Many local foodies have had a love-hate relationship with Texas Roadhouse, a US-based steakhouse chain, since the brand opened its first outlet in Taipei in late October on the third floor of Breeze Song Gao department store (微風松高) in Xinyi District (信義).
The popularity of the Taipei outlet — the chain’s first in Asia — has often seen customers waiting in line at weekends, with some patrons complaining on the restaurant’s Facebook page about reservation difficulties during its first month in operation.
Texas Roadhouse Inc global development group vice president Hugh Carroll attributed the restaurant chain’s good start here to similarities between Taiwanese and US consumers.
“I am very familiar with the Taiwanese market,” Carroll, who has lived in Taiwan, said during an interview in Taipei last month.
Carroll said Taiwan and the US have many traits in common, including families that enjoy eating out at a “fun” restaurant, which led to the easy acceptance of the American-style restaurant.
On top of good food, incorporating “fun” is important for building Texas Roadhouse’s brand, he said.
Edgar Lee, a 32-year-old Taiwanese who lived in the US for three years while working on his masters degree, said the cost-to-performance ratio, fun atmosphere and high quality of beef made Texas Roadhouse one of his favorite restaurants in the US.
“I usually went to Texas Roadhouse for dinner with friends every one or two months,” Lee said.
From its first outlet in Clarksville, Indiana, which opened in 1993, Texas Roadhouse has grown to more than 440 restaurants in the US.
The NASDAQ-listed company reported sales of US$1.18 billion in the first three quarters of this year, an increase of 13 percent from the same period last year.
“My [original] goal was to own not just a family restaurant and not just a steak restaurant, but a place where everyone, of all ages, could come and have a great meal and great fun, for a great price,” Texas Roadhouse founder, chairman and chief executive officer Kent Taylor, told the Taipei Times.
With an average customer spending between US$15 and US$20, the chain says that everything on the menu is made from scratch, with a butcher hand-cutting every steak and freshly baked bread available every five minutes.
In the hope of increasing interactions between restaurant employees and customers, and developing the “fun” theme, Texas Roadhouse has come up with a novel celebration for customers spending their birthday or wedding dinner at the restaurant: The customers are invited to sit on a saddle, while everyone else in the restaurant gives them a big “Yeehaw.”
The company has a goal to open 25 to 30 new stores in the US per year, which would expand the total number of its outlets to between 700 and 800 stores in the next 10 years, Taylor said.
In addition, Texas Roadhouse aims to develop itself into a world-class steakhouse chain through overseas expansion, he said.
The company has opened stores in Taiwan, Dubai and Kuwait through the franchise model.
It plans to enter the markets in Abu Dhabi and the Philippines by the end of this year, with Canada and Mexico to follow next year, Taylor said.
Roadhouse Restaurants Taiwan Ltd (路德斯) — the operator of Texas Roadhouse in Taiwan and a unit of Bayshore Pacific Hospitality Ltd (北軒餐飲管理) — is scheduled to open seven to 10 stores in Taiwan within the next five to seven years, with the Greater Taipei area to be its major market.
The second outlet in Taipei is set to open for business tomorrow at Minsheng Community (民生社區) in uptown Taipei.
As for China, which has a big consumer market and growing demand for beef, Bayshore Pacific president and chief operating officer Merritt Croker said the company is looking to continue cooperation with the US steakhouse chain to eventually introduce Texas Roadhouse there, given its experience and strength in developing the brand in Taiwan.
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