If you don't know who Norman Brinker was, hit the play button

Restaurant Rewind: He was as much of a god to the business as Ray Kroc, though a lot more recently. Here's why the industry should not forget such an inspirational, successful and fascinating character.

Ask outsiders to name the visionaries who built the restaurant industry into the social fixture it is today and chances are you’ll hear names like Ray Kroc, Dave Thomas and Howard Schultz. Odds are the list won’t include a force who midwifed a whole category of the business, even though he was active in the field far more recently than those dynasty builders.

And that’s not even considering his storybook life outside of the business. His bio is the stuff of movies. Indeed, he figured into two, portrayed in one by Mark Harmon. Ray Kroc only had one film made about him.

Yet, almost exactly 14 years after his death, Norman Brinker may well be fading from the industry’s collective memory. There aren’t that many of us still in the trade who were privileged to witness Norman’s brilliance firsthand.  Those of a more tender vintage might recognize that his name is used by Brinker International, the parent company of the Chili’s and Maggiano’s chains, but may not be aware of the why.

It would be a colossal loss if such an influential and inspirational figure was forgotten by the business he did so much to build. That’s why we’re devoting the next two issues of our Restaurant Rewind podcast to a personalized recount of Norman Brinker’s extraordinary life and career.

Join us this episode as we look at Brinker’s early influences and how they presaged the success he would enjoy throughout his 78 years. Mixed in are the details that would today make Norman a regular focus of shows like Entertainment Tonight or even TMZ. His would be a frequently boldfaced name.

Download the episode from wherever you usually get your podcasts.

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