Answer: Books by the Foot, mostly.
I grew up about twenty miles outside of a small town. So small that the addition of something like a Chili's would really set the place on fire. I still remember when we got a Wal-Mart and when we got a McDonald's. I can't say that either of those were great for the town on balance. I suppose they offered some low- to mid-range jobs, salary-wise. My mom had one of them at Wal-Mart for years. But no one that I know of ever felt the kind of devotion to either place that's described in the hard-core Chili's trainers in this article:
For the right kind of new person, though, Chili's is the righest kind of place. Her story echoes Sara's, which echoes everyone else's at their level: She was pursuing a different path (grad school for criminal justice), but kept being drawn back to Chili's, where she realized she was happiest. She was searching for something and found it there. For Nikki, now, it has grown into pure purpose. "I live and breathe for this company," she says. "This is totally what I was supposed to do. This is what makes me tick everyday. Everything I do is with Chili's. This is not a job for me—this is my life."
Speaking of McDonalds, the burger place occupies a special place in the communities in which it's found (I'd say serves, but I'm not there yet):
In Sulfur Springs, Texas, in the late morning, Lew Mannon, 76, and Gerald Pinkham, 78, were sitting alone at a table, the last of the morning regulars to leave. She was needling him about politics. (“I like to tease the men who come, get them all riled up, tell them they just don’t want a female as president.”) Both are retired, Gerald from working for an airfreight company, and Lew after 28 years as a bank teller.
When I asked Lew about her life, she started to tear up, stopped for a second, and composed herself. “Life is hard. Very hard. Seven years ago I lost my husband to leukemia. Then three years ago I lost one of my sons. Health complications from diabetes. When my son died, I had nobody to help me, emotionally, except this community here. Gerald lost his wife three years ago, and we have helped support each other through that.”
She stopped again, unable to speak from tears. After a moment of silence: “I look composed on the outside. Many of us do. But I struggle a lot on the inside. This community here gives me the support to get by.”
When I was in second grade, I got to have my birthday in McDonald's. It was noteworthy for a couple reasons: first, birthday parties were always a little touch-and-go with me, since my birthday so often fell dead-center in corn harvest; and second, because I was the first person in my class to have his party at the new McDonald's in town. I remember it all: the faux-wood bent booths, the paper hats, the Happy Meal toys.