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Brinker’s influence all around (Abstract Only)


Title: Brinker’s influence all around

Author/Byline: Paul Gordon

Publication: Journal Star (Peoria, Illinois)

Publication Date: June 21, 2009

Jun. 21–The next time you sit down in a restaurant and somebody walks up and says, “Hi, my name is so-and-so, and I will be your server tonight,” you probably won’t think of Norman Brinker.

He won’t come to mind even when that restaurant is the Chili’s at University and Glen.

When you discuss the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure or when you go to the Metro Centre, it will be different Brinkers — Nancy and Eric — who will likely come to mind.

Norman Brinker, considered a titan in the restaurant industry and the pioneer of the casual dining experience, never lived in Peoria, so not many here know him. But his influence is felt here, almost on a daily basis.

“He couldn’t even boil water or turn on a stove, but he did an awful lot to make the restaurant industry what it is today simply because it interested him. That’s how he was,” Eric Brinker said the other day while talking about his father. “And I was very fortunate to have him as a mentor.”

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.

Also among the famous was Peoria native Nancy Goodman Brinker, who formerly served as the United States Ambassador to Hungary and Chief of Protocol to President George W. Bush.

She was still married to Norman Brinker when, with his urging and help, she founded the Komen Foundation in 1982. They divorced in 2003.