The founder of the Louisville-based steakhouse chain spent seven years being rejected by investors – he was denied financing more than 100 times – before landing the money he needed to expand.

As a young entrepreneur, Taylor’s personal financial situation grew so dire he had to move back to his parents’ home – twice.

Despite those early setbacks, Taylor, CEO and chairman of Texas Roadhouse Inc., has grown the concept to 431 stores in 49 states and several foreign countries while increasing annual revenue to more than $1.7 billion.

His advice to budding entrepreneurs is to be persistent and not fear failure, a message he brought to a group of start-up business owners Oct. 29 at iHub in downtown Louisville.

Taylor’s talk was part of the Entrepreneurs Meet Innovators series sponsored by Nucleus: Kentucky’s Innovation Center. Nucleus is the development arm of the University of Louisville Foundation Inc.

The entrepreneurs’ series connects start-up business owners with successful CEOs. The hour-long discussion with Taylor was recorded by KET and will be broadcast at a later time.

Dressed in his signature cowboy hat and plaid shirt, Taylor entertained his audience with an often humorous look at his successes and failures.

A key to building Texas Roadhouse has been creating an enjoyable work environment for his employees, he said. As an example, he noted that each of his stores is allotted $500 a month for a worker outing or other activity.

“We try to instill fun in the restaurants,” Taylor said. “We encourage our people to have fun.”

Texas Roadhouse also puts a premium on service, according to the chain’s founder. For instance, no server has responsibility for more than three tables at a time.

Taylor said his company’s investment priorities are in people and food quality. The chain does no national advertising.

Members of the audience asked several questions of Taylor, including one about his current role at Texas Roadhouse.

He said he sees himself as “a protector of the brand,” and he still is involved in such tasks as picking new restaurant sites, selecting menu items and establishing pricing.

“I’m at the front end of the train,” Taylor said. “I think our people are comfortable with me in the driver’s seat.”

John Karman, III
John Karman joined the Office of Communications and Marketing in 2014 after a 20-plus year career as a Louisville journalist. He has served as director of media relations since 2015. In that role, he answers reporters’ inquiries and is the university’s main spokesperson. John was a reporter for Business First of Louisville from 1999 to 2013. There, he won numerous awards from the Louisville chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists and American City Business Journals, parent company to Business First. John can die happy after seeing the Chicago Cubs win the 2016 World Series, although he would also enjoy another title.