Put On Your Shoes and Stay A While

Ever heard of ‘Guests who never leave’? How about ‘Team Members who never leave’? Well, we have… and we love those people! At Chili’s, we celebrate our loyal Team Members who’ve stuck with us through thick and thin at our restaurants around the globe and right here at the Chili’s Restaurant Support Center (RSC).  You might be surprised to learn that we have a ton of Team Members who have been with our company for 10, 20, or even 30 years!

We appreciate and celebrate each and every Team Member who has committed time and energy to our brand, but we have a special place in our hearts reserved for our long-time ChiliHeads – the Team Members who helped us grow from Hamburger Hippies into the globally-recognized brand that we are today. A lot has changed since we opened our first Chili’s restaurant in 1975! But, none of it would have been possible without the hard work and dedication of our teams.

So, as we look back at where we’ve been and look forward to all that we want to be, we stop to celebrate the ChiliHeads who helped get us here. Maybe one day, we’ll compile a list and give everyone the celebratory shout-out they deserve! But, for now, we’ll start our “Thank Yous” with our two longest-tenured Team Members at the Chili’s RSC – Debi Britton and Judy Kerns.

Debi and Judy have been with our team for over 35 years! They’ve supported us behind-the-scenes within our Finance and PeopleWorks teams and have helped our brand grow tremendously throughout the years. They’ve supported us through growth spurts, growing pains, and everything in between while collecting stories and memories to last a lifetime.

So, to celebrate Debi, Judy, and the legacy they’ve brought to our brand, we sat down to ask them a few questions and hear what it has meant to be a ChiliHead throughout the past three decades. Scroll through our interview with Debi and Judy below!

Ask Debi and Judy!

Can you tell us your #ChilisGrow story?

I moved to Dallas from Knoxville, Tennessee to join Brinker International with one of our former brands, Grady’s. I started out as a Restaurant Accountant, but I’ve held many different roles in my 35 years! I spent a couple years in Financial Systems Support, moved on to the Payroll Department, spent some time as the IT and PW Analyst, and moved back to Accounting as G&A Budget Analyst before landing in Financial Reporting where I’ve been for almost 10 years.

As a Financial Analyst, I basically try to keep our auditors (both internal and external) happy so that our quarterly and annual audits go smoothly. I play some role in the annual planning processes each year, and even though it’s not part of my Financial Reporting job, I’m honored to be on the Brinker Family Fund Committee.

Debi BrittonFinancial Analyst & ChiliHead for 35 Years

What do you #ChilisLove about your job?

First, let me say that I truly love my job! Working as Leave of Absence (LOA) Specialist requires me to represent the voice of Brinker to ensure all procedures remain compliant with all government and company policy guidelines, safeguard confidentiality, and provide excellent customer service to our Team Members. I’m passionate about making a difference in the life of each Team Member I speak with – by listening, by caring, and by making them feel special.

Before I became our LOA Specialist, I was a Benefits Manager for 21-years. In 1991, I was surprised to receive our company’s first “Star Award” which was a total honor for this farm girl from Ohio! As I look back at my 35-years with the brand, I regret not keeping a log of all the stories I’ve accumulated from the Team Members I’ve worked with – I could write a humorous book!

Judy KernsSalaried LOA Specialist & ChiliHead for 35-Years

What’s the best thing about being a ChiliHead?

All the great people I’ve been fortunate enough to work with over the years. Many have left and taken what they’ve learned from Norman Brinker and our culture to other restaurant companies, but we still have so many great “old-timers” still here. (Speaking of which… I love, love, love our new burger! It’s finally back to basics, and it’s great. I hope we never change it ever again!)

Debi BrittonFinancial Analyst & ChiliHead for 35 Years

What’s one of your favorite things we do as a brand?

I love Chili’s commitment to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and all that we’ve accomplished in building the Chili’s Care Center in Memphis. Our annual fundraising campaigns and the Brinker Family Fund program touch so many lives, and I’m proud to know that I work for a company that continues to care for those in need.

Judy KernsSalaried LOA Specialist & ChiliHead for 35-Years

What has it been like to watch our brand grow and change over the years?

It’s been exhilarating! Needless to say, I was sad when my original brand was sold in 1996, but it has been fascinating to watch our brands and people change throughout the years. The year I moved to Dallas, there were less than 150 Chili’s restaurants, and today, we have 1,630 restaurants – and we’re still growing. That is exciting!

Debi BrittonFinancial Analyst & ChiliHead for 35 Years

Can you share a favorite Chili’s memory with us?

My favorite memories are all those I shared with my friend, Norman Brinker. There are numerous great stories that I could share about Norman – his love for people, his ability to encourage and grow his teams, how he loved to help the community. He was an incredible listener and truly cared about his Team Members. He holds a special place in my heart and always will. His friendship was easy and never boastful. It was always fun to go to lunch with Norman because you always got to see restaurant chefs and Team Members come over to greet him – his reputation was impeccable. I wish all of our Team Member had the honor of knowing Norman.

Judy KernsSalaried LOA Specialist & ChiliHead for 35-Years

What’s your favorite company tradition or celebration?

That’s easy … St. ChiliHead Day!

Debi BrittonFinancial Analyst & ChiliHead for 35 Years

What’s the best thing about being a ChiliHead?

The culture. The friendships. Listening to Steve Provost stories. Watching Doug Brooks grow into the amazing leader that Norman groomed him to be. Being permitted to make mistake – as long as we learn from those mistakes. The relationships, respect, and trust are all real.

Judy KernsSalaried LOA Specialist & ChiliHead for 35-Years

Today, we celebrate Debi and Judy, the years they’ve dedicated to our brand, and the impact they’ve made on our teams across the nation. But, we also honor every ChiliHead who has committed their time and energy to propelling our brand forward. So, to all ChiliHeads – past, present, and future – thank you. We appreciate you. We wouldn’t be where we are today without you.

Do you know a ChiliHead who deserves a shout-out? Send your stories to ChilisJobs@brinker.com for a chance to be featured in an upcoming blog!