Back in 2016, GQ editor Daniel Riley spent months on a piece for the magazine that attempted to explain Chili’s “super-trainers” — a particular breed of careerists that Riley encountered while working there in his teens who left him wondering “what the hell it was that made [anyone] give their lives to a place that serves, let’s be real, pretty mediocre burgers and ribs.” The resulting story, published that July, was an exposé called “Inside the Church of Chili’s” that chronicled this elite globe-trotting corps that hops from location to location, ensuring staff know the Chilihead Sizzle dance and number of shakes a Presidente margarita gets before handoff (exactly 25).
In all honesty, you probably missed this thrilling read the first time around, which is why Deadline has some good news today: It’s going to serve as the basis for a new NBC sitcom. The untitled series reportedly focuses on itinerant trainers from the corporate headquarters of “a popular casual dining restaurant chain” who open new branches while also “filling the hole in their own souls, one perfect onion ring at a time.” It’s reportedly being written by Veep executive producer Sean Gray and produced by Condé Nast Entertainment, Sony Pictures TV Studios, and Olive Bridge Entertainment.
Of course, exploiting the comedy gold of working for a cultlike casual-dining chain has been done before (everybody will agree that Chotchkie’s in Office Space is the high bar), and Riley’s story works best when it details hilariously specific Chili’s stuff. Like the acronyms staffs chant (“A-T-L” for “Above the Line,” and “M-V-P” for “Mission Value Passion”). Or this on-the-record quote: “Everything I do is with Chili’s. This is not a job for me — this is my life.” For obvious reasons, NBC will probably make the chain’s name more generic, meaning the show will also sacrifice some of the best material on this crew of evangelists whose church “just happens to be a restaurant chain that accessorizes generously with oversize plastic peppers.”
The biggest loss might be squandering this fodder for a plot line, which should be heavily used if at all possible: