Major restaurant won’t open in Maricopa after all

Chili's has dropped its bid to build a restaurant in Maricopa. The fast-casual dining chain was slated to build in The Wells but has decided against a location in Maricopa at this time. Renderings of what Chili's might have been. [Kidder Mathews]

A high-profile restaurant that announced plans to open in Maricopa is backing out of its deal.

Chili’s, which said in December, 2021, it would open at The Wells, has reversed course and will not be coming to the city anytime soon, according to chain owner Brinker International.

“The process of opening a Chili’s restaurant requires the successful completion of numerous variables that begin well before a restaurant is announced and continue until the ribbon cutting,” a Brinker spokesperson said. “Unfortunately, the planned restaurant in Maricopa didn’t make it to the finish line and won’t be opening.

“This halted opening by no means signifies an official end for the future of Chili’s in Maricopa, but as our new-restaurants team continues to target perfect locations, Maricopa included, we hope to continue serving Maricopa residents at our locations in Chandler and Gilbert.”

The Brinker spokesman said the company would “have no further comment or information on this location at this time.”

Christian Price, president of the Maricopa Economic Development Alliance and former mayor, said Brinker’s decision might be for any number of reasons.

“I haven’t heard anything on them backing out. but if true, it’s certainly unfortunate,” Price said. “Regardless, restaurants deciding to build or not build in any city occur monthly. So, I wouldn’t be too worried as this could be the results of a change of leadership, a corporate expansion decision change, or simple caution with the perception of upcoming economic cycles.

“But it can also be used as a tactic by these larger names to further negotiate a deal and prices, then re-enter the market after a short walk away.”

City officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Chili’s, which specializes in fast-casual dining with a diverse menu, initially targeted this November for opening next to Jiffy Lube at Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway and Stonegate Road, west of Walmart in Phase 2 of The Wells.

Chuck Wells, senior vice president at Kidder Mathews retail real-estate brokerage in Phoenix, which worked on the Chili’s deal, said when the deal was announced the location is ideal for a restaurant.

“Access is important to us,” Wells said. “Everything along 347, because of those center medians, is kind of right (turn) in, right out only. You can’t make a left turn without going past the site and coming back and that’s probably not interesting to the owners.”

The Wells, being a little outside of what is now considered downtown, doesn’t detract from its draw as a restaurant location, he added.

“As the city continues to grow to the east and southeast, that will become the center of town,” he said. “It’s a focal point. There’s a very strong Walmart there, traffic-wise and sales-wise, so it has the traffic generators we’re looking for. And the path of growth of the city puts us right in the middle of town as it continues to expand there.”

And although Chili’s will not be occupying the space, Price said that could open the door to a restaurant competitor.

“While it’s important to keep a close eye on it, it also just opens the space for another potential restaurant or business to locate there,” Price said.