Chili’s is ‘heating’ up on WCU campus

Chili’s logo of the franchise at Western Carolina University. Photo taken by: Amber Degree

It’s 8 a.m. at Western Carolina University and for once there’s not a long line of people waiting to be seated at one of the campus’s newest hotspots–Chili’s.

Chili’s was the first to open of the all the new venues in the  Noble Hall.  It opened its doors officially on  January 9, and has been full ever since. Senior biology student, Madison Dye says she waited for hours to be seated and served her food.

“It took so long, over three and a half hours, but it was so worth it. I’d wait hours to eat at Chili’s than to eat anything else on campus any time,” said Dye.

Her first visit to Chili’s was two weeks after the opening. Once seated Dye waited almost two more hours to receive her food.  The long lines and long wait is not the normal now.

Aramark Resident District Manager, Scott Lamond explained that at the beginning they had less staff who was not as experienced. Now that is cut to not longer then 15 to 20 minutes. Since her first visit, Dye says her experiences have gotten better and she visits about three days a week for lunch.

“Now when I go it never takes as nearly as long as it used to. In fact, I’m in and out in an hour and a half,” says Dye.

See the video package bellow for more on community reaction to Chili’s. Video shot by Kayla Minion and edited by Amber Degree.


Chili’s, ran by Aramark, employs cooks, servers, and bartenders. The pay rates and the jobs depend on the experience of the future employee.

“Chili’s is a lot more demanding, there’s a different skills set that is needed when compared to Starbuck’s or other restaurants on campus,” says Lamond.

Students, Chili’s main customers, have the option of paying for their meals with ‘declining balance’. Declining balance is a form of points which act as currency when it comes to buying meals on campus. When paying with declining balance, students do not have the option to tip their servers. And for some that is a problem.

Student and former waitress for Chili’s, Ally Hunter, says she hardly ever received tips when she worked.

“A lot of college kids said they just don’t carry cash and on weekends families would come in the tips were a little better, but not usually,” explains Hunter.

Hunter says her pay was only two dollars and 13 cents, which isn’t a lot for a college student.

“Some nights I would work from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. and only end up with about 20 dollars in tips, if that,” says Hunter.

Lamond says that there are servers at Chilli’s that earn good money if they are good and that students are learning to leave tips.

“We spent a lot of time and energy [on social media] educating the campus community and educating our Cullowhee community of how Chili’s was going to operate because we knew going in that tips could become an issue,” says Lamond.

Though advertised in advance, some staff members still found it frustrating when they didn’t receive tips.

“I’ve heard those rumors a few times and I’ve asked the same question–Who are those staff members? What I will tell you is that customers tip based off performance. Our really really good employees are making really really good money,” says Lamond.

Nevertheless, he explained that if the server doesn’t make the minimum Aramark makes adjustments.

“We pay folks 2 dollars and 13 cents an hour, however legally if they don’t make at least the minimum wage we have to make that right. Every hour that they work they get the minimum starting rate if they don’t get it in tips,” says Lamond.

Senior, Alex Martin, says he’s always willing to tip even though on average funds are low for college students.

“I try to tip whenever I can, especially if my waitress is really nice and attentive.”