Restaurant CEO Kent Taylor, maybe the head of a booming business now, but it was not always like that for him when he was starting out as a single father-of-two.
As head of Texas Roadhouse which boasts 600 restaurants and 75,000 employees, he says, “When you’re down and out, that sticks in your head,” he said. “A lot of people think when you make it later in life it leaves, but it stays in your brain. Later in life, you want to give back in the same way.”
Having seen hard days before finding success now, he has a keen interest in promoting the well-being of all of his employees. In a recent letter, Taylor wrote, about the success of the restaurant chain as well as about the hard times they faced, “As everyone’s world has obviously changed, so has ours,” he wrote. “I still remember the early days of Texas Roadhouse back in the mid-1990s, when three of our first five stores failed. Survival mode was where I lived for quite a few years.
“Well, damn, if I didn’t find myself right back there again. Five restaurants have become 600 and 400 employees have become 75,000+. Back then in my mid-30’s, our Roadies were close to my age, and I thought of our company as a people company that happened to serve steaks. We were a family.
“Today, I still view us as a people company that serves steaks, however, the stakes (no pun intended) and our family are obviously quite larger.” Taylor wrote about how out-of-the-box thinkers were able to come up with some ideas on how to continue to operate during the pandemic, including offering meals-to-go as well as steaks that could be cooked at home.
“While many cautioned against some of these ideas, guess what?” he continued. “We tried. We failed. We tried some more. And, we succeeded a lot. We also learned there is a difference in playing to win and playing not to lose. I am proud to say that our operators and Support Center teams played to win!!”
He spoke about how the company had ordered gloves, masks and eye-wear for all employees and began mandatory temperature and symptom checks. Secondly, he decided to forgo $800,000 — his annual salary and bonus — to help out the restaurant’s workers. Not a single employee has been laid-off or had his or her pay reduced which is refreshing when compared to other restaurants.
Thirdly, he has added $5 million to Andy’s Outreach, an emergency fund for his employees, named after Texas Roadhouse mascot Andy Armadillo, which assists with rent, utilities, funeral costs and other costs. “It’s how I was raised,” the CEO said. “I did what I felt was right. This is that kind of time where you have to persist and think differently and take care of those that are with you and lift everyone’s spirits and march forward.”
“We were doing that to take care of our people that might have a loved one die that needed money for a funeral or an operation,” Taylor said of Andy’s Outreach. “It would transition to where people gave part of their paycheck, whether 10 cents of $10, to help our people during times of need.”
“I’m 64 years old and I call people under 55 kids. So I have 70,000 kids, and you want to take care of them. I relate it to my own personal family and I want to take care of my family, is how I look at it.” He ended saying, “I want them to transfer the love we’re showing them to other people.”