Dallas restaurant magnate Norman Brinker passed away today at the age of 78. I just learned about Brinker today. I wish I had known about him earlier. He strikes me as a classic American business success story, a man who built an empire based on hard work and good ideas. Here’s an excerpt from a Dallas Observer article covering Brinker’s life:
Brinker, who started out as a busboy in Southern California, moved to Dallas in the early 1960s.
His first restaurant was a coffee shop on Gaston Avenue called Brink’s.
In 1966, he used $10,000 and a $5,000 loan to launch Steak & Ale, which grew into 109 restaurants and was sold to Pillsbury Co. 10 years later. While at Pillsbury’s restaurant division, Brinker created the Bennigan’s chain and became known as the originator of the “fern bar” restaurant concept intended to attract single people.
But he is best known for his transformation of Chili’s Inc. from a couple of hamburger joints into a publicly traded restaurant behemoth, Brinker International, that owns three casual dining chains: Chili’s Grill & Bar, Maggiano’s Little Italy and On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina.
Brinker retired as chairman in 2000 after building the chain of more than 1,000 casual-dining restaurants. The company now has 1,700 restaurants in 27 countries.
Not only that–Brinker was national champion polo player, survived a bad accident and cancer, and mentored numerous employees and entrepreneurs. He left a powerful legacy. I hope others follow in his footsteps.