COVID-19 has cost the Restaurant Industry a great deal over the past year. We have all seen the massive loss of life, thousands of lost jobs, millions lost in revenue, and closed signs hanging on doors. Last week the hardship of COVID-19 hit closer to home as the industry lost a giant. Texas Roadhouse CEO Kent Taylor has passed away, however the legacy he has left will endure for generations. Sadly, he took his own life after suffering from severe side effects, including tinnitus, from his battle with COVID-19. Taylor began the restaurant chain in 1993 and it now has locations in 49 U.S. states.

The casual dining that shares the Texas namesake began in Indiana and currently headquartered in Kentucky. Kent Taylor worked at several restaurants in his early career including KFC. Taylor eventually decided to start his own brand after other restaurants proved too rigid for his distinctive design concepts. He started the brand with a focus on family, quality, and fresh cuts of meat. The brand brings a unique flavor to the restaurant industry by making their entire menu including sides and dressing from scratch. Taylor doubled down on his commitment to quality by employing a baker and butcher at each restaurant. This unusual approach has allowed the company to have a stronger handle on quality control than many of their competitors.


Taylor continued to innovate in the restaurant sector by giving his managing partners at every restaurant a stake in ownership. Managing Partners are given 10% of a store’s profits in exchange for a five-year contract and $25,000 deposit. This move was part of Taylor’s strategy to foster a family and community connection at each location which helped reduce the employee churn that is common in most restaurants. Taylor also added murals to each location that he personally approved. Each mural is unique and designed to represent the surrounding community. Every location also includes a mural dedicated to Native Americans. Texas Roadhouse is designed as a dinner only concept during the weekdays and the decision allows for cheaper real estate and a lighter workload for staff members.

Texas Roadhouse is a true reflection of the pioneer who founded it. Kent Taylor’s ideas would have struggled to find a footing in more established restaurants, but they have thrived when combined into their own concept. It is clear that Taylor loved the people that worked with him and the communities he worked in. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck last year, Taylor forfeited his salary and bonus for the year in order to support his workers. He was a philanthropist who donated generous amounts, often anonymously, through the years including funding a clinical study to help military members suffering from tinnitus, the condition Taylor was battling before his death. Kent Taylor has left a legacy of bold ideas and hard-won victories. Taylor is survived by his parents, three children, and five grandchildren. Jerry Morgan has taken over as Texas Roadhouse’s CEO as per a succession plan left behind by Kent Taylor.