the door by 5:00 AM. But, you’ll find me hitting the snooze button until the last possible second! I love my sleep and work hard to get seven to eight hours every night. Once I’m out of bed, I take a minute to check emails before getting ready for the day. Lucy, our crazy golden doodle, loves to get ready with me and usually wakes up as soon as my feet hit the floor. I love the way she follows me around each morning!

6:15 AM – 7:45 AM: It’s time to wake up my son, Christian, and make him breakfast! Lucy never forgets to remind me that she wants her breakfast, too. My daughter, Morgan, is in High School and has an extra hour to sleep in the mornings – so, we let her. Once breakfast is made, lunches are packed, and we’re ready for the day! Christian and I are out the door by 7:00 AM. By 7:45 AM, Christian is at school, and I’m on my way to the office. My commute takes an hour every morning, but I could never give up the quality time I get with my son.

8:00 AM – 8:30 AM: Upon arriving at work, I make a cup of green tea, read the morning RPM (sales and labor) reports, and review the day’s schedule. I love walking into my office each morning! It’s warm and inviting – not your traditional corporate office. I want people to feel welcome when they walk in. So, I have a farm table instead of a traditional office table and have filled the room with things that inspire me like books, family photos, and a memory book – a cherished gift I received from the Chili’s team!

9:00 AM – 12:00 PM: I usually spend my morning in meetings. Of the many people I talk with each week, I especially look forward to meeting with the Culinary Council. The leadership and culinary teams come together to decide on menu items for our restaurants – sometimes a year in advance! We get to try new recipes, give feedback, and talk with our Team Members and Guests to ensure we’re making the best choices for the brand.

12:00 PM – 1:00 PM: If I’m not visiting a Chili’s location for lunch, I’m most likely eating a prepared meal from Snap Kitchen – I have a refrigerator full of them! They’re healthy and easy to eat on-the-go.

2:00 PM – 5:00 PM: When I have time between afternoon meetings, I love to catch up with folks around the office. A lot of Team Members have white boards outside their desks, and they’ll write fun facts or activities they have planned. I love reading them as I walk through the halls – it helps me learn what’s going on and have conversations that have nothing to do with work. I learn something new about someone every day, and I love it!

5:30 PM – 6:30 PM: Before wrapping up the day around 5:30 or 6:00 PM, I make a few last phone calls and look over my notes from the day. Then I grab a few Post-its, hop in my car, and finish the day with a conference call. (Bluetooth is a god-send!) My drive home is easily filled 90% of the time, and I’m grateful for the extra hour to finish work. Once I finish my last call, I decompress – usually by blasting some music! I love Donna Summer and classic 70s hits.

 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM: By the time I get home, everyone has already eaten. I get comfortable, grab dinner (and sometimes a glass of wine!), and sit with Morgan, Christian, and Don to help with homework or just hangout. I love this time together because we get to talk and catch up. Once homework is done, I take turns with Morgan and Christian, and we go for a walk or run. This gives me personal time to catch up with each of them, and I get my steps in for the day which is how I squeeze in my WellBeing. Cardio and yoga are important to me and doing them with my kids is awesome!

8:30 PM – 9:30 PM: We like to watch a TV show as a family, and we usually turn on something like Gotham, Modern Family, or my new obsession, This Is Us. Then we all go upstairs and start to wind down. Even though my kids are 16 and 14, I still tuck in Morgan and Christian every night – it’s my favorite part of the day.

10:00 PM: I check emails and texts one last time and answer anything urgent. Then it’s time for bed! I usually put on Friends until I doze off. I don’t sleep with my phone in my bedroom – it charges in the kitchen while I get some undisturbed z’s.   

Travel Days: Twice a month, I’m on the road visiting a market, checking out restaurants, and recognizing teams for the amazing work they’re doing. These days typically look a bit different because I’m at a Chili’s location Playing Restaurant! I help set up for the day, coach our teams, and, most importantly, talk to our ChiliHeads and Guests. I love when I have the opportunity to welcome and seat parties, bus tables, and take orders. I’m pretty good at selling our Margaritas! (But, in all honesty – they really sell themselves.)

I almost always host a Town Hall meeting or Women Taking the Lead session when I’m out in the field. I love connecting with our teams, getting their feedback, and engaging Team Members with our big-picture strategy. Spending time in our restaurants with ChiliHeads and Guests is one of my favorite things to do – it’s rewarding and inspires me to work harder when I’m back in the office.

Weekends: The weekends are for family time! You’ll find me in yoga pants and a hoodie while I’m running between yoga class and Morgan and Christian’s activities. We always eat dinner as a family on Sunday nights. I love to cook, and Italian dishes are my specialty! After dinner, we call a ‘Sunday Night Meeting’ to talk about the week ahead. We coordinate schedules and Morgan and Christian will tell us what they need help with – practices, games, lessons, and other activities. Don and I also use this time to ask our kids what’s on their minds. It’s a good way for us to listen to and support each other. Morgan and Christian are great at leading these meetings, and it prepares us all for the week ahead.




More fun facts about Kelli:

What inspires me: Seeing the good around us.

Last guilty pleasure: I was at a pizza party a couple of weeks ago and had four huge slices of pizza. And yes – it was amazing!

Last game I played: I play a trivia game with Christian on an App called Trivia Crack. Needless to say, he is winning.

Last time I said “I Love You”: Every day. At least 5-6 times to my kids.

Last time I danced: In the kitchen with Morgan and Christian! Have you ever tried doing the ‘The Dab’? It’s definitely entertaining!

Last time I cried: Last Tuesday during This Is Us. I cry during every single episode!

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Bring Your Whole Self to Work

Odds are you don’t spend much of your time diving into the decades of research attributed to the study of management. The very idea of management dates back hundreds of years—to the early 1800’s when the world (and America specifically) was growing at a rapid pace. Imagine the challenges of running the Burlington Railroad in the late 1800’s and trying to communicate to steel workers all across America…via telegraph.

The concept that employees were social creatures didn’t enter management theory until the 1930’s. A series of research studies called the Hawthorne Experiments, lead by Elton Mayo, discovered that employee productivity changed based on the lights being brighter or darker—but no one knew why. Mayo concluded that lighting had nothing to do with it, but instead the group’s productivity increased because they felt special and were closely connected socially. The study concluded that employees have social needs as well as physical needs, and managers need a mix of managerial skills that include human relations skills.

It seems simple and so obvious in today’s world, but was pioneering research back then. These days work is just…well…different. We talk about being overwhelmed and inundated by emails, being micromanaged by crazy bosses, being surrounded by co-workers that just don’t care, and being confused by company strategy or direction. We want to do work that matters, working for companies that do more than just turn a profit.

That’s why we’re finally lightening up a little around #TodaysChilis. We’re talking more about what really matters—what matters to our own people and to those looking for great jobs, or even better careers. We’re celebrating the unique differences that make us special, and we’re acknowledging that we all bring a mix of both “work” and “personal” with us wherever we go. And the idea didn’t come from leadership—it came from right within our four walls. It came from people like Tyler, who challenged us to think differently about our stance on tattoos in the workplace. For years we asked ChiliHeads to cover them up, until great people like Tyler had us look in the mirror.

I know that tattoos have all kinds of meaning and get different perceptions, however my tattoos tell the story of my life and they are something that I am either glad I’ve overcome, glad I experienced, or someone I never want to forget. With as many tattoos as I have I am still extremely picky by what I see also. Thoughtless or offensive tattoos affect me in the same way that it would affect someone who has none. I have taken the time to carefully decide what I have put on my body, and I am proud to share them with the world. For the longest time I didn’t want to talk about my little brother passing away, and because of that I never coped with it. I got my tattoo for him because I knew that I would get asked questions about it and asked why I got it, and that would open the door for conversation surrounding the worst event I’ve experienced in my life. By doing so I was able to deal with the emotion and come to the realization that my little brother will be gone forever, and that instead of hanging onto that I need to continue to push forward and live the life he set out to live but was never able to achieve.

This is just one of the many stories my tattoos tell, but overall they are ME. And I am proud to be who I am now having gone through the experiences my tattoos outline. I wouldn’t be who I am without these experiences, these are what made me. And while it might seem silly to some, they are extremely important to me. And in a way they tie me to this brand as well. My brother passed away as a ChiliHead and this brand and the Brinker Family Fund stepped in to relieve my parents of the financial burden they had while burying their son. This is the single most powerful force connecting me to this brand and its success.

I just wanted to try and help others with understanding that to me these tattoos are not just tattoos. They outline who I am, who I have become, and ultimately who I will be in the future. They are EXTREMELY important to me, and I don’t regret any of them. We are still individuals who come together for this brand, for the people, and the experiences we create for team members and guests, just like anyone else who doesn’t have any. There is nothing I want more than the success of my restaurant and this brand. And if I can do so while pursuing equality for tattoos in the workplace then that’s even better. In the end I’m very grateful for everything you’ve done for me. What you have done for me has truly shown me that passion that Chilis is all about. You have made me feel special for being who I am, and what I’ve done for the brand by being that person.  

Tyler’s story inspired us all…including our President, Kelli Valade:

I hope by now you know the story. The story of an idea to be different—to create something special and unique. The year was 1975. In the early days, those few and proud ChiliHeads called themselves the Hamburger Hippies and they were known for taking work seriously and taking themselves far less than serious. It was a very different time—an era marked by war, civil unrest, womens rights, gay rights and an explosion of new music, art and inspiration. People pushed back against mainstream social norms. And out of those crazy times and unrest, a bar and grill popped up called Chili’s.

Along the way, the idea took off and the company grew. The rebelliousness of the 70’s gave way to new generations that wanted more calm in their world. Our Guests evolved too, and sure—maybe we got a little more risk averse and cautious. We mirrored what we saw in the world. Being edgy and pushing the envelope didn’t always sync up with being one of the worlds most recognized brands. For many, tattoos were taboo. Too much. Too edgy. And maybe just a little too off-putting. At some point we asked you to cover up, and for years many of you wore long sleeve shirts to avoid the possibility of frustrated or dissatisfied Guests.

Times have changed. I get it. For many a tattoo is a constant reminder of a crazy weekend in Vegas. For others, a tattoo on a finger replaces the tradition of a wedding band. Some mark a milestone, others honor someone lost, many define who we are at certain points in our life. But, regardless the purpose, the stigma of tattoos has begun to fade away as we see them filtered through a lens of many decades.

I have heard from so many of you asking for understanding, including the amazing story of Tyler who allowed us to share his story with you. I want nothing but the best life for him and for every one of you. And, I want this company to stand for values that are relevant and meaningful in this crazy world we live in. So today I’m happy to share that we’re changing. We’re evolving and learning and growing. Beginning today, we’re removing the restriction on visible tattoos. However, we ask that you understand professionalism and excellence is still top of mind–our Guests beliefs still matter.

It’s so important to remember that what we ask of you is what we ask of everyone including myself, to truly connect with Guests and team alike. Your personality and character will draw people in—not your tattoos. Your image is a by-product of so much more than the clothes you wear or the ink on your body–it’s a function of who you are when no one is looking. Be real, be genuine, be connected.

It takes courage to become who you really are. You inspired us to dream bigger. You inspired us to be brave. Now, we go forward with the belief that we are not defined by the color of our skin, the person we love, or the ink on our arm. Be yourself. We’ll be right here beside you.

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Being a ChiliHead means…

Being a ChiliHead is more than just a job – it’s a lifestyle. It’s living our Purpose each and every day; whether that’s in the restaurants or in your everyday activity. The stories we hear every day from our Team Members inspire us to do better. During this time of gratitude and love, we want to give you an inside look at what being a ChiliHead is all about. The stories below will give you a small glimpse of how we connect, serve and give to create the best life.


Meet Christina, a Team Member from Gainesville, Florida who showed true bravery after finishing her shift at #TodaysChilis.


“Christina was on her way home from her shift when a car veered across her car and ended in a pond. She quickly got out of her car to assist the lady only to find a child in the back seat. She swam out and retrieved the child and brought her to the shore and safety. She then swam back out to attempt to get the mother out. She was pinned in there by her seat belt. By that time the FD arrived and was able to get her to safety. While that was going on, Christina was comforting the child until she could be reunited with her mother. What an act of bravery” –Tony Devescovi, Area Director.


Meet Alicia & Team Kahala from Hawaii – this team went out of their way to make a difference for their community. 


“Alicia, a Team Member from Hawaii, and the team in Kahala volunteered their time to give back to their community. They served lunch to the under privileged at one of our local shelters in their free time. So proud of this team for taking the challenge and getting involved in making a difference in other’s lives! By giving their time, they helped create the best life for those in need and I’m sure they felt a connection and a greater sense of purpose that we all can be a part of. Community is contagious – pass it on!” – Jeffrey Mews, Area Director


Meet Team Concord from California – this team is involved with their local special needs program and gives back to their community by employing young adults with disabilities. 


“The team has been a long time member of their community engaging with programs such as Workability. The Workability program allows young adults with disabilities to gain work experience outside of their education and acquire essential workplace skills to find a career path. Omar Gomez came to us from Workability 6 years ago – or as he will share – 6 years 10 months and 10 days. Omar is deaf but that doesn’t break his spirit. After working in Chili’s as a student, Omar was hired to join the Chili’s team as a member of our Heart of House. Omar has a smile on his face every day, works tremendously hard and wears his heart on his sleeve. What makes us the most proud of Omar, is his level of engagement with his team and his peers, always hopping in where he is needed and being the beacon of positive attitude. Omar communicates with his team through a few applications on his phone and because of programs such as Workabilty, we are fortunate to meet people like Omar and have them join our Chili’s family! ” – Justin Cates, Area Director


These are few of many stories to how we connect, serve and give to create the best life for our Teams and our Guests. Now – it’s your turn! How are you planning to connect, serve and give to create a best life for yourself and those around you this holiday season?

Happy holidays from the ChilisJobs team!

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Giving to St. Jude

It all started in 2002 when our restaurants in Memphis, Tennessee came together to support their local hospital, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The passion of our Memphis ChiliHeads filled the entire brand. What started as a local, grass roots give back turned into a committed and long lasting partnership between Chili’s and St. Jude. We made a $50 million dollar commitment and year after year, Team Members and Guests rallied to support St. Jude’s mission – and it has made a tremendous impact. To date, we have raised more than $58 million for patients and families.


And it doesn’t stop there!  This year marks our 14 year partnership with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. To celebrate, we have made our second commitment to support St. Jude’s mission of Finding cures. Saving children®.  To kick off our annual #CreateAPepper campaign, we have made a $30 million promise to enhance the work of the St. Jude Program for patients.

This new commitment means Team Members and Guests can support the work of St. Jude to treat the whole child by helping to meet the educational needs of their patients. The St. Jude School Program gives patients a way to focus on the future and keep up with schoolwork during their stay at the hospital – whether staying for a few months or years. For children who are put into an unfamiliar hospital environment, school provides a regular routine, feeling of control and sense of normalcy.

All September long, Team Members and Guests will be rallying during our annual #CreateAPepper campaign to not only raise donations but to also create awareness that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. Together with our Guests, we will celebrate our new commitment and continue to live out our purpose to connect, serve and give while supporting a cause that is so near and dear to our hearts. ❤



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What’s a Dream Job Anyway?

College can be stressful enough on its own, especially when you add the stress of having to find a job after you graduate. For some, jobs are ready and lined up by the time the  cap and tassel go flying into the air. For others, a long time may pass before you finally land that “dream job”. But what’s a dream job anyway? For this Chilihead, figuring it out was harder than she thought. Sarah worked at Chili’s for over 5 years and was about to graduate. And that’s when she had to make one of the biggest decisions of her life. Check out Sarah’s story…

It was my last semester in college when the reoccurring nightmares began. No, not your typical, “oh my gosh! I’m graduating in a few months!” kind of nightmares, but dreams where I would wake up with a sick feeling in my stomach – realizing the day where I had to quit my job was quickly approaching. My dreams were all fairly similar. In the middle of all the chaos, I had to quit. I didn’t want to. But I walked away from my team anyways, knowing that I was going to miss them terribly and get a sad feeling every time they post a work selfie or a video of one of our managers dancing on social media.

I did a lot of serious thinking over the next few months. I had to figure out why I didn’t want to leave and how to make this pit in my stomach go away. I had worked at Allen Park Chili’s for over five years. Was I too attached to my coworkers? Was I afraid to leave my comfort zone? Was I not ready to graduate and join the “real world?” Luckily, I had to complete 1200 internship hours through my college program. This allowed me to “sample” different jobs, companies, and cultures. After sitting down with my General Manager Partner, Micky Frank, for about two hours, comparing what I liked and didn’t like in my internships with my experiences with Chili’s, I realized why I didn’t want to leave. I loved the culture of the company. I knew it wasn’t something that just existed at Allen Park, either. I had worked in other restaurants, observed other teams at our yearly softball tournament, but most importantly, I had gotten a glimpse of what other restaurants were doing across the country through Twitter. This is when I realized that culture was very important to me.

My GMP and I also spent some time talking about leadership. Food service management in the healthcare industry had been my original plan, but I explained to him that I couldn’t see myself being happy or successful. To be successful, I needed a place where I could be hands on, express my passion, and feel like I could be myself. I needed to work for a company that inspired me, so that I could inspire others. Chili’s was perfect for this. Between sharing heartwarming stories on twitter, to opening up discussions through Women Taking the Lead, to promoting wellbeing, Chili’s has truly created an incredible culture and support system. I believe this culture has shaped some wonderful leaders, and when I think about the kind of leader I want to become, I think of many leaders I have met within this company at all different levels. I want to make people feel special, like they have done. I want to help others become the best version of themselves, like they have done. I want to lead with my heart, like they have done.

I told Micky I wanted to take the summer off to make a decision about my life. I really wanted to go into management at Chili’s, but I had put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into my college degree. I wanted to make sure whatever decision I made was the right decision. This lasted all of about four weeks! After going back to work full time after graduation, I made my announcement that I wanted to stay with Chili’s and now I am so excited to #ChilisGrow!

-Sarah Partch

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Nick’s Physical Wellbeing Journey

We’ve all done it. We get so caught up in our everyday routine that we forget to truly take care of ourselves. Life gets the best of us and we use it as an excuse to not focus on our wellbeing. As we juggle more, take on more responsibility at work and home, and try to manage life in a constant stream of distractions and information coming at us; it becomes more important than ever to make time for numero uno. But we shouldn’t let that get in the way. Sometimes all we need is a little motivation. We’re honored to share the very personal journey of Nick Sickler, a ChiliHead who let life get in the way of being physically active. Nick found the motivation he was looking for and managed to turn his life around with the support of his wife, a community of peeps at boot camp/cross fit, and a team of 55,000 other ChiliHeads focusing on their wellbeing! Check out Nick’s story:

I was very lucky growing up with a loving mother, SO loving that she always wanted to do things for me….especially FEED me! Growing up I didn’t eat the healthiest of meals and there was always something in front of us to snack on, or a ‘feel good’ kind of meal. Luckily, I was always in some sort of sport growing up, pretty much year round. As I grew older, some of the baby fat shed away and by high school I had gotten into lifting for sports. I had my weight pretty under control and was very active in football and baseball. After high school I continued to work out and controlled my weight all while having a loose lifestyle of late nights and fast food… Ahhhh to be young again! Not to mention, starting a career in the restaurant business! FOOD.

Years later I met my beautiful wife Kelli. While we were dating I continued to stay active at a gym. It was not until Kelli was pregnant with our first, Olivia, that I started to pack on the pounds. I couldn’t let her eat all those cravings alone, right? Ha! I put on about 25 lbs. in 9 months. Then all of a sudden it became extremely hard to lose weight. The daily responsibilities of being a new father and working full time were new to me and life started to take control and get the best of me. Work was stressful and rest at home was few and far between.

After about 6 months we started to gain back some structure and control. Just a few short months later we found out Kelli was pregnant again and along came Bella. This time it was different than the first round, a new challenge with a newborn and an active toddler. Over next several years I battled with making time to get back to an active lifestyle and became more of a weekend warrior. My priorities became my career and family and I was not focused on taking care of myself for long term health. I was playing the roller coaster weight game throughout the years and never made it back to my pre-weight of before kids.

Life changed again with a move to Texas! We relocated the family to San Antonio for a job promotion and to start the next chapter in our journey of life in 2013. I can truly say I am very glad we did! I was buried in work taking on a new position but loving the challenge. The girls were making friends quickly at school, and we couldn’t have been luckier to land in our neighborhood. Kelli met a friend by the name of Amy Craft.  They started actively going to boot camp and after a month of her attending, I finally gave in and went myself. I had done nothing active for quite some time and it was the WORST experience I had ever had! I think we did like 500 burpees that day, of course it was probably only 20, but felt like 500 because I couldn’t move for an entire week. That was that. I never wanted to go back. I buried myself back in work and used it as an excuse not to go. An entire year went by before I went back, this time I had a better mind set about it and little more motivation, due to recently being diagnosed with high blood pressure. I went consistently 3-5 times a week for about two months. I saw some results but very minimal on the scale. I got a little frustrated and at the same time it was the end of our fiscal year at work which meant a huge work load with wrapping the end of the year up. With both of those working against me, I went back to burying myself in work.

Things in Texas were going great with my family although something was missing. No matter how hard I worked or how hard I tried doing things for others I just could not seem to find a happy structure. I wasn’t happy with myself. About the same time, Chili’s started focusing on our Team Member’s wellbeing. We did some deep dives into what makes life more fulfilling. Gallup research has shown that if you strive in 3 out of the 5 elements of wellbeing you tend to live a very happy, productive life in and out of work. The 5 Essential Elements of Wellbeing are Financial, Career, Community, Social and Physical. I couldn’t believe it… I had 3 of the 5 staring me in the face this entire time and I was too bull headed to realize it. The Social, Community and of course the Physical wellbeing had all been offered to me this entire time, just by joining such a great group at boot camp/cross fit. I have never been happier here in San Antonio than I have been in the last 5 months. What I was missing this entire time was making sure I focused on myself, staying healthy and clear headed every day. This has actually made it easier to take care of those that rely on me, with family being top of that list. I have some physical goals I am trying to accomplish by the end of the year that I will continue to pursue, but so far over the last 5 months I have lost almost 30 lbs. and have lowered my blood pressure to normal range.

I owe a lot of this to my wife Kelli for continuing to give me her support and pushing me to be a better person. I also wanted to give some props to my boss, Bobby the J. He has done nothing but been supportive in my journey to get healthy, and he plays a crucial role in my life. I ask God daily to give me the strength to help and lead those that I am responsible for at work and at home. We are so appreciative to have such great people in our lives that inspire us to be better each and every day. My journey will continue for ME and my family….and what a great thing to set a standard for our girls to make fitness and health a priority in life!

The journey continues…

Nick Sickler

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A ChiliHead Journey

In Annalise Miller’s #forkinawesome blog post “Living With Purpose,” she says, “The happiest and best lives are those who stay true to themselves and live their purpose!” In December 2014, I reached out to my General Manager (John Nelson), my Area Director (Perry Schoulten), and my PeopleWorks partner (Annalise Miller) to find out what more I could be doing for Chili’s. I had earned a Bachelor’s Degree in 2010, a Master’s Degree in 2012, and since 2012 had been working on a PhD in Professional Communication at Utah State University. I’ve always wanted to impact the lives of others, and for nearly a decade I wanted to be an English professor. However, when I approached my leaders, I had come to the humbling, yet liberating realization that in order to create my best life, I needed to be honest with myself and trust my intuition, which was telling me to take my family down an unfamiliar path leading away from academics and toward a company whose Passion is “Making People Feel Special.”

Last October, my oldest daughter Livee turned nine years old. My wife Kenzie and I asked Livee what she wanted to do for her birthday. I thought she might want to spend the day at Bear Lake, situated on the Utah-Idaho border and only about two hours north of our home in Layton, Utah. I thought she might want to order fresh Raspberry-Oreo milkshakes from the “Quick N Tasty” restaurant before spending the day swimming and tanning on Bear Lake’s North Shore. Kenzie thought she’d want to go back to Logan, Utah, where we’d previously lived since 2010, and spend the day with her old friends. My wife and I were both partially right. Livee wanted to go back to a place that she associated with good feelings and fond memories. She wanted to go to a place that had taught her terms like “86,” “Corner!” and “CBV.” She wanted to go to a place where the people had always made her feel special. She wanted to go to Chili’s. But not just any Chili’s. Out of all the places she could have gone to celebrate her ninth birthday, my daughter wanted to go to the Chili’s in Logan, Utah, to reconnect with the Managers and Team Members whom she had grown to #ChilisLove.

My #ChiliHead journey is not my own. I’ve been able to share it on a personal level with not only my wife, but also each one of my children: Livee, Emmeline, Sophia, and Captain. As I learn more about our culture of individual accountability, they do too. When I “See it, Own it, Solve it, and Do it,” they celebrate. When I go “Below the Line”, they know it, and they’re the first ones to “Lift Me Up”. My wife had served at the Logan Chili’s since October of 2012, and I since June of 2013. I’ll never forget the night that John, the General Manager, pulled me into dry storage and gave me the most priceless feedback. He said, “Ryan, you’re a leader. I’ve watched you come back to the kitchen empty handed from the dining room three times, and you’re better than that. I can’t have you setting that kind of example for the rest of the team. Will you own full-hands from now on?” I remember hating him for about twenty-four hours for being so brutally honest with me in real-time. I remember whining silently in my head for the rest of the shift and then venting to my family when I got home. They listened to me. They sympathized with me. But after a few minutes my wife said, “Honey, John’s right. You just need to own it.” My kids agreed, “Yeah, Dad. Own it.”

When ChilisJobs invited me to tell the story of my journey with Chili’s, I was truly honored. From our leaders in Dallas to all the Team Members around the world, we Chiliheads certainly know how to make people feel special! Since I became a Chilihead, I’ve often found myself entertaining a single thought: What if each and every Chilihead truly shared this brand’s passion for making people feel special? Think of how many guests we see every day, every week, every year. Think of the potential impact we could make on society—#ChilisLove by 2020—if every Chilihead truly shared our passion. Think of the real impact we’ve already made.

I am proud to work for Chili’s—a brand comprised of inspiring leaders who continually impact me, my wife, and my kids. I am blessed to be a part of this amazing brand that inspires  me, encourages me to live with purpose, and motivates me to be a better husband, father, and leader.


Ryan Price   

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Leveraging Technology in our Restaurants to Serve Up a New Digital Guest Experience

Quick! Name a well-known technology company! Apple. Google. Samsung. Amazon. Microsoft. Facebook. And Chili’s. Wait…what??? Regardless of where life takes you, odds are some element of technology will be along for the ride. The smart phone has become one of the single biggest revolutionary devices to ever enter our lifetime. Technology has changed the way we see the world, the way we connect to one another, and the way we experience our daily lives. And it’s true: the restaurant industry has been (and will continue to be) profoundly impacted by the technology revolution happening right before our eyes. We intend to lead our industry in technology innovation that will reimagine three specific areas: food, atmosphere and service. Technology is the thread that weaves all of them together.

It all started with bringing technology to the table. In 2013, we were the first in the industry to bring tabletop technology to our Guests through our technology partnership with Ziosk.

From there, we launched a fully digital loyalty program that shocked everyone by bringing approximately 5 million new member enrollments in a span of 6 months. At the core of the My Chili’s Rewards program is a service-based technology stack that analyzes data from a central data repository (just envision a big swimming pool with a lot of ones and zeroes on floats), combined with Guest behaviors like frequency and visits to offer personalized offers to our fans through their preferred communication channel – text, email or push. The program also uses “gamification” logic to surprise and delight Guests with free offers within the restaurants. Free molten? #winning

We were also the first to recognize the value of mobile devices both within and outside our restaurants and we are continuously adding native functionality to drive more value-focused Guest experiences. Odds are you might be reading this on your mobile phone. Guess what else you can do with that amazing handheld? You can sign in to our Chili’s App, check and redeem My Chili’s Rewards offers, browse our menu and place a To-Go order to the restaurant of your choice. You can also take advantage of our No Wait feature and sign in through your very cool and sleek handheld mobile technology phone thingy when choosing to dine in on a busy night. All of these features are enabled through real-time integration using web service based architecture.

This Fall, through our partnership with the popular e-commerce engine OLO, we will launch a brand new omni-channel platform that supports essential experiences like advanced search, fully integrated online menus and other innovative functions like pre-ordering and group ordering. It gets even better. You’ll be able to use any of the web, app or tabletop channels to make payments using credit cards, Apple Pay or Samsung Pay.

The transformation journey we are traveling today is powered by a bold decision by our leaders at Chili’s and our mother-ship Brinker International, to focus on technology as a strategic differentiator that will continue to make us Like No Place Else. We are doing this in several ways: by shifting more of our development in-house, building a Digital Hub, and leveraging a services-based architecture that powers a highly scalable omni-channel platform. We are also continuously enhancing our data platform so that we can understand and tailor specific experiences based on our Guests’ needs.

For all of the brands we know as tech giants, the brilliant end result is just a piece of the puzzle. It takes whip smart talent and big thinkers to make the technology work, which is why our roadmap to build a best-in-class Digital Guest Experience started first and foremost with finding the right people to bring that vision to life. And it’s why we are continuing to grow our Information Technology team by seeking out the very best rock stars and giving them a world stage to perform on. As Bill Gates once said, “Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.”

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A Woman’s Legacy

Every March, the world comes together to show respect to the leaders, change agents, artists, politicians, athletes, designers, scientists, teachers and more who impact the lives of millions every day. These groups are shaping the way we see the world—it just so happens they are also women. The very idea of this annual celebration was initiated by Congress in 1981, with a request of the President to recognize women’s accomplishments…for a single week. Six years later, the single week became a month—and Women’s History Month was born. We’re joining the celebration this month too, highlighting the impact women have made in our own company, as well as the entire restaurant industry.

The year was 1986. (For those a little challenged by new math like us, that’s 30 years ago!) A little upstart casual dining joint known as Chili’s was still in its infancy. It was the first year the nation celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Mike Tyson won his first ever boxing title (eleven years before he took a nibble out of Holyfield’s ear). And Lindsay Lohan was born. Whatever happened to that sweet girl from The Parent Trap? But, most importantly, Jadi Oliver began her career with Chili’s. Little did she know that her first job with the brand would bring a long, successful career.  As we celebrate the influential women in the industry this month, it seemed only right to celebrate the thirty year anniversary of one of our own.

I started with Chili’s in Austin, TX in March 1986 as a server. We added Ribs, The Monty, Frisco Salad, and the Mushroom Burger to the menu that year. I transferred to Cupertino, CA in the fall of ’86. It was the first Chili’s in California. It was in a crazy old building that had a giant earthquake column in the middle of the pass-thru. Soon after arriving in CA I was asked to be an Opening Trainer. I was fortunate to be selected to travel all over the United States representing the coolest company in the industry.

Jadi - Basil (2)

The basil in the photo is last year’s harvest from our garden outside of the Culinary Center. Jadi is working on converting the garden to all edibles.

In 1990, after about 40 openings, I was transferred to the Restaurant Support Center (it was called the Home Office in those days) to coordinate new restaurant openings. Five years later, I moved to the Culinary Department. It was the best move I’ve ever made. I have one of the coolest jobs in the company. Our team works with the chefs from inception of a product through national launch. We create most of the training materials for chefs in our restaurants. I simply love what I do.

For those of you still counting…that’s three decades. Thirty years of impacting a brand and making people feel special. According to the U.S. Labor Bureau, the average tenure for employees in the current workforce is a little over 4 years. But for literally three-quarters of the very existence of our company, Jadi Oliver has been making a difference. Hopefully within the next thirty years, we won’t have to celebrate a month honoring the impact women have made in the world—because by then it will just be the norm. What do you think?