Longhorn Steakhouse: You Can’t Fake Steak
January 3, 2021
In 1981 George McKerrow, Jr. founded
the Longhorn Steakhouse in Atlanta, Georgia.
The first location, originally called LongHorn Steaks Restaurant & Saloon, opened on Peachtree Street in Atlanta, Georgia. The location had formerly been an antique store and then an adult entertainment business. George filled it with steer heads and every other western artifact he could find.
The LongHorn featured
steaks grilled in a butter sauce
and french fries.
George’s Longhorn Restaurant was located across the street from a very popular restaurant called Harrison’s which had a limited bar menu. So, after a night of drinking, regulars at Harrisons headed over to the Longhorn for a big juicy steak.
George was a former manager at Quinn’s Mill Restaurant, a subsidiary of Victoria Station. The restaurant used railroad cars as dining areas, a San Francisco concept that was popular in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
As of 2016, LongHorn Steakhouse
generated $1.6 billion in sales
from the 481 locations it had at that time.
It was a tough start for George. At the end of the first month, he was serving just a handful of meals a day and he was doing the cooking, waiting tables and washing dishes. But, in January 1982 his luck changed when a sudden snow storm that became known as SnowJam 82, trapped commuters within the city limits of Atlanta. George was quick to help the stranded motorists by offering $1 drinks and menu specials. Ron Hudspeth, a local journalist, featured the story in his column and, consequently, helped turn around the struggling restaurant.
By 1990, the franchise expanded further south and now has locations throughout the Eastern United States, as well as the Midwest, Southwest and Puerto Rico.
In August 2007, LongHorn Steakhouse, formerly owned and operated by RARE Hospitality International Inc., was purchased by Darden Restaurants, Inc.
Every LongHorn restaurant has two or three employees who have trained to be “Grill Masters.” The best of the best grill chefs can compete in a company-wide “Steak Master” competition. Over the course of the year, multiple “grill-offs” narrow 5000 Grill Masters down to seven for the final showdown. In 2018 Michelle Cerveney of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, became the reigning champion.
With the success of LongHorn under his belt, McKerrow opened Capital Grille and, in 2002, he and Ted Turner launched Ted’s Montana Grill, which he is still the president and CEO of today.
Communications and Marketing
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