Chili Reception

Pity the poor Chilihead. As if Chili's employees didn't already have enough grief in their working conditions (they're barraged with that creepy "baby back ribs" TV jingle), they've got to suffer through what's surely one of the most pea-brained training manuals in restaurantdom.

It seems Chili's corporate management knows no bounds in underestimating human intelligence, directing its work force with missives that are so obvious, they read like a Dilbert cartoon.

According to a Chili's training manual someone recently slipped me, staff are directed to call each other "fellow Chiliheads."

Other tips and directives: "You must bathe daily or more often if your job requires it." Remember, "body odor is offensive to patrons and to other workers." And, employees must wash their hands after "intimate contact with infected or otherwise unsanitary areas of the body."

Think Chili's isn't serious? Employees are tested on each level of the training process. Perhaps the loathsome leadership is a liability issue, but heaven forbid it was born out of necessity -- creatures of such arrested development shouldn't be employed anywhere, at least not around food I might eat.

It's a tight labor market, I know. Restaurants are scrambling, desperate to find employees. But people can't be pinheaded enough to need written guidance that organizing means "keeping track of what you're doing now AND thinking of what you are going to do next." Or, when writing a ticket, "the server's name goes in the server box," and "the table number goes in the table box."

And it's a little frightening to think what may be happening in the kitchen if Chili's feels the need to provide a glossary for its employees: "Appetizers are items the guests want to have before their meals. Entrees are items the guest orders as their main meal. Beverages are any drink." Employees are left to figure out for themselves what dessert is, though.

I'm especially happy that Chili's has instructed its people on how to be spontaneous. "Show originality, enthusiasm, and sincerity with everyone you come in contact with."

After passing the final test, Chiliheads are let loose on the customers, to embark on "the moment of truth." It's then that they're reminded, "it's okay to think for yourself. If the answer to your customer's problem isn't in the manual, stop and think things over."

Given the detailed directives in Chili's training guide, I don't want to guess what such a problem might be.

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Carey Sweet
Contact: Carey Sweet