The outside of a Chi-Chi's restaurant
Whatever Happened To Chi-Chi’s Restaurants?
Chi-Chi’s was an iconic family spot in the 1980s and 1990s. In the early 2000s, it was slowly replaced by up-and-coming chains like Olive Garden and Texas Roadhouse.
The chain was met with success in the Midwest, but in other locations — particularly those where Mexican food was already popular — it failed to take off.
Despite filing for bankruptcy in 2002, Chi-Chi only closed after a hepatitis epidemic the following year when they served a contaminated batch of green onions.
The chain was held accountable for infecting over 600 people with the disease, which ended up killing four. The outbreak ruined the brand’s overall reputation.
A mix of rapid expansion, failed locations, rates of management turnover, bankruptcy, backlash from cultural appropriation, and the hepatitis outbreak was Chi-Chi's demise.