'The restaurant industry lost a legend': Texas Roadhouse CEO and founder Kent Taylor dies at 65

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Texas Roadhouse CEO and founder Kent Taylor has died at the age of 65. News of his death was announced this week on the restaurant’s social media. "We will miss you, Kent. Because of you and your dream of Texas Roadhouse, we get to say we love our jobs every day," the post reads. 

"Our community and the restaurant industry lost a legend and the Taylor family lost a wonderful son, father and grandad this week," a joint statement from the Taylor family and Texas Roadhouse said.

The family also shared that Taylor took his life after battling post-COVID-related symptoms including severe tinnitus. 

"Kent battled and fought hard like the former track champion that he was, but the suffering that greatly intensified in recent days became unbearable," the statement said. 

"We are saddened by the decision Kent felt he needed to make and want to emphasize more than ever the importance of reaching out for help if you or someone you love is suffering."

His family said he found a way to help others before his death. They said he recently pledged to fund a clinical study to help members of the military who also have tinnitus. 

Tinnitus is commonly described as a ringing in the ears, but it also can sound like roaring, clicking, hissing or buzzing, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). 

The American Tinnitus Association says 45 million Americans have tinnitus symptoms. 

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Persisting symptoms of COVID-19 have been reported in hundreds of patients. Health officials are still researching the most common effects, including any connection between COVID-19 and tinnitus directly. 

A study from December 2020 looking into a connection between COVID-19 and tinnitus cited information from the American Tinnitus Association that "preexisting behavioral conditions make it more likely for patients to experience tinnitus due to the stress and depression associated with social isolation and infection avoidance." More research is still being done on those who have contracted COVID-19. 

Taylor founded Texas Roadhouse in 1993. Since then, the company has grown to more than 611 locations in 49 states and 28 international locations in ten foreign countries.

Texas Roadhouse is based in Louisville, Kentucky. The company’s first restaurant was founded across the Ohio River in nearby Clarksville, Indiana.

"Kent famously created what would eventually become Texas Roadhouse on a cocktail napkin. He leaves behind a legendary company led by his hand-picked Leadership Team fueled by the passion of Roadies in communities around the world," the statement read. 

"Kent leaves an unmatched legacy as a people-first leader, which is why he often said that Texas Roadhouse was a people company that just happened to serve steaks. He changed the lives of hundreds of millions of employees and guests over the past 28 years. He also impacted hundreds of thousands of people through his generous and often anonymous donations."

Last year, at the dawn of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was reported Taylor gave up his yearly pay so the money could go to front-line workers.

RELATED: Texas Roadhouse CEO foregoes salary for 1 year to pay workers amid coronavirus: reports

"All who knew him will miss him greatly and Kent’s direction was always clear. Happy employees make happy guests," the statement reads. "As Kent would so often say, ‘keep it legendary.’"