The Fascinating History Of Texas Roadhouse - The Daily Meal (2024)

Restaurants Casual Dining

The Fascinating History Of Texas Roadhouse - The Daily Meal (1)

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ByEmily Kammerlohr|

When Americans are deciding where to go out to eat, the best steakhousesstillreign supreme.No one knows this better than Texas Roadhouse, a casual dining restaurant famous for its delicious steaks and warm bread rolls with cinnamon butter. The chain might be doing well after all these years because guests always know what to expect. "Our top seller in 1993 was our 6-ounce sirloin," Founder and CEO Kent Taylortold FSR Magazine in 2018."Twenty-four years later it's still our 6-ounce sirloin."

Even if sometraditional steakhouses are being replaced, the reason behind this common dinner choice is pretty simple: People love eating red meat. "In spite of health concerns, people are still consuming what they enjoy ... they should be eating vegetables and moving away from processed meats, but people still enjoy a good steak," associate professor Tim Howes tells FSR.

The chain has an interesting history and corporate culture based on community. So, before you stop in for dinner tonight, find out what's going on behind the scenes at Texas Roadhouse.

Texas Roadhouse wasn't founded in Texas

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While many might associate the restaurant with the Lone Star state, Kent Taylor actually opened the first Texas Roadhouse in Clarksville, Indiana, in 1993. Even though Taylor didn't ever call Texas home, he has a great appreciation for the kind of food that is popular there. Things like juicy steaks, delicious ribs, craft beers, and all the fixin's. According to the brand, Taylor took this love and began pitching potential donors for funding. He finally secured the money he needed to open the first restaurant from three doctors in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, who gave him $300,000 to get started — and he ran with it.Taylor wanted to get 10 restaurants up and running in 10 years. After the major setback of three locations closing, he took a look at the menu and made some adjustments, as wells as updating the dècor of the existing locations. This turned the restaurants into more of what we know and love today.

Taylor himself grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, graduating from Ballard High School and getting his start in the hospitality business by busing tables at popular local restaurant Captain Quarters (per the Courier Journal). He took what he learned there and grew it into a $6 billion empire across 49 states and nearly a dozen countries, reports the new outlet.

Texas Roadhouse wasn't Kent Taylor's first restaurant

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Before he dreamed up Texas Roadhouse,CEO Kent Taylor almost started up an entirely different chain of restaurants: A Colorado-themed place calledBuckhead Hickory Grill. According to Funding Universe, the first location of this business venture opened in Louisville, Kentucky, in the early 1990s and actually did pretty well. However, Taylor had gone halves on the initial funding with John Y. Brown, a former governor of the state. When it came time to open a second location, Brown demanded more than half of the proceeds, or so Taylor told the outlet. Because of this, the partnership disintegrated and Taylor was back to square one.

This wouldn't be the laststumbling block to the success of his business, however. According to the brand's origin story,when Taylor was trying to raise money to start Texas Roadhouse a few years later, over 80 investors said no before he eventually found the three doctors that would listen. He even claims to once having spotted famous basketball player Larry Bird in an airport and physically ran after him to give a pitch. Unfortunately, Taylor was "too slow," but the story speaks to Taylor's image of true entrepreneurial spirit.

Onsite chefs create everything from scratch

Homemade food is very important to Texas Roadhouse, so much so, that even the brand even claims to make bacon bits and dressings onsite. The free rolls that fans of the restaurant cannot get enough of are baked fresh every day, with a new batch said to be coming out of the oven every five minutes. That's why they are always so warm and fluffy when they arrive at your table.

According to Market Watch, more and more restaurants are starting to serve food that arrives at each of its locations frozen. From there, it's cooked up and served to guests. This tends to be easier for kitchen staff to handle and less expensive overall, but it can impact the quality of the food, including its flavor. So, by making a commitment to fresh not frozen food, Texas Roadhouse might be taking a cut to its bottom line, but the customer comes out on top with a better meal.

Wille Nelson is best friends with the founder

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Texas Roadhouse has a "Willie's Corner" at each location. According to a Facebook post by the company, CEO Kent Taylor and Willie Nelson became buddies backstage at a Farm Aid concert. The event was to raise money for American farmers. The pair are said to have started playing poker together and became friends. To honor his new friend, Taylor installed an area at each Texas Roadhouse location with photos and memorabilia of Nelson's decades-long career. In addition, the post says servers at Texas Roadhouse might wear their hair in braids to mimic Nelson's iconic look.

But, the connection between Nelson and Texas Roadhouse doesn't stop there. Nelson has been known to tour with a stuffed armadillo.USA Today reports thatin 2013, the animal was stolen after a show at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, New York. To aid in reuniting the pair, Texas Roadhouse reportedly offered a $1,000 reward to anyone who could come forward and say what happened. Luckily, the toy armadillo was found unharmed and the woman responsible was barred from ever going to a show at the Capitol Theater again, according to the news site. No word yet on whether she is allowed to eat at Texas Roadhouse.

You'll never have a warm beer at Texas Roadhouse

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The chain actually serves its drinks just a bit colder than recommended for optimal deliciousness. According to the Home Brewer's Association, the flavor of a beer is highly impacted by its temperature:If a beer is too cold, the flavor can't be released all the way, which can lead a beer tasting watery and boring. However, if you leave a brew out too long and it becomes room temperature instead, the carbonation fizzles out and the beer tastes about as good as a week-old cola. Depending on the brew's ingredients, the correct temperature can vary, but it's recommended to be between 38-55 degrees, according to the association.

When you are enjoying one of the draft beers at any of the Texas Roadhouse locations, you'll notice it's just a bit colder, at 36 degrees (via Texas Roadhouse). This is just cold enough to be nice and crisp, but not so cold that it's likely to taste watery. In addition, as you drink the beer, it will take longer for the heat from your hands and the air around it to bring up the overall temperature of the drink.

Texas Roadhouse spends $20 million a year on free peanuts and bread

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Everyone loves free food and Texas Roadhouse has plenty of it. Free offerings can be a good investment because it keeps drawing guests in. It can also keep guests from getting too hangry while waiting at their table during a busy dinner service. Texas Roadhouse has two free offerings: bread and peanuts. Both items are much loved by the public, as according to Twitter user @_DebbieDebs, she digs in. "And don't let me be at Texas Roadhouse where they got the cinnamon butter to go with the rolls. I'm asking for a second basket before my meal even gets there," she tweeted. Being obsessed with the rolls seems to be a popular sentiment. Online TikTok user MillennialKyleeven posted a video of himself dancing with excitement on his way to eat three baskets.

All of the joy the rolls and free peanuts provide to guests isn't without a cost, however. According to the National Peanut Board, Texas Roadhouse spends over $20 million a year on 10 million pounds of peanuts and plenty of bread. "We're known for what we call, 'legendary food, legendary service,' but you will always hear people say 'oh, the peanut place," says Travis Doster, Senior Director of Public and Government Relations for Texas Roadhouse in the board article.

You can't get lunch at Texas Roadhouse

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CEO Kent Taylor is said to be all about work-life balance for his employees. This is important to note as the restaurant business is notorious for being hard work thanks to serving horror storiesor issues such astipping inequities in restaurants. According to Monster, working in hospitality management requires a very special kind of personality. "If [managers] are going to succeed, they will put in 50 to 80 hours per week with high stress levels at times. But, once you get everything going, it can be a fun career with very good pay," hiring manager Jerry Westrom tells the outlet. If that sounds exhausting to you, you're not alone. Kent Taylor thought so, too.

Instead of ignoringred flags for servers, Taylor decided that none of his restaurants would be open for lunch during the week, significantly cutting down on the hours managers needed to be onsite (via Texas Roadhouse). Not only that, but the restaurants themselves could be located in more residential areas because they were not catering to a corporate lunch crowd. This way, the brand finds real estate costs associated with running in high-traffic locations are not as high, either.

Management pivoted during the COVID-19 closures

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Overall sales for Texas Roadhouse actually went up, not down during one of the hardest times for most other restaurants. According to FSR Magazine, CEO Kent Taylor was no stranger to hardship, as it was difficult for him to first get the franchise off the ground in the early 1990s. When indoor and in-person dining became restricted in most places, he needed to come up with an idea to sustain employees, and he needed to do it quickly.

Instead of allowing third-party delivery services like UberEats and DoorDash to take a cut of profits, FSR says Taylor encouraged his general managers to instead focus on a drive-thru and curbside-only model. Guests could still enjoy a Texas Roadhouse meal but within the new health guidelines. The company put together specifically designed family meals to make things easier to order, as well as raw steaks that customers could cook at home, per the magazine. The parking lot of each Texas Roadhouse location soon saw tents pop up to serve guests outdoors, which FSR reports managed to retain jobs and increase sales for the chain a whopping 575%!

Each restaurant has a designated butcher

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As a steakhouse, ensuring all meats are served fresh and delicious is of the utmost importance to Texas Roadhouse. After all, a corporate fact sheet claims that the company serves roughly 300,000 meals each and every day. That's a lot of food! To achieve quality, each restaurant has a designated butcher to keep the food fresh. The brand says the on-site butchers work with over $1 million of meat a year. They spend their shifts working in the store's refrigerators and carve each steak served to customers.

Meat carved on-site by a butcher is typically going to be fresher and higher quality than pre-carved meat purchased from a supermarket or other supplier. This is because the meat hasn't been sitting around for who knows how long before you order it (via Skips Meat Market). As a customer, eating somewhere with a butcher also gives you more control over the kind and cut of the steak you order.

Texas Roadhouse has international locations

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If you are a big Texas Roadhouse fan and were worried about not being able to eat it while outside of the country, you don't have to be, as the chain has been rapidly expanding beyond borders. According to Texas Roadhouse Careers, if you were thinking of throwing your cowboy hat in the ring for employment as well there are opportunities for you, too. You can travel to China, Mexico, Taiwan, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, as well as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar to work for the company.

To be successful in so many different markets with different food preferences and cultural backgrounds, senior management has come up with an intricate research and development plan. Before beginning to build a new location, the team carries out extensive planning, including studying the soil at potential building sites, to make sure everything is in order. Texas Roadhouse partners with development and engineering firm Greenberg Farrow:"We work so closely with them that we almost feel like we're an extension of their company," said associate Jennifer Mowen.

Texas Roadhouse was embroiled in a breastfeeding lawsuit

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According to Today, a mother of two filed a lawsuit against Texas Roadhouse in 2018 afterbeing harassed for feeding her infant at one of the chain's Louisville locations. "She was nursing for maybe five minutes when I saw the manager coming around," the woman told the outlet. "He was walking towards me fast and shaking his head, and he had a napkin unrolled. He came up pretty close and he said, 'Ma'am, we've been getting a lot of complaints and we're going to need you to cover up.'"

The manager's actions were against the law, however. Since 2006, women in Kentucky have been legally able to breastfeed wherever they see fit without being bothered. The mother shared her experience on social media. When it went viral, Texas Roadhouse reached out to the woman to offer an apology. The response blamed the incident on poorly trained staff and confirmed the brand welcomes nursing mothers at all of its locations, per Today. However, the article reports that she filed a lawsuit due to the escalation of scrutiny, including threats from members of the public. "The reason we filed the lawsuit is because no mother should be made to feel ashamed, humiliated, or embarrassed for simply breastfeeding her child,” her attorney told Today.

Servers are trained to increase sales

If you've eaten dinner at Texas Roadhouse, you might have noticed that the servers are very skilled at upselling. This isn't simply a coincidence. According to research by Harvard Universityalumni, most restaurants pay staff a set fee, but Texas Roadhouse pays general managers a base salary of $45,000 and 10% of the location's total revenue each year. That said, most managers earn upwards of $100,000, per Harvard.To achieve revenue share, managers are very involved, so customers might spend more money during their meal.

You'll notice that a manager comes by and helps the wait staff with busing tables, refilling drinks, and checking on orders. Working on the floor with the team helps build camaraderie and can encourage staff to work harder. Excellent service could also help makes guests return in the future. In addition, servers are coached to upsell by providing add-ons to guests. So, the next time your server asks you, "And would you like that wrapped in bacon?", you know why they're doing it.

Andy's Outreach Fund helps employees in need

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Andy's Outreach Fund operates with the overall goal of helping employees who are facing financial hardship. This could be as a result of a death in the family, a natural disaster, or a debilitating accident. According to the Texas Road Housemedia kit, the fund was started by Dee Shaughnessy's, director of care and concern for the company, who used to go around the office with a fanny pack and ask coworkers for donations to help out colleagues in need.

In 2005, the fund was officially registered as a non-profit and is funded by the public and employees alike, known as "Roadies." Direct donations are paired with bake sales, cookouts, and silent auctions to raise money for the cause. According to Charity Navigator,Andy's Outreach Fund receives a full score of four out of four stars for its financial transparency, including ratio of expenses used to fund programs versus operating expenses and up-to-date IRS paperwork.

The Founder and CEO died in 2021

The founder and CEO Kent Taylor died in 2021. The board of directors issued a statement following his death: "We are deeply saddened by the loss of Kent Taylor. He founded Texas Roadhouse and dedicated himself to building it into a legendary experience for 'Roadies' and restaurant guests alike." The statement explains that Taylor "gave up" his full compensation package during the pandemic to support front-of-house workers and cites the "selfless act was no surprise to anyone who knew Kent and his strong belief in servant leadership."

WDRB reports thatKent Taylor contracted COVID-19 in early 2021 and began suffering severe tinnitus as a result of the infection.The news site says Taylor committed to help others also suffering from tinnitus, which is ringing in the ears or nose, by donating to a clinal study for members of the military. WDRB reports Taylor died by suicide at the age of 65.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

The Fascinating History Of Texas Roadhouse - The Daily Meal (2024)
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