Norman Brinker, a former Olympic equestrian–who was born in Denver, raised poor on a New Mexico farm, and grew up to revolutionize how Americans eat–died in Colorado Springs earlier this week at the age of 78. He had moved to Dallas as an adult and started his Steak & Ale chain, where he pioneered the salad bar, writes The Associated Press.
Brinker, who was in the Springs with his wife, Toni, to celebrate his birthday, died after aspirating food while dining out, according to The Washington Post, which notes that Brinker sold the now-defunct Dallas chain he started in 1966 to Pillsbury and embarked on a whirlwind executive life. He would serve as the chief executive of Burger King, and he purchased Chili’s, a Dallas hamburger chain that became a massive chain under his guidance.
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His company, Brinker International, owns Maggiano’s Little Italy, Romano’s Macaroni Grill, and On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina–in all, 1,700 restaurants in 27 countries.