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Air Force Staff Sgt. Evelyn Sosatoledo, left, can hardly contain her excitement as she orders her favorite, baby back ribs, from server Adrienne McClay at the new Chili's on Kadena Air Base. Tech. Sgt. Juanita Brooks, center, received a ticket getting herself and Sosatoledo into the restaraunt for the free tasting Friday.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Evelyn Sosatoledo, left, can hardly contain her excitement as she orders her favorite, baby back ribs, from server Adrienne McClay at the new Chili's on Kadena Air Base. Tech. Sgt. Juanita Brooks, center, received a ticket getting herself and Sosatoledo into the restaraunt for the free tasting Friday. (Fred Zimmerman / S&S)

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — After six years of planning, Chili’s Grill and Bar Family Restaurant will open at 11 a.m. Monday.

The opening marks the first time Chili’s brings its “fun, fresh and flavorful food and atmosphere” to a U.S. military base, company Asia-Pacific Region Franchise Director Frank Herzog said Friday.

“Being the first military operation, it was a challenge, a learning curve,” Herzog said.

Chili’s eateries also are planned for Ramstein, Osan and Yokota air bases.

Preparations for the restaurant began in 1997 when Air Force Services Headquarters signed a deal with Brinker International, the parent company of Chili’s.

“It’s a relief to finally have it opening,” Air Force name brand program manager Sean Lehr said. “It was a long time coming.”

The restaurant’s signature items include baby back ribs, fajitas, steaks and buffalo wings.

Monday’s opening isn’t too soon for local residents.

Between 80 and 90 people a day have visited the restaurant in recent weeks hoping it was open, Herzog said. Seating capacity is 225.

“Even when we’re out at the facilities on base, people see Chili’s on our shirts and they tug on our sleeves and ask us when we’re going to open,” Herzog said.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Evelyn Sosatoledo — one of 2,500 guests who received a free preview meal from the restaurant Wednesday through Saturday — is counting the days until it opens.

“I absolutely love Chili’s,” Sosatoledo said. “I can’t wait until Monday. I’ll be ordering all sorts of things to go.”

The “to go” business is where Herzog thinks Chili’s will excel.

He expects it to be 20 percent of the overall business, double that of other Chili’s take-out totals.

Restaurant hours will be 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.

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