Kent Taylor, the founder and CEO of casual-dining chain Texas Roadhouse Inc., has died, the company announced late Thursday.
No details about the cause of his death were provided. He was reportedly 65, according to local media accounts.
Greg Moore, lead director for the Louisville, Ky.-based chain, said the board was deeply saddened by Taylor’s loss. “He founded Texas Roadhouse and dedicated himself to building it into a legendary experience for ‘Roadies’ and restaurant guests alike.”
During the pandemic, Taylor gave up his entire compensation package to help support his frontline workers, Moore said. “This selfless act was no surprise to anyone who knew Kent and his strong belief in servant leadership. He was without a doubt, a people-first leader. His entrepreneurial spirit will live on in the company he built, the projects he supported and the lives he touched.”
Taylor founded the now-630-unit chain in 1993 in Clarksville, Ind., as a dinner-only concept. The goal was to create a steak restaurant where families could gather for a great meal at a great price. The chain was built with a managing-partner model, with managing partners at each unit investing $25,000 in exchange for 10% of profits.
He was described by peers as innovative, creative, forward-thinking and detail oriented, and he was known for his signature cowboy hat.
Named a Golden Chain winner by Nation’s Restaurant News, Taylor was also Operator of the Year in 2014, selected by NRN readers.
In an interview at the time, Taylor said he didn’t think of himself as a CEO.
“I’m really just the head restaurant dude, and I put my mindset … as that of a managing partner or general manager,” he said. “… I find that that’s — at least for me — a better way for me to operate the company than to worry about Wall Street or any of those folks.”
The largely dine-in concept took a hit during the year of COVID’s restrictions, but Texas Roadhouse built a to-go business that appeared to be staying strong as restaurant dining rooms reopened for dine-in business.
The company has also been growing its two secondary concepts: the pizza, burgers and beer-focused Bubba’s 33 and the fast-casual Jaggers.
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