I went to Texas Roadhouse for the first time and saw how it’s huge portions served with folksy charm have led to booming sales

Texas Roadhouse
  • Texas Roadhouse sales are surging well above 2019 levels.
  • I visited one location in Rochester, New York, and found the chain is homey and comfortable, with good food at relatively low prices.
  • I had a great experience, and I see why people are flocking to the restaurant.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
I went to Texas Roadhouse on a Thursday evening, thinking I would be able to walk in and be seated quickly enough.

texas roadhouse

I knew the chain was popular, but I was still surprised to find a completely packed parking lot on a weekday evening.

Texas Roadhouse parking lot
Texas Roadhouse is doing better than ever.

The window advised customers to call ahead to reserve a seat, which I regretted not doing.

Texas Roadhouse exterior
Texas Roadhouse is doing better than ever.

The restaurant had updates hours posted over the door, one of many restaurants working on reduced hours right now.

Texas Roadhouse exterior
Texas Roadhouse is doing better than ever.

Upon walking inside, I realized the restaurant was even more crowded than I’d anticipated from the parking lot.

Texas Roadhouse lobby
Texas Roadhouse is doing better than ever.

I put our name in at the hostess stand and was told it would be about a 10 minute wait.

Texas Roadhouse hostess stand
Texas Roadhouse is doing better than ever.

I didn’t mind the wait. I used the time to take in the ambiance of Texas Roadhouse, which was unlike any restaurant I’d ever been to before. The restaurant was packed and I saw maybe two or three people wearing masks, while servers did not. I could almost forget we were in a pandemic.

Texas Roadhouse hostess stand
Texas Roadhouse is doing better than ever.

The walls were decorated with jerseys and uniforms from the local high school sports teams right above the hostess station.

Texas Road House decor
Texas Roadhouse.

An extremely large moose head was mounted alongside the uniforms. I don’t know what mooses have to do with Texas, but it did add to a homey, country theme.

Texas Road House decor
Texas Roadhouse.

Other walls are adorned with neon beer brand signs, including Budweiser and Blue Moon.

Texas Road House decor
Texas Roadhouse.

Nearly all the walls in the massive restaurant were decked out in decor, like these caricatures of some classic country artists.

Texas Road House decor
Texas Road House.

I also got some time to check out the butcher station with hand-cut steaks, which is one of the signature features of the chain.

Texas Road House steaks
Texas Roadhouse.

Above the steaks are the chain’s iconic rolls, staying warm under a heating lamp.

Texas Roadhouse  rolls
Texas Roadhouse.

Another neon sign gets at the heart of Texas Roadhouse: beer and beef.

Texas Roadhouse  sign
Texas Roadhouse.

Underneath the sign, waitstaff ran in and out of the kitchen, ferrying rolls to the full restaurant.

Texas Roadhouse kitchen
Texas Roadhouse.

There were posting all over advertising that the restaurant is hiring, likely a symptom of the labor shortage impacting just about every restaurant right now.

Texas Roadhouse hiring
Texas Roadhouse.

Even the waitstaff wore shirts saying “I
Texas Roadhouse kitchen

Texas Roadhouse.

After a wait of probably closer to 25 minutes, I followed a waitress, holding the coveted rolls, to my table.

Texas Roadhouse table
Texas Roadhouse.

A menu advertised Texas Roadhouse’s drinks, including margaritas that I’d heard I had to try.

Texas Roadhous table
Texas Roadhouse.

The restaurant is even bigger than it looks from the outside, and it seemed nearly full as I walked to my table.

Texas Roadhouse
Texas Roadhouse.

As I walked through the rest of the interior, the decor was consistent throughout.

Texas Roadhouse
Texas Roadhouse.

There were probably at least a dozen animal heads mounted on the walls, included a classic Americana jackalope.

Texas Roadhouse
Texas Roadhouse.

The decor is kitchsy, in a way that I found unexpectedly appealing.

Texas Roadhouse
Texas Roadhouse.

Cactuses perched on booths and counters were reminders that the restaurant was supposed to be Southwest-themed.

Texas Roadhouse cactus
Texas Roadhouse.

I sat down and opened up a massive menu, which was overwhelming with all its choices.

Texas Roadhouse menu
Texas Roadhouse.

Back at the table, the waitress recommended this massive blue margarita, called Kenny’s Cooler after Kenny Chesney.

Texas Roadhouse margarita
Texas Roadhouse.

For $7.25, it was huge and could easily be shared by at least two people.

Texas Roadhouse margarita
Texas Roadhouse.

Because we told the waitress we’d never been to Texas Roadhouse before, she brought us a sampler of some dishes to test out: green beans in bacon grease, loaded mashed potatoes with cheese and bacon, pulled pork, and chili topped with cheese and red onions.

Texas Roadhouse samples
Texas Roadhouse.

We ordered the combo appetizer to try out a few different dishes, including boneless wings, potato skins, and rattlesnake bites, which were fried jalapenos and cheese.

Texas Roadhouse appetizers
Texas Roadhouse.

We went through the appetizers all too quickly, and all agreed that the dipping sauces and spreads were a highlight of the experience. From the horseradish sauce that came with the rattlesnake bites to the cinnamon butter for the rolls, they went perfectly on the dishes they came with.

Texas Roadhouse appetizers
Texas Roadhouse.

Our entrees came, and the sheer amount of food was staggering. I had no idea how we’d even start to finish it.

Texas Roadhouse meal
Texas Roadhouse.

I got the country-fried chicken, covered in a creamy white gravy. It was delicious, though I could hardly make a dent in it after the appetizers and rolls.

Texas Roadhouse chicken
Texas Roadhouse.

The entree also came with two sides, which themselves were huge. I chose the mashed potatoes and green beans, which I knew I’d like from the sampler.

Texas Roadhouse sides
Texas Roadhouse.

I’m not a big fan of steak, so I wanted to bring along someone who could really evaluate Texas Roadhouse’s signature steaks. My fiance, Joe, ordered this giant steak, with perfect grill marks.

Texas Roadhouse steak
Texas Roadhouse.

The steak was extra rare and smelled amazing.

Texas Roadhouse steak
Texas Roadhouse.

It was served smothered in mushrooms and onions, with a loaded baked potato as one of the sides.

Texas Roadhouse steak
Texas Roadhouse.

My sister was also game to test out the food, so she got a burger and fries.

Texas Roadhouse burger
Texas Roadhouse.

The Smokehouse Burger, one-half pound of beef with mushrooms, onions, barbecue sauce, and mounds of gooey cheese, was delicious, according to her.

Texas Roadhouse burger
Texas Roadhouse.

The giant burger and fries were a huge amount of food for the $11.49 price tag.

Texas Roadhouse burger
Texas Roadhouse.

The 16-ounce ribeye, plus two sides, was $25.

Texas Roadhouse steak
Texas Roadhouse.

My fried chicken was just $12.99, an even better deal considering I ate it for three meals.

Texas Roadhouse chicken
Texas Roadhouse.

We finally gave up and admitted there was no possible way we’d finish this food in one sitting.

Texas Roadhouse meal
Texas Roadhouse.

As we packed our food into takeout containers, our server even offered to bring us more rolls, with little covers so we could take the butter, too.

Texas Roadhous table
Texas Roadhouse.

I’m not the only one who had a good experience at Texas Roadhouse. Sales are exploding at the chain.

Texas Roadhouse sign

Same-store sales are up over 80% over 2020, which was of course low because of COVID-19, and they’re up 21.3% over 2019 levels. Visits are up too, according to Placer.ai, indicating more customers are visiting the chain and they’re spending more money.

Texas Roadhouse skull

Source: Insider, Nation’s Restaurant News

The chain’s sales are booming, and I can see why. Good food in huge quantities, plus a sense of normality by returning to a well-known restaurant, are more appealing than ever in 2021.

Texas Roadhouse bar

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

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Grilling could soon get more expensive. Tyson Foods, the world’s second-largest meat processor, has already hiked prices as much as 40% – and says there’s more on the way.

grilled chicken grilling flames
Within the food industry, meat prices have been especially hard hit.

  • Tyson Foods is hiking up its meat prices for retailers thanks to an “unprecedented” rise in costs.
  • The world’s second-largest meat processor raised pork prices by 39% over the past three months.
  • Further hikes are coming. “Costs are hitting us faster than we can get pricing at this point,” its CEO said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The world’s second-largest meat processor says it will keep raising its prices.

In its third quarter, which runs to July 3, Tyson Foods hiked up its average price for pork by 39%, beef by 12%, and chicken by 16%, it said Monday.

CEO Donnie King said during an earnings call that the company planned to raise prices for retailers again next month to cope with higher costs – he estimated that “unprecedented inflation” reached 14% in the quarter.

“Costs are hitting us faster than we can get pricing at this point,” King said.

“We will continue to take price to match the nature of the cost that’s coming to us,” he added.

Companies including Procter & Gamble, General Mills, and Coca-Cola have also announced price hikes to offset rising costs, triggering higher prices at both stores and restaurants.

Read more: Why the private equity playbook failed Kraft Heinz

The labor shortage and supply chain chaos are causing product shortages and price hikes across the US, and meat is no different.

King said that Tyson was forced to raise prices in the quarter because of rising costs of animal feed, packaging, and freight. The company is also spending on COVID-19 expenses, and on higher wages during the labor shortage.

In the third quarter alone, chicken feed ingredients cost $270 million more than usual, Stewart Glendinning, the company’s chief financial officer, said. The company also spent around $55 million on COVID-19 expenses, he added.

Tyson is being hit by the labor shortage

This US is currently in the midst of a huge labor shortage that’s causing businesses to cut operating hours, slash production, and raise prices.

“Labor is our single biggest issue we face,” King said. This stemmed largely from the spread of the Delta variant, he said.

“We are more inefficient than we have historically been,” King said. “Essentially it takes us six days to get five days worth of work.”

King said that Tyson had increased wages, created flexible shifts, and added childcare facilities on-site to attract more workers. He added that the company was investing more in automation and technology to eliminate more difficult, hard-to-fill tasks, and shift available workers to “more value-added activities.”

Tyson announced last week that it was mandating COVID-19 vaccines for its entire US workforce by November 1. It said that nearly half of all staff have been vaccinated so far.

Tyson said in its earnings release that there had been strong global demand for meat, which allowed it to sustain the higher prices. The company said that its third-quarter sales were up nearly 25% year-over-year to $12.5 billion, and its net income increased 43% to $753 million.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Chipotle soars 13% to an all-time high as digital ordering and return of dine-in customers push revenue to pre-pandemic levels

Chipotle Tesla
Chipotle is giving away a Tesla 3.

Shares in Chipotle soared as much as 12.95% to reach new highs on Wednesday as a bumper second-quarter earnings call showed the fast-casual chain returning to pre-pandemic activity.

Revenue came in at $1.89 billion, up 39% year-over-year and a hair above the analyst consensus of $1.88 billion. Chipotle opened up 56 new locations and closed five, capitalizing on a surge of digital sales, which grew nearly 11%, as well as a recovery in in-person dining. Almost half of all sales were digital.

The company also saw same-store sales, which excludes sales from new stores, jump 31% year-over-year. Same-store sales had tumbled at the start of the pandemic. Likewise, margins rebounded to 24.5%, driven by price increases and falling beef prices during the second quarter.

Chipotle made headlines in June for raising wages to an average of $15, in part to attract talent in a tight labor market. The company also raised menu prices across the board.

“We have had to move pricing in the delivery channel and on our menu,” CEO Brian Niccol told CNBC. “We’re very fortunate to have such a strong value proposition and to have this pricing power.”

Chipotle closed at $1,755.91 on Wednesday, up 11.5% on the day.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Cattle markets have been upended, and big meat producers are making 20 times normal margins as beef prices soar

cows beef cattle

Soaring beef prices are making big meatpackers fat and happy while smaller players are left cleaning up the scraps, according to a New York Times story published this week.

As restaurants have reopened and with America’s grilling season underway, demand has upended cattle markets. Futures contracts on ready-for-slaughter cattle have shot up 6.6% year-to-date and 27.7% in the last year. Wholesale beef prices are up 40% since March.

Meanwhile, meat-eaters are already paying 5% more for ground beef and 9% for steaks year-on-year, according to NielsenIQ data cited by the Times.

Elevated demand is bringing on new supply. Second-quarter beef production and beef-cow slaughter rates are up year-on-year, 1.6% and 10% respectively, according to a RaboResearch report. That has partially been driven by drought conditions on the west coast, which have encouraged farmers to cull cows early.

Sizzling demand isn’t the only factor at play, though. Grocers, smaller ranchers, and some members of Congress are alleging that the four biggest meatpacking companies – three of which are US-based – have colluded to tamp down the beef supply, keeping prices artificially high.

Fat margins are breeding suspicion. Cargill, a meat processor and America’s largest private company, is making as much as 20 times normal profit margins per cattle head, according to RaboResearch. Even compared to past periods of pricey beef, Cargill’s margins are still elevated by a factor of six.

One Montana-based small-time rancher told the Times he hasn’t turned a profit in four years – and he blames the big meatpackers. He, like other critics, believes beef supply is being manipulated, likely as a result of non-transparent practices and consolidation in the meat-processing industry.

Antitrust pressure is growing, including from a DOJ probe of the meatpackers’ potential anticompetitive practices. The “big four” processors – which collectively control 80% of the industry – were subpoenaed in the investigation last year, and this May, a bipartisan group of senators encouraged the DOJ to redouble its efforts.

The big four have shown some signs of investing in supply expansion. US-based National Beef is expanding an Iowa-based plant and Brazil’s JBS is investing hundreds of millions in higher wages and more robust facilities, per the Times report.

“We believe our investments in increasing capacity and offering industry-leading wages to attract workers will lead to more opportunities for producers and benefits to consumers,” a spokesman for JBS told the Times.

Read the original article on Business Insider

US consumers face having to pay a lot more for beef as restaurants reopen and exporting increases

Livestock at a cattle market in Buenos Aires Argentina
Livestock at a cattle market.

  • Beef prices in the US spiked 5% between March and April, Reuters reported.
  • “The prices are astronomical,” a Louisiana real estate marketer told Reuters.
  • Members of Congress from South Dakota are calling for an investigation into the meatpacking industry.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The average price of a fresh cut of beef in the US reportedly spiked 5% between April and March.

In the last year, US prices were up 10%, Reuters reported, citing research from data firm NielsenIQ.

“The prices are astronomical,” a Louisiana real estate marketer told Reuters.

As the world tiptoed out of the pandemic, Americans were heading back to restaurants. That has increased demand, but it was just one of several factors putting upward pressure on beef prices, Reuters reported.

Beef prices reportedly were rising around the world, spurred in part by growing demand in China. US exports of beef were expected to rise 6 percent this year, fueled by increased consumption in Asia, according to data from the Department of Agriculture.

In the US, corn, and soybeans – common cattle feed – were at their highest prices in almost a decade, Reuters reported.

Meatpackers were also having difficulty finding and retaining employees.

“We have a high supply of cattle at one end of this equation and a high demand for US beef at the other, but the middle is being absolutely choked by the lack of processing capacity,” Ethan Lane, vice president of government affairs at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said in a statement earlier this month.

Sen. John Thune and Rep. Dusty Johnson, both of South Dakota, have been calling for Washington to investigate what they say are anti-competitive practices and manipulation in the cattle market. They said meatpackers have been buying low from ranchers, then increasing prices for consumers.

Lane said, “Cattle producers deserve to know whether or not the price disparity that has plagued our market is the result of anti-competitive or other inappropriate practices in the packing sector.”

Thune and Johnson sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland on May 17, seeking action from the Justice Department. Thune sent another letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.

On Wednesday, Thune assigned some blame for rising prices to President Joe Biden’s administration, saying the current unemployment benefits are keeping potential meatpacking workers from seeking employment.

“And even now, with our country well on its way to full reopening, meatpackers are still not back to full capacity – at least in part, it seems, because the enhanced unemployment benefits the Biden administration is providing are not encouraging workers to come back to work,” Thune said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

One bite from this tick could ruin red meat for the rest of your life

  • A single bite from a lone star tick could cause hives, shortness of breath, or even death.
  • It’s not something they were born with, it’s something their body was taught to reject, by an uninvited little wilderness hitchhiker.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Imagine that you’re a red-blooded carnivore. You love burgers, steak, pork chops, bacon. But one day, out of nowhere, red meat starts to make you physically sick to the stomach. It sounds like science fiction, but it’s real, and it’s spreading.

It’s spreading to people like Amy.

Amy Pearl: My name is Amy Pearl, and I’m a producer for WNYC.

She has what is called a mammalian meat allergy.

Amy Pearl: I have a tendency to not mention it at restaurants, because I feel like if you say to a server, I’m allergic to meat, they’re gonna be like, I’m spitting in your food.

Any meat that came from a cow, a pig, or a lamb, will make Amy sick. Very, very sick.

Amy Pearl: Like I just had hives on my hands and my feet, and like all over my torso. I was nauseous, and I felt like I was fainting, I felt like the world was ending, I felt like I was gonna pass out and I couldn’t really breathe.

Thousands of Americans are suffering like Amy, but until 2009, this sort of allergy went undiagnosed.

Amy Pearl: I think I made an appointment with my regular physician, but he immediately was like, there’s no such thing as a meat allergy, has to be something else.

That changed with the cancer drug, Cetuximab. In a clinical trial, one in four patients developed severe allergic reactions to the drug. Some even died.

Naturally, Cetuximab was investigated. University of Virginia’s allergy department focused on one specific part of the drug. The key ingredient in Cetuximab is a specific carbohydrate that all non-primate mammals carry in their cell walls and tissues, Galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose, or, if you’re pressed for time, alpha-gal.

Dogs have it, cats have it, and the mice cells involved in the production of Cetuximab have alpha-gal. The team discovered that those who had reactions were from only certain areas of the US, the southeast. The locations of the cases aligned almost perfectly with the range of a specific type of tick, the lone star tick.

Dr. Scott Commins is an allergist, and was working with the University at the time.

Scott Commins: Over 90 to 93% of our patients that developed allergic reactions to red meat and test positive by blood test will have a history of tick bites.

Amy Pearl: The thing I Googled was “sudden meat allergy.” I found an article that said there was some man in Florida, had gone into anaphylactic shock from eating meat after a tick bite. And I was like, “I had a tick bite!” I mean, I often have a tick bite. I’d just taken a tick off me.

One of the leading researchers, Dr. Thomas Platts-Mills, went so far to use himself in an unofficial experiment, taking a hike through a nest of larval ticks. It earned him a nice case of red meat allergy.

There’s still a lot we don’t know about how this meat allergy works, but here is the leading theory. Ticks don’t have alpha-gal naturally, but they could be carrying it if they fed off a mammal, like a deer or a dog. If a tick then bites you, it trades some of your delicious blood for its saliva, which is a cocktail of nasty things. An enzyme in that saliva tells your body that there’s a variety of dangerous threats, and your immune system bans everything in that saliva from entering the body, including alpha-gal, which is also in every burger, steak, and bacon strip. So the next time you eat one of those, your body treats the carbohydrate like an intruder, and hits the panic button.

This is happening in the bodies of an estimated 5,000 Americans. What’s worse is that the range of the lone star tick is growing.

Scott: Their range is spreading into the Ohio River Valley and now up into Minnesota. We also know places where this alpha-gal red meat allergy exists, but they don’t have lone star ticks at all. And this would be southern Sweden, for example, there’s parts of Europe, Australia, and now even South Africa. So clearly other tick species can do this as well.

University of Virginia’s researchers have also linked the alpha-gal allergies with a higher risk of heart disease.

Scott Commins: This allergy seems as though it will often go away over time, but the problem has been that any additional tick bites seem to cause the allergy to return. And these are often patients who like to be outside.

Amy Pearl: I know that my numbers have gone down, because I’ve been retested a couple of times, but they’re still 10, 20 times what they should be.

Dr. Commins continues to work towards an immediate cure to mammalian meat allergy. In the meantime, the number of cases are rising.

Scott Commins: So what we’ve been trying to do is work on a vaccine related to tick saliva, in hopes that we can prevent the allergic response from continuing, or recurring, with additional tick bites.

If you’ve been bitten by ticks recently, be sure to get tested. If you haven’t, learn how to explore the woods safely.

Scott Commins: you may want to consider pre-treating your skin or clothing with DEET or Permethrin, respectively.

Amy Pearl: People are so freaked out about ticks, it’s not that bad. They’re much easier to see than you think.

Learn how to do a tick check after spending time in the wilderness. And if you value a juicy steak over a walk in nature, then maybe stay out of the woods.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in August 2018.

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