Friday, April 17, 2009

The Texas Roadhouse Effect

Not only did executives at the Texas Roadhouse restaurant chain refuse to cancel an incentive trip to San Francisco for managing partners and others, they made sure the world knew about it. For starters, they installed a 20-foot-high inflatable red armadillo on the Ritz-Carlton on Nob hill. And then CEO G.J. Hart went on television to talk about it.

Holding the meeting was critical to the company's business -- and to their values, Hart said, emphasizing that the meeting brought together not just managers, but bartenders and meatcutters. "If we take care of our people, they'll take care of our customers," Hart said.

What threatened to get lost, amid footage of parties and talk of big-name entertainers, was the fact that a major percentage of the company's investment in the meeting was philanthropic. The company, a supporter of Habitat for Humanity in dozens of cities, invested $1 million in materials and labor to build homes in San Francisco.

There wasn't a lick of defensiveness in Hart's face or voice, as he described the meeting as a crucial investment in "the people who are running our restaurants day in and day out."

"I'm not sure it's enough," he added.

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