LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Texas Roadhouse, Inc., a Louisville-based restaurant chain, has announced Thursday that its founder and Chief Executive Officer, Kent Taylor, has died.
Taylor reportedly died by suicide.
“After a battle with post-Covid related symptoms, including severe tinnitus, Kent Taylor took his own life this week. Kent battled and fought hard like the former track champion that he was, but the suffering that greatly intensified in recent days became unbearable,” Travis Doster of Texas Roadhouse revealed in a statement.
Doster said Taylor was unlike any other company head he had ever seen.
“He had shorts, sandals and a tee-shirt on and of course smiling, going a mile a minute,” Doster said. “People were just attracted to him for his energy and passion.”
Taylor, a Louisville native and graduate of Ballard High School, founded Texas Roadhouse back in 1993. He held various positions throughout the company, including Chairman of the Board and CEO, according to a news release.
Early last year, Taylor agreed to give up his salary from March through January 2021, with the funds going to help assist frontline restaurant employees during the pandemic.
Texas Roadhouse, a steakhouse and casual dining restaurant chain with operations in Louisville, holds over 630 locations in 49 states nationwide.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Kent Taylor. He founded Texas Roadhouse and dedicated himself to building it into a legendary experience for ‘Roadies’ and restaurant guests alike. During the pandemic, he gave up his entire compensation package to help support his frontline workers,” Greg Moore, Lead Director on Texas Roadhouse’s board of directors said. “This selfless act was no surprise to anyone who knew Kent and his strong belief in servant leadership. He was without a doubt, a people-first leader. His entrepreneurial spirit will live on in the company he built, the projects he supported and the lives he touched.”
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer tweeted on Taylor’s passing Thursday night, saying the city lost a “maverick entrepreneur who embodied the values of never giving up and putting others first.”
Read the full statement from Doster below:
“Our community and the restaurant industry lost a legend and the Taylor family lost a wonderful son, father and grandad this week.
After a battle with post-Covid related symptoms, including severe tinnitus, Kent Taylor took his own life this week. Kent battled and fought hard like the former track champion that he was, but the suffering that greatly intensified in recent days became unbearable.
But in true Kent fashion, he always found a silver lining to help others. Most recently, he committed to fund a clinical study to help members of the military who also suffer with tinnitus.
Kent leaves an unmatched legacy as a people-first leader, which is why he often said that Texas Roadhouse was a people company that just happened to serve steaks. He changed the lives of hundreds of millions of employees and guests over the past 28 years. He also impacted hundreds of thousands of people through his generous and often anonymous donations.
Kent famously created what would eventually become Texas Roadhouse on a cocktail napkin. He leaves behind a legendary company led by his hand-picked Leadership Team fueled by the passion of Roadies in communities around the world.
All who knew him will miss him greatly and Kent’s direction was always clear. Happy employees make happy guests.
We are saddened by the decision Kent felt he needed to make and want to emphasize more than ever the importance of reaching out for help if you or someone you love is suffering.
As Kent would so often say, ‘keep it legendary.’”