In 1967, Larry Lavine attended his first chili cookoff that was sponsored by his father in law. Lavine was so taken with the food and the fun atmosphere, he began thinking about opening a restaurant that would have a similar feeling.
Chili’s Grill & Bar’s first location opened in 1975 in Dallas, Texas. The building was formerly a postal office, which Lavine converted. The building had an old-time Western theme that proved to be popular. Lavine’s concept was an informal atmosphere with an extensive hamburger menu.
While the restaurant was still growing, the only beer that they could serve was Schlitz. Schlitz was the only company who offered Lavine a line of credit! Today, the company also serves margaritas. In fact, the company claims that they sell 13 Olympic sized swimming pools worth of their infamous margaritas every year.
By the early 1980’s there were 28 Chili’s locations with Southwest decor in the Texas region. If you look carefully around the dining room you should find one picture that is hung upside down. This tradition appears to have started with the first location as a sign of good luck.
In 1983 Lavine sold the restaurant chain to Norman E. Brinker, head of Brinker International.
In 2017, the company dropped approximately 40% of its menu to focus on hamburgers, fajitas, and ribs, which are their biggest sellers.
Today Chili’s has 1,606 restaurants in the United States and internationally in Asia, Europe, Central and South America, North America, and the Caribbean.
Brinker International, the owner of Chili’s, is also the owner of Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurant chains.