First opened in 1975 in Dallas, TX, Chili’s Grill & Bar is a casual dining restaurant chain serving what it calls “a variety of Southwestern-inspired, classic American and international tastes” in over 1,500 locations, the majority in the U.S. but with presence in 32 countries. For those who’ve never been into a Chili’s here are the highlights: big menu with lots of times, mediocre to bad food, watered down beer on tap, bad decoration that doesn’t go the full monty with tchotchkes a la TGI, and that’s about it. As far back as October of 2011, a new logo was slowly introduced by Chili’s — which means that I am painfully behind on this one, but better late than never — and in the last eight months about a hundred of the locations have undergone a major remodel with new exteriors and interiors, designed by San Francisco, CA-based Tesser.
Tesser was called in to rebrand their identity and remodel the Chili’s stores. Tesser blended the company’s authentic Texas roots with contemporary adult appeal, and a less cartoony feel.
— Tesser Project Page
The old logos — both the looping-h-l and gradient chile — have been in play for so long and they are so pervasive in the American landscape that they are quite recognized, so making the move into adopting the chile rebus as the main logo is a smart one, especially when it has been so well done. Using the stem of the chile as the apostrophe is fun and clever and lends itself to the less realistic rendering of the chile — I use “realistic” loosely, as the old one looked as if it were made from months-old Play-Doh. Even the “s”, which I hate on its own, works well with the anatomy of the pepper and its apostrophe, and carries into a new wordmark — of which I can’t get a clear shot of, but you can see in the exterior photos below — that replaces the old rounded sans serif type. The wordmark is decent and I like that they resisted the urge to loop the “h” to the “l” like the old one. The new logo also looks better on the facade than the Attack of the 50 ft Chili Pepper of the old and current restaurants, which you hope doesn’t fall on you.
The interiors look like a great upgrade. One of the highlights I forgot to mention in the opening paragraph are the tiled tables, which are totally dorky and the grout is home to all the sizzle of the fajitas served on it. The new tables are wood, or at least wood-like and the overall vibe is less gaudy and more refined. There also seems to be a new range of icons and imagery working throughout the interior. Overall, the whole project looks like a success. Now about those recipes…