Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Obit: Norman Brinker inventor and promoter of good eating... and the Salad Bar!

Dallas Morning News Editorial:
Norman Brinker touched many careers and lives
12:00 AM CDT on Wednesday, June 10, 2009
You owe the salad bar to Norman Brinker.
In the mid-1960s, while he was still in his 30s, Brinker founded Steak & Ale, a chain that popularized casual dining and featured an elaborate salad bar. With this new concept, he gave middle-class Americans another choice among eating at home, gobbling down fast food or taking a long evening for fine dining. He changed forever the way American families dine out.
It's difficult to overstate the influence of Brinker, 78, who died Tuesday while on vacation in Colorado Springs.

Is there anyone in North Texas who hasn't eaten at one of the dozens of restaurant chains he founded or brainstormed over nearly a half-century business career? Even the partial list of his innovations is a virtual Who's Who – Bennigan's, Steak & Ale, Chili's Grill & Bar, Maggiano's Little Italy, On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina, and Corner Bakery Cafe. And almost every top executive of a major restaurant chain has worked for one of Brinker's companies or studied his management style.

Brinker will be remembered as a brilliant entrepreneur and as a gentleman who kept a smile on his face even after a serious polo accident nearly took his life in the early 1990s. He retained humility, quiet grace and dignity in the face of both success and personal setbacks. And his bankrolling of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, which his third wife, Nancy, founded in memory of her sister who died of breast cancer, has helped millions of women deal with the challenges of the disease.

Few have lived as storied a life, from Olympic athlete to business legend to polo aficionado. And few will be remembered as fondly.

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