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Behind the Burger: Alex’s #ChilisGrow Journey

Meet Alex – ChiliHead, Sous Chef, and creator of Alex’s Santa Fe Burger. Alex has been a part of the Chili’s brand for over 20 years, and his story is one that we’re proud to tell.

When we first met Alex, he was working at a popular fast food chain while his uncle worked in the Heart of House at Chili’s – Firewheel in Garland, Texas. His uncle needed a ride to work, and being the dependable nephew that Alex is, he volunteered to drive his uncle to his shift at Chili’s. Alex was dropping his uncle off at the restaurant when his uncle took a shot in the dark and asked his GM if Alex could get a job at Chili’s, too. The next words that came of out the GM’s mouth completely changed the trajectory of Alex’s life.

“Here’s an apron – the answer is yes!”

Alex was hired on the spot and would spend the next 20 years falling in #ChilisLove with our brand.

After that memorable first day, Alex worked at Chili’s – Firewheel for 3 years before moving to Chili’s – PLBJ in Dallas, Texas where he would spend another 14 years. During this time, he also joined our Corporate Training team and helped open 10 new Chili’s restaurants across the country. In 2014, Alex eagerly started a new chapter in his #ChilisGrow journey when he joined the Culinary team at the Restaurant Support Center (RSC).

Now, Alex – or Chef Alex as we like to call him – supports our brand as a Sous Chef and spends most of his time in the Chili’s Test Kitchen experimenting with new recipes and testing menu innovations. And it’s here where Alex’s Santa Fe Burger was brought to life.

So, we pulled Alex out of the Test Kitchen because we just had to know… How did you come up with this mouth-watering burger? And what has it meant to be a ChiliHead for the past 20 years? He was proud to tell us.


What was your inspiration for Alex’s Santa Fe Burger?
I started my #ChilisGrow journey in the Heart of House, and one of the best things about being a Heart of House Team Member at Chili’s is getting to make your own lunch in the restaurant! The menu can get a little boring when you’re cooking and eating the same things every day, so I’ve always had fun trying out new recipes and experimenting with different flavor combinations.

When I joined the RSC team, I got to be involved with menu innovation and the feedback process that goes into creating and selecting new items for our menu. Through the process, I’ve been able to share my ideas and was able to have some of my burgers considered alongside other innovations that we were testing for our Ultimate Burger lineup. My Santa Fe burger was up against almost 100 different burgers and somehow made it through four rounds of cuts and onto our national menu. And now my name is on the menu, too! It’s pretty cool.


What has it been like to watch our brand grow and change over the years?
It’s exciting! It’s so much easier for Team Members to make Guests feel special today than it was 20 years ago. When I first started, we used paper tickets to ring in orders and now everything is digital! I really like the way we’ve incorporated technology into both our restaurant operations and our Guest experience. Without technology, we might get left behind! But, Chili’s has stepped up to the plate and paved the way for other restaurants to follow suit.


What does #ChilisLove mean to you?
To live with passion. To make people feel special.


What’s your favorite Chili’s menu item? (Besides your burger, of course!)
Cajun Chicken Pasta


Alex, we thank you for bringing your passion and creativity to our team. We couldn’t be more proud to have your name (and burger!) on our menu.

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!

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Put On Your Shoes and Stay A While

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!

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A ChiliHead Journey: Sergio Salguera

At Chili’s, our purpose is simple – we connect, serve, and give to create the best life. That means finding the right balance of career, social, financial, physical, and community wellbeing. ChiliHead, Sergio Salguera, knows all about wellbeing and purpose because he lives it out every day.

When Sergio isn’t managing his Chili’s restaurant in San Leandro, California, he’s coaching and training young Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters. Sergio’s life changed for the better when he unexpectedly discovered MMA and the opportunities it provided for him and his family. Now, Sergio shares his passion with the next generation as he teaches his students to take control of their future.

This is Sergio’s story:

My Chili’s journey started about five years ago. At the time, I was General Manager at a restaurant that was closing, and I needed a new job. My wife, Jessica, was working at Chili’s and always talked about how much she loved her job. Inspired by Jessica, I decided to apply at Chili’s and was hired as a Manager in Antioch, California. It didn’t take long for me to connect with the brand, and less than a year later, I was promoted to General Manager in San Leandro.

My time as a ChiliHead has been really special – not only because of the experiences I’ve had but because of the fantastic people I’ve been able to work with like Dale Bullotta and Fernando Vega… too many to list at once. Dale was my first boss, and his mentorship helped me grow both personally and professionally. Just having the opportunity to work alongside great leaders at Chili’s has taught me to be a better man.

Years before I became a ChiliHead, I unexpectedly discovered a passion for MMA after attending a fight at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. From that day on, my life turned around because MMA provided me with an opportunity to financially support my family. I developed a love for the sport and started gaining respect and recognition for pursuing my passion. Looking back at it now, my story is simple. MMA completely changed the path that I could have gone down. It kept me out of gangs and out of trouble.

Today, I get to share my passion for MMA and the opportunities it can provide with the next generation by training young fighters. My team started because my son, William, is a fighter and other kids wanted to train but didn’t have the money for it. So, I decided to start training them – free of charge. I never imagined that the team would grow as much as it has or be as successful as we’ve been. We’ve even had two world champions, Jamario Mulder (WFC) and William Salguera (US Open and American Cup).

I currently have eight fighters on my team, and they’re all doing great. Each fighter has a special reason for committing themselves to training. Some do it because they were bullied. Some do it because they want to make money to help support their families. As I train my fighters, I watch their lives change. They understand that there’s a way out of their situation – regardless of what they’re faced with – because they have a team that supports them, cares for them, and loves them.

My kids don’t have to pay a dime in order to train. My kid’s fee is a single commitment – to stay out of gangs and off of drugs. I tell them the story about how I was able to turn my life around, and my message resonates with the kids. They want to know how they can create a similar life for themselves. So, I lead by example and show them how I was able to take control of my future by balancing work and training.

Many of my fighters have become ChiliHeads like me. I’ve shown them that they can earn a living by working at Chili’s and simultaneously train in MMA. It’s hard for a lot of my fighters to get jobs because they come from challenging situations at home. So, I help them get a job at Chili’s. I hire them as dishwashers and they work their way up through the kitchen stations. To date, I’ve helped 11 of my fighters get jobs at Chili’s. I teach them discipline, work ethic, and accountability. I provide them with opportunities and support so they can put themselves on a path to success.

I support my fighters just like I support all my ChiliHeads. That’s why my passion for training fits so well with my career journey at Chili’s. ChiliHeads care about each other. We make connections with real people every day. We never stop striving towards our goals and passions. We support and encourage each other to be the best we can be. It’s part of our DNA as ChiliHeads. It’s what makes us a community.

Chili’s has given me the opportunity to pursue both my personal and professional goals. I’ve never felt like someone cared about me as much as they do at Chili’s. I’m hugely grateful for the support I’ve received from my leaders and my company. Thank you for helping me create the best life for myself, my family, and my fighters.

– Sergio Salguera, GM at Chili’s San Leandro

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Our Commitment to Veterans: A Legacy that Endures

Our founder and namesake, Norman Brinker, learned many of his leadership skills in the early 1950’s when he proudly served in the U.S. Navy. Today, we continue to honor Norman’s memory and the hundreds of veterans who lead and work in our restaurants. Veterans leave an unforgettable mark on America and around the world, and our efforts are a small way to say “thank you” for their service.


Veteran Hiring: You had our back, now we have yours.

We believe that no one who fights for our country should have to fight for a job when they come home. That’s why we joined the Veteran Jobs Mission in April 2013 in its goal to hire one million U.S. military veterans. We deeply value the leadership and experience veterans bring to our ChiliHead family, and we do all we can to help these men and women transfer their skills from real-world situations into a successful restaurant career.


Veteran Partnerships: Together, we can make a difference.

We know that showing support goes much deeper than a complimentary meal on a single day, which is why, over the years, we’ve established ongoing partnerships with organizations that support veterans and their families across the communities where we live and work.


Walk of Gratitude for Snowball Express

Next month, we will once again partner with Snowball Express to support the Walk of Gratitude. The Walk of Gratitude is part of the largest annual gathering of the children and families of America’s fallen heroes. The mission of Snowball Express is simple, yet profoundly important: provide hope and create happy memories for the children of fallen military heroes who have died while on active duty since the September 11 attacks.



Wreaths Across America

Each December, Wreaths Across America remembers and honors our fallen heroes by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies at more than 1,200 locations in the U.S., at sea, and abroad. Chili’s Team Members remember all those who have served our country by laying wreaths and honoring our heroes.




Feed Our Vets

We work with local chapters of Feed Our Vets on their mission to support veterans and their families whose circumstances have left them on the battlefield of hunger through the creation of community food pantries and by providing free food to veterans and their families. Last year, our partnership helped launch a new food pantry in Arkansas and provided more than 100,000 meals to veteran families.



The veterans in our workforce and in our communities mean everything to us. Their selfless sacrifices for our country inspire us to better serve our people and our communities. It’s our privilege to serve them and their families inside and outside of our restaurants.


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A Day in the Life of Amanda Stokes

We’ve been proud to call Amanda Stokes, Director of Operations, a ChiliHead for 18 years. She’s an amazing operator and an advocate for Chili’s Women Taking the Lead. But, Amanda is so much more than just a ChiliHead – she’s a CrossFit junkie, loving wife, and mom to three fur-babies. We’re continuing our #ChilisWTL series by asking Amanda how she balances her life in the Florida sun with the responsibilities of overseeing nine Chili’s restaurants.

Here’s a day in the life of Amanda Stokes:


4:00 A.M. The minute my alarm starts singing Empire State of Mind, our three dogs start licking my face to make sure that I’m waking up. My rescue pups, Craig, Murph, and Gringo, are NOT fans of the snooze button and ruin any chance I have of sleeping in! Getting dressed each morning is easy because I lay my gym clothes out each night before going to bed. I make a protein shake and head out the door to my 5:00 AM CrossFit class. It’s one of the best parts of my day because it’s just for me!

6:30 A.M. Once I get home from CrossFit, I take the dogs out to the yard and spend some quiet time on the back porch. I practice meditation and mindfully reflect on the things I’m grateful for. The sun rises and shines through the trees in the most beautiful way – it’s so peaceful! I enjoy a delicious breakfast that my husband cooks for me every day (I know – I’m a lucky girl!) before taking a bath and getting ready for the day while listening to the Amy Winehouse Pandora station.

8:00 A.M. I head into my home office and look at Chili’s restaurant results from the previous day. I plan my day around my calendar and work off a three-tier to-do list that’s constantly evolving: Must Do, Should Do, and Would Like To Do. I use my morning time to make calls to my restaurants and touch base with my team. I print any reports I’ll need for my daily restaurant visits and pack my work bag. It sounds organized, and it is! I’m not a natural planner, so I work hard to be organized.

10:00 A.M. It’s time to pack my lunch box for the day! I always like to have healthy food options with me so I make good choices throughout the day. I do meal prep every Sunday, so packing it up is super easy! Once I’m done in the kitchen, I head out for the day to visit one of my restaurants.

11:00 A.M. I spend the day with one of my restaurant teams and work a shift with them. I love meeting Guests, spending time with my teams, and having the opportunity to coach Managers and Team Members to help them be the best they can be – it truly feeds my soul. It’s important for me to be all-in during my visits, so I try not to use my phone. Sometimes it can’t be avoided as there are important things that come up that I need to attend to. This job is different every day and no two days are ever alike. It keeps me on my toes!

4:00 P.M. I’m such an extrovert that by 4:00 PM, I’m talked out and need to buy a vowel! After wrapping things up at the restaurant, I use my drive time home to return any phone calls I missed during the day. Once I’m home, I head back into my office to catch up on emails that came in during the day and look ahead on my calendar to prepare for the next day.

6:30 P.M. Being a ChiliHead for over 18 years has taught me the value of work-life balance, and I’ve learned the importance of it. My husband and I really love to sit down at the table and have dinner together each evening. It keeps us connected as we are both very busy during the day. This is our time! We try not to talk about work and just focus on being together.

8:00 P.M. We have a chaise lounge on the end of our sofa that I like to plant myself in each evening. Our three pups will pile on top of my legs, and my husband and I will watch an hour or so of TV. We don’t always agree on shows, but it’s nice to unwind and chill out together.

9:30 P.M. It’s a race to see who goes to bed first! Since my husband and I are both early risers, we’re practically falling asleep by 10:00 PM. We don’t have a TV in the bedroom, so when it’s time to go to sleep, it’s time to go to sleep. And I love to sleep! It’s so important. A good night’s rest gives me the energy I need to take on tomorrow.


Questions for Amanda:

What inspires you? I volunteer and am on the Board of Directors at Safe Animal Shelter in Middleburg, Florida. I’m so inspired by everyone who volunteers and works with us! 

How do you recharge? Spending time with like-minded people. I get my juice from others!

What do you do for fun? My husband and I live on a golf course, and we have lots of friends in the community! We love spending time with our neighbors and you can often find us at the community bar hanging out with friends.

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#ChilisLove Stands Strong through the Storm

It had a been a long week in Jacksonville, Florida when Sean O’Rourke, Assistant Manager, opened his Chili’s restaurant for the first time after Hurricane Irma whipped through the state. Every member of Sean’s team was impacted by the storm, and he was running with a skeleton crew because so many Team Members were evacuated, displaced, or without access to power and water.

Halfway through the shift, Sean was approached by two Servers asking about a mysterious deposit from Brinker International in their checking accounts. In true ChiliHead fashion, they honestly brought it to Sean’s attention thinking there was an error in Brinker’s payroll system.

“There must be a mistake! We already got paid.”

“There’s no mistake here,” Sean told them. “ChiliHeads have always taken care of us. Now it’s our turn to take care of you.”

This is one of many stories of #ChilisLove that we’ve seen coming back to headquarters. These stories give us purpose and hope because Chili’s has always been defined by our people. We come together and support one another – especially in times of need. It’s just who we are.

So, when we saw lives turned upside down by the impact of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, our company came together to respond in the only way we knew how. We rallied to show #ChilisLove to over 10,000 Team Members impacted by the storms. We provided immediate financial assistance to over 425 Team Members through the Brinker Family Fund, released early paychecks to Team Members in impacted areas, provided relief payments as a gesture of support to Team Members working for closed restaurants, and donated $200,000 profits to impacted food banks. The Restaurant Support Center turned into a supply center, and we came together to create thousands of supply kits for Team Members in need.

Across Florida and Texas, our Managers have been bombarded with the same question from every Team Member. “But, why?” The answer is pretty simple. #ChilisLove

 “I’ve worked for Chili’s in Florida for 13 years. Tonight, I received my relief check for being closed during Irma. I want to express just how thankful and grateful I am to be a part of such an outstanding company. So from me and every other ChiliHead that’s receiving relief… Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” –Dana E.

“I would like to take a minute to put Brinker on BLAST! I am so grateful to work for such an amazing company! During this whole time, Brinker has taken such great care of us as employees. They deposited our checks early to make sure we had funds, texted us throughout the entire time to make sure we were safe, and today they went above and beyond. They paid all of us employees for our missed work time while the restaurants were closed! I have never heard of a company caring that much!” –Amanda L.

“All I can say is thank you. I’m so thankful, grateful and humbled by this. I cannot describe the feeling I have right now, but please know that a life has been touched and a teammate has truly been saved. Thank you. Thank you.” – Adam S.

We’re humbled by the hope and strength of our ChiliHeads. We’re proud to hear their stories. We’re a strong, united family, and when we come together, there’s nothing we can’t achieve. The #ChilisLove speaks for itself.

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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. ❤