Taylor passed away March 18, taking his own life following a struggle with post-COVID-19 symptoms, including severe tinnitus, a condition defined as a ringing in the ears with no external source. He was 65.
The news floored the restaurant world and left a prodigious hole at Texas Roadhouse, a chain that couldn’t be more like its founder if it tried. Few brands and founders, perhaps only KFC and Colonel Sanders, are more closely tied than Texas Roadhouse and Kent Taylor.
He was labeled a maverick with a preference for the unorthodox. And his decisions worked out far more often than they didn’t.
You could say the same about Texas Roadhouse, with its free peanuts and rolls, low prices, and a menu that’s hardly adjusted in 28 years. Delivery? LTOs? Never on the radar. And what other 580-unit chain hardly advertises?
Yet Texas Roadhouse continues to front the casual-dining pack and has for some time. Headed into 2020, stores reported average-unit volumes north of $5.4 million, serving 6,000 guests per week. In the 10-year period from January 2010 to December 2019, Texas Roadhouse’s shares on the stock market appreciated by more than 400 percent, well ahead of increases achieved by the S&P 500 as a whole.
More recently, comparable sales soared 21.3 percent in the second quarter versus 2019 levels—showcasing a COVID-19 comeback hard to rival in foodservice. Texas Roadhouse stores averaged weekly sales of $125,442 in the period. At one point in mid-March 2020, as dine-in restrictions locked in, it was $29,432.