Live Large, Fly Big is the new mantra for Texas Roadhouse’s founder, Kent Taylor.
“When I hit 60, I kinda looked in the mirror and said, ‘Sorry kids, I’m gonna live large, fly big, and give back,” Taylor said in a recent interview with Flexjet’s Airwaves. “I’m going to give back more, enjoy life a little more and won’t be afraid to enjoy it in the air.”
Kent Taylor became a Flight Options owner in 2003 and was the first customer for Michael Silvestro after he joined the company as a sales director. Taylor didn’t know it at the time. He found out when the two CEOs got to reminiscing at a Flexjet-sponsored social gathering in Aspen, CO earlier this year.
“Texas Roadhouse had about 80 restaurants back then and we were fighting the goliaths Outback (Steakhouse), Chili’s and Applebee’s,” Taylor said. “Flight Options was fighting NetJets, also a Goliath, at the time. I felt like there was a connection between our two companies. We were the upstarts trying to be successful against the heavyweights.”
That first purchase of 50 hours on a Beechjet 400 business jet has blossomed just as his business did and now the business (at 560 restaurants) owns shares in the Phenom 300 and Taylor personally owns shares in the Phenom 300, Legacy 450, Challenger 350 and leases the Global Express.
What’s his favorite part of being a Flexjet owner?
“Danette,” he said. “I have just been very impressed at the professionalism and friendliness of your folks from the pilots to people in your call center with Danette being number one.”
Danette Jackson is Taylor’s account manager and her bubbly personality and warm hugs have made her legendary among her colleagues as well as with the Owners she supports. Taylor’s recognition of Ms. Jackson echoes his company’s stated priority of putting employees first and guests second. The reason why, he said, is pretty simple.
“Back in the day when I worked for other restaurant companies, I was one of those abused employees,” he said. “I swore to myself if I ever had my own business, I would take care of employees first, guests second.”
That’s a practice known well at Flexjet where we consider employees the foundation of a service company.
True to his word, he positions managing partners, the men and women who run the restaurants, as partners and compensates them accordingly. And a fund the company established with a personal donation from Taylor assists employees in need.
Andy’s Outreach Fund, was named after the company’s mascot- Andy Armadillo, and has distributed $10 million since it was founded in 2003. Just last year, the fund distributed $70,000 to employees affected by the catastrophic floods in Texas and Florida, Taylor said.
The company’s enthusiasm for generosity is contagious because employees donate to the fund as well as through payroll deduction – as much or as little as they choose, Taylor said.
Taylor personally has a passion for giving back and one of the organizations he supports is Homes for Our Troops.
Today he serves on the board for the organization that builds and donates specially adapted custom homes across the nation for severely injured post 9/11 veterans to enable them to rebuild their lives. Texas Roadhouse locations across the country also raise thousands of dollars for the organization throughout the year. According to the organization’s website, “most of these veterans have sustained injuries including multiple limb amputations, partial or full paralysis, and/or severe traumatic brain injury (TBI).” And to date, they have built 270 specially adapted homes.
“Our country relies on 1% of the population to protect the other 99%, which is why I am so passionate about supporting and serving our veterans and active military.”