Keeping our eyes and ears open…..

Norman Brinker

Norman Brinker died June 9 at the age of 78. The chairman and founder of Brinker International Inc. who took Chili’s from a hamburger stand to the casual dining success it is today (among other successful ventures), his death brought national coverage, including a tribute on NBC Nightly News. His memorial service in Dallas, where he lived, brought famous people who were his friends, such as Ross Perot, T. Boone Pickens and Roger Staubach.

–Journal Star (Peoria, Illinois_, Jun. 21, 2009.

Norman Brinker is a superstar millionaire in the restaurant franchise game. After starting Steak & Ale and co-founding Bennigan’s, he sold out to Pillsbury and ran its restaurant division, which included Burger King. In 1983, he quit, bought a handful of Dallas restaurants called Chili’s and built that into Brinker International, which today includes nine chains totaling 1,150 restaurants with annual revenue of $3 billion. (Brinker International is public, New York Stock Exchange, about $26 a share.)

Norman’s Company, Brinker International

–Paul Lomartire, “Nancy Brinker Madam Ambassador,” Palm Beach Post, Sep. 6, 2001)

Nancy Brinker’s husband, Norman Brinker, was a tremendously wealthy and well-connected businessman–a founder of three national restaurant chains–and was active in Republican politics. Through her husband’s connections, Brinker became acquainted with Dan and Marilyn Quayle and other power Republicans whose support and name recognition she was able to enlist. During the early 1980s, when the ACS was the only organization working to raise breast cancer awareness, Nancy Brinker mobilized her tremendous cultural, economic, social, symbolic, and political capital to raise the visibility of breast cancer as a public issue and mobilize support for access to mammographic screening.

— p 138, The Biopolitics of Breast Cancer: Changing Cultures of Disease and Activism by Maren Klawiter (2008)

Norman Brinker held a lifetime board appointment on the Susan G. Komen Board of Directors since its founding in 1982. (Business Wire, Jan. 19, 2010)


1969: Norman’s first wife, tennis star Maureen Connolly, died of ovarian cancer.

1981: Norman marries Nancy Goodman (Brinker).

1983: Norman Brinker, known as the father of the restaurant industry, buys Chili’s 23 restaurant locations, scattered across six states and takes on the task of transforming Chili’s “Hamburger Hippies” into future restaurant industry leaders.

May 3, 1986: Chili’s inaugural 10k run is hosted in Dallas and benefitting several local charities including Texas Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital for Children. The run, which was held for more than 10 years, allowed Brinker to raise more than $2 million for Scottish Rite to date.

1994: Norman Brinker retires, appointing Ron McDougall as the new CEO of Brinker International. Norman remains on as Chairman of the Board.

2001: Norman and Nancy divorce.

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