Chili’s Tests ‘Game-Changing’ Grills

Photos courtesy of Garland Group


Your weekend steak at casual-dining chains could soon reach your plate at lightning speed.

Chili’s is testing grills capable of cooking a steak in as little as three minutes. The trial is underway at 53 locations as part of the chain’s Kitchen of the Future program.

The grills, which are being tested under new CEO Kevin Hochman, will cut down on cooking time for some of the chain’s most popular dishes, including not just steaks but also burgers, quesadillas, pizzas, and ribs.

According to a recent report by Business Insider, the cook time with the new grills will cut a well-done steak from 13 minutes to 4 minutes and 15 seconds and a medium steak from 9 and a half minutes to just under three minutes. A well-done burger will go from 5 minutes to roughly 2 minutes and a “pink” in the center burger will take less than a minute.

Rather than having to continually flip meat to ensure it’s cooked properly, the innovative grills simply require the push of a button. The new grills could prove to be hugely impactful for restaurants, according to grilling expert and founder of Grill Smoke Love, Joonas Jokiniemi.

“I think that new, high-tech grills, like the ones tested by Chili’s, can be a game changer for many restaurant chains,” Jokiniemi told The Food Institute. “During busy hours they have to produce a large number of dishes that need to be consistently cooked. The new grills that Chili’s is testing cook steaks and burgers on both sides simultaneously and they can do it very fast.

“All the cook needs to do is place the meat in the grill and push a button – there’s no need to stand next to the grill.”

The innovation should make training a kitchen staff easier, create a more efficient workflow and ensure that meat is always cooked to the desired temperature – which should increase customer satisfaction, Jokiniemi said. So, while buying the equipment may prove to be somewhat expensive, the grilling expert noted that, with all the benefits, restaurants should see an ROI in relatively short order.

One of the biggest ways that Chili’s and other restaurants that invest in this equipment will save money in the long run is by cutting back on the number of steaks that are sent back because they weren’t prepared correctly the first time. According to Business Insider, Chili’s loses between $5 and $6 million per year comping steaks that are sent back because they weren’t cooked properly. In the article, Hochman said those numbers are getting close to zero at restaurants with the new kitchen equipment.