W. Kent Taylor, chief executive and founder of Texas Roadhouse, was named Operator of the Year Monday night during the 2014 MUFSO Industry Awards Gala, sponsored by Avocados from Mexico, Daiya Foods, Ovention, Sara Lee Foodservice, Segafredo Zanetti and Texas Pete.
Selected by readers of Nation’s Restaurant News, Taylor was chosen from among this year’s Golden Chain winners, which included Sandra Cochran, president and chief executive of Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc.; Greg Creed, chief executive of Taco Bell; Joseph DePinto, president and chief executive of 7-Eleven Inc.; and Aylwin Lewis, president and chief executive of Potbelly Corp.
After receiving a big cheer from the Texas Roadhouse table, Taylor, wearing his signature cowboy hat, gave a humble “thank you” for the award and immediately turned the spotlight on his chief operations officer Steve Ortiz, who was called to the stage to speak instead.
Ortiz described Taylor as “very innovative, creative, forward thinking and detail oriented,” saying Texas Roadhouse is doing a lot of things right.
Taylor opened the first Texas Roadhouse in 1993 in Clarksville, Indiana. The goal was to create a steak restaurant where families could gather for a great meal at a great price.
At the end of its July 1-ended second quarter, the full-service Texas Roadhouse chain included 433 restaurants in 49 states and three foreign countries.
The Louisville, Ky.-based company ended fiscal 2013 with U.S. systemwide sales of $1.7 billion, up 12.5 percent over the prior year. The chain has had such success growing its guests counts that Texas Roadhouse restaurants have added seats in what the company has dubbed a “bump-out” program over the past six years.
Earlier, in accepting the Golden Chain award, Taylor said he once worked at KFC but got in trouble for thinking outside of the box and serving chicken tenders, a pattern he later repeated working for other chains. “I figured I better start working for myself before I got fired again,” he said.
Taylor joins a venerable list of Operators of the Year honorees, dating back to 1971, including Buffalo Wild Wings chief executive Sally Smith; James Greco, who at the time was chief executive of Bruegger’s Bagels; and Don Fox, chief executive of Firehouse Subs. Last year the honor went to Ray Blanchette, chief executive of Ignite Restaurant Group Inc.
MUFSO title sponsors are American Express; The Coca Cola Company; and International Franchise Association.
Keynotes/general sessions are presented by: e*Restaurant from Altametrics; Pro*Act; Red Book Connect; SurveyMini by SMG and the Texas Restaurant Association.
Pillar sponsors include: Idahoan Foods, Sweet Street Desserts and Ventura Foods (Culinary); Red Book Connect (Entrepreneur); Smithfield Farmland (Ideas); and Fishbowl, MomentFeed, Paytronix and Single Platform from Constant Contact (Marketing).
The Monday night awards reception is sponsored by: Avocados from Mexico; Daiya Foods; Ovention; Sara Lee Foodservice; Segafredo Zanetti and Texas Pete®.
Coca Cola presents the Shake, Sparkle & Stir event, and Texas Pete® is sponsoring the MUFSO Kitchen Hero Cook Off, benefitting Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign.
Hot Concept/Best Concepts Celebration is sponsored by e*Restaurant from Altametrics; Golden Chain Awards are sponsored by SurveyMini by SMG.
MUFSO App is sponsored by Qualisoy; MUFSO WiFi is sponsored by ROSnet; and Conference Pen is sponsored by CSM Bakery Products.
Refreshment breaks are sponsored by Royal Cup Coffee and Wrigley Foodservice.