Loyal Guests, and Interested Folks,
As everyone’s world has obviously changed, so has ours. I still remember the early days of Texas Roadhouse back in the mid-1990’s, 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.
Somehow my early struggles, along with my many years of operating restaurants (some fifteen years of running daily shifts), have helped provide me with a unique perspective. Perhaps a different perspective than that of a marketing or finance person that may be running a restaurant company (no offense, just sayin'). I try as much as possible to live in the mindset of our store Managing Partners.
A few weeks into March, when the “you-know-what” hit the fan, we had two choices: (a) hunker down, lay people off, conserve cash, and wait it out; or (b) deal with the reality of each day, pivot, experiment, learn, and pivot again. We went with (b) and jumped in headfirst! We quickly learned from our individual operators, especially some of our crazy, out-of-the-box thinkers, like me, who were not afraid to push the boundaries and try new things.
What normally would take six months, we were able to do in just a few days. We made the pivot quickly and safely from dine-in to traditional To-Go before pivoting again to To-Go/Curbside before adding family value packs (both hot and cold) and ready-to-grill steaks. Who knows what our operators will come up with next, but I’m sure it will be amazing and probably a little out-of-the-box.
While many cautioned against some of these ideas, guess what? 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!!
We also quickly learned from our operators outside the United States who have been through this before. Notable learnings came from our Taiwan restaurants provided to me by Hugh Carroll, our President of International Operations. Taiwan, with strict protocols in place, and a population of 23 million, had 400 confirmed COVID-19 cases and six deaths. First and foremost, we learned the value of personal protective equipment in restaurants, so we quickly ordered gloves, masks and eyewear. Within a few days, we had gloves in place for all employees (always protocol in the kitchen, but now also mandatory for our front-of-house employees) and were using do-it-yourself masks until personal protective equipment arrived. We also began taking temperatures and conducting symptom surveys of our employees to provide another level of safety for guests and employees.
As I approach the ripe-old age of 65, I have found what matters to me most is the health and well-being of my family, which includes my parents, kids and grandchildren. But, I am also blessed with an extended family of over 75,000 Roadies and their health and safety is also a personal priority to me.
For example, we provided a stimulus package to our front-line employees in March, allowed for early vacation use, paid health insurance premiums for our employees, and in April paid an additional stimulus (April Love!) to our employees working hard to “Feed America.”
What kind of company does these things? Well, that would be a people company that happens to serve steaks, that’s who.
Thanks and God bless our wonderful country,
Founder & CEO