On March 13, 1975, Chili’s opened their doors for the first time under ownership of Larry Levine in Dallas, Texas. Chili’s, a converted postal station, used Levine’s concept to create an informal full-service dining restaurant with a menu featuring different types of hamburgers at an affordable price. Chili’s quickly grew from one restaurant on Greenville Avenue, to a full chain expanding to twenty-eight locations in the region by the early 1980s. As Chili’s success continued to grow, Larry Levine sold the company in 1983 to Norman E. Brinker. Since being sold to Brinker, Chili’s has rapidly grown to have 1,531 total locations in the US and has locations in 31 other countries. Chili’s also upgraded their menu to include a wide variety of food including soups, sandwiches, salads and more. Currently, there are eighteen Chili’s locations in Arkansas; soon there will be nineteen.
In September 2014, sources confirmed that Chili’s would be opening its newest Arkansas location in Russellville. Construction bids closed in mid December 2014. The job was awarded to the L.R. Mourning Company. The new building will be located at 107 No. Elmira Avenue at the old site of the U-Like Oriental Buffet Hibachi. After removing the old Hibachi building, ground was broken in January 2015 for the new 4,552 square foot Chili’s facility. Construction is estimated to take 110 days and if there are no set-backs the restaurant will open in late spring or early summer.
The new restaurant is expected to provide a positive economic impact to the city of Russellville by offering several job openings for full and part-time line cooks, dishwashers, servers, waiter/waitresses, hosts and hostesses. The franchise typically offers as much as 9% above market wages depending on experience and position as well as benefit packages.
We interviewed several local residents and Arkansas Tech students and asked them to share their opinions regarding the new Russellville restaurant. When asked how they felt about a new Chili’s restaurant opening in town, several people expressed that they were happy it was coming and were looking forward to its opening.
“I think it will be good for local economy; a new restaurant bringing in more money. If they can make sure that the staff is trained, unlike Buffalo Wild Wings, then they should do great. Plus, I won’t have to drive as far for a good steak.” said student Matt Hudson.
Brady Condren said, “I really enjoyed the Chili’s back home in Little Rock. I hope the new one in Russellville will live up to my expectations!”
Other people expressed they were looking forward to an alternative to a much disappointing Buffalo Wild Wings. Jacob Blockburger said, “ I have been extremely disappointed in the new Buffalo Wild Wings and look forward to taking my business to Chili’s instead.”
Next, people were asked how they believed the new restaurant would be beneficial to the city.
D’Ambria Rhodes said, “It will be nice for the community to have a big name restaurant which will attract more people to the town. More jobs become available to the people. It gives people more options besides what’s already here. Others could lose business, which means people could lose jobs. So Chili’s coming to Russellville could be good or bad depending on what side of the fence you are on.”
Jake Watts said, “It is a quality chain coming to the area of Russellville, providing a dynamic the city did not have.”
Many people believed they would be spending more of their money at Chili’s and look forward to it.
“I am so thrilled for Chili’s to open! I already feel broke from all the money I will be spending there. It is my favorite restaurant, and it’s about time we get a Chili’s here,” Allyson Cox said.
Traditionally, Chili’s Restaurants serve alcohol. It is not known yet if the location in Russellville has applied for a liquor license or not, but it most likely will. People were asked if they think Chili’s should have a liquor license or not. The responses were divided.
“I feel like it would be fine, the majority of citizens travel to places that do serve alcohol if Russellville does not,” said Melissa Kisling.
“No, I feel as though our city needs to stand up to restaurants wanting to bring alcohol to the picture,” said James Kisling.
By the end of this summer, a new Chili’s restaurant will open its doors to the city of Russellville. For the most part, people are welcoming the business with open arms and with great anticipation for the opportunity to have a new and respected national franchise to dine at and spend their money. Whether or not the establishment serves alcohol remains an unanswered question at this time, but it will probably bring a bit of controversy. At any rate there will be a new dining choice.