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In 1981, one man set out on a mission to bring legendary steak to the people of Atlanta, Georgia. And while his passion for grilling was great, business wasn't quite booming. Then, in 1982, a freak snowstorm hit the city, stranding motorists and driving them into the hospitable comforts of a joint called LongHorn Steaks Restaurant & Saloon. Tales of the expertly grilled steaks spread, and the legend of LongHorn was born.
By 1990, the restaurant had spread throughout the East, Midwest and Southwest United States and Puerto Rico. LongHorn Steaks Restaurant & Saloon became LongHorn Steakhouse in 1996 and, in 2007, Darden Restaurants, Inc. purchased the restaurant.
Today, LongHorn continues the mission of grilling up legendary steaks and fresh, never frozen, chicken and seafood, done right the LongHorn way.
You've got to stand for something. At LongHorn, we stand for integrity. We don't take shortcuts. The steak you order is cut by hand in our kitchen and grilled to your exact specifications. We take that same ca re with each and every dish that comes out of our kitchen.
Our servers, bartenders and managers rise to the same challenge as our chefs-to do things right the first time. That's the LongHorn Way. Sure, we're not the only place you can get a steak, but we're the place where you can get your steak-and everything that comes with it-done right.
From the time you walk into the restaurant, we're on a mission to make your meal one you'll remember. Because our servers take pride in what they do, many have had a long career with us. LongHorn offers competitive benefits and promotes from within. So, our happy employees pass that happiness on to you.
LongHorn Steakhouse is, understandably, first and foremost about the steak. We offer the widest variety of cuts and unique preparations around. We cut our ribeyes ourselves, in-house. And each and every LongHorn steak is expertly seasoned with our secret blend and cooked to perfection by a LongHorn GrillMaster.
When we say we take the time to do things right, we mean it. Because excellence takes time, we slow-roast our barbeque ribs for four hours until they're fall-off-the-bone tender. Our prime rib is hand-rubbed with our signature spices and slow-cooked for six hours. Each salad we serve is hand- chopped and prepared fresh. And our unlimited Honey Wheat bread is made fresh.
At LongHorn, we guarantee each guest a Cut Above experience. What's that mean exactly? It means you'll get show-stopping service and knife-worthy food made from fresh ingredients, boldly seasoned and perfectly grilled.
Don't believe us? Just come in and see for yourself. You'll be glad you did.
At LongHorn, we celebrate greatness with our Team Member of the Year Award that recognizes outstanding employees. Take a look at the best of the best from 2013.
Stephanie has been with LongHorn for 19 years! She's a favorite among regulars because she brings positivity and warmth to the restaurant every day. In her career, she's worked at two different LongHorn locations. Managers rely on her to give them the "Real Deal" - she's always going the extra mile to help the team.
A member of the culinary team, Darwin shares the LongHorn passion for legendary food - and it shows! He knows many regulars by name and what they order. For example, two weekly guests, Jack and Kelly, always order the Porterhouse for 2. Darwin is always looking for ways to help and provide his personal touch to make every LongHorn experience a great one.
Juan is LongHorn behind the bar. In the past 14 years, he has been on staff to train employees at 70 new restaurant openings. He takes immense pride in what he does - whether it's setting personal records or simply making guests smile. All of them are that much better because of Juan.
Commitment should be Pam's middle name. She brightens every room she walks into and brings unexpected personal toches to everything she does. Pam learns all of her regular's names and invites every guest back personally. But it doesn't end there - she's also committed to the community. She organized a canned food drive this past holiday season and collected over 500 pounds of food for local families.
For the past 27 years, Robbie has been an integral part of the LongHorn team. His is a true story of passion, determination and climbing the ladder one rung at a time.
Growing up, Robbie didn't eat out a lot - going out to dinner was a special event. As an adult, Robbie wanted to work in a restaurant and help make those special dining out occasions come to life for others.
Robbie loves steak. And 27 years ago, there weren't a lot of steakhouses to choose from. He started his career with LongHorn washing dishes and doing odd jobs in the kitchen. The fun team atmosphere encouraged Robbie to stick with LongHorn. So, whenever an opportunity presented itself, he seized it.
After studying culinary arts at the culinary Institute of America in New York and business at Georgia tech, Robbie now proudly serves as the Director of Culinary and Beverage Operations in Orlando. His work shapes the menu at LongHorn - his position allows him to develop and introduce throughout the year seasonally inspired cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages through LongHorn's quarterly Peak Season promotion. Those creations that perform well stick around and become features on the main menu.
His favorite dish at LongHorn is the New York Strip. This cut has slightly less marbling than a ribeye, however, it has the richest, most intense beef flavor and he loves pairing it with a great glass of Cabernet.
When he's not working, Robbie enjoys spending time with his family. His 11-year-old son is an avid baseball and hockey player while his 7-year-old daughter plays piano and dances ballet.
LongHorn is more than just a great steakhouse and restaurant. Each restaurant is a member of a unique and important community. In that neighborly spirit, LongHorn and the Darden family of restaurants belive in giving back to the community. After all, it's our community that makes us great in the first place.
Scroll over the below photographs to read our stories.
We'd love to toot our own horn, but there's no need to. See what your friends and neighbors have to say about what makes LongHorn legendary.
Our people makes us legendary. Team members,managers,guests-you're the reason why we're proud of what we do. Read stories from the herd, or contact us to tell your own tale.
After serving our country during and after 9/11, Tech Sgt. Swanson is grateful to return to his job at LongHorn Steakhouse, right where he left it. Read the full story
Air Force reservist David Kelly Swanson had enough to worry about during his deployment to Afghanistan without worrying if his job would still be available after he returned home.
Fortunately, while the 37-year-old Murray County, Ga., resident was doing his part to secure the future of the nation he chose to serve, his Cleveland employer was doing the same for im.
LongHorn Steakhouse manager Leeann Pulliam said her father served in the military, so it is not difficult for her to support the career Air Force reservist.
"It's a pleasure working with Kelly because he helps us get better," she said. "He integrates a piece of what we're so proud of here - employing and serving our country's veterans - so he really helps us with a piece that is really important."
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 protects civilian job rights and benefits for veterans and members of Reserve. The law clearly establishes that re-employment protection does not depend on the timing, frequency, duration, or the nature of an individual's service as long as basic eligibility criterion is met.
Some employers follow the letter of the law, but his employer follows both the letter and the spirit.
"They've always been there for me," he said. "Anytime I've needed anything, there has never been any doubt or question."
Tech Sgt. Swanson's job in the Air Force is air transportation, the logistics side getting personnel and equipment to where it needs to go.
"We do a lot of joint inspections with the Army and Marines, especially if they have troop movements. We team up with them and walk them through what they need to do to have stuff air ready," he said. "Another way you could put it is, I'm kind of like a UPS or FedEx guy."
Swanson completed boot camp and tech school at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. From there, he proceeded to Rhein-Main Air Base on the outskirts of Frankfurt, Germany. After three years, he extended a few months for a stateside assignment to Pope Air Force Base, N.C., because he was undecided on whether or not to reenlist. (Pope Air Force Base was transferred to the Army in February 2011 and redesignated it as Pope Air Field.)
"I got off of active duty in December 1999 and started in the reserves in January 2000 because I still wanted to serve my county. I still wanted to be part of the military, but maybe not full time and the reserves was the best way to do that," he said.
He remained at Pope Air Force Base until about 18 months ago when he transferred to Dobbins Air Reserve Base near Marietta, Ga., to be closer to home.
During his assignment in Germany, Swanson participated in Operation Joint Endeavor to quell the civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
"We were the major supporter in that out of Frankfurt. We sent the first supplies into Bosnia," he said.
In 1999, he deployed to Kosovo for two months during the Kosovo War, which lasted from February 1998 to June 1999.
Swanson was in the Air Force Reserves by Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists attacked New York City and Washington, D.C. He returned to Pope AFB as a reservist to help deploy the 82nd Airborne.
"We got them out and I think that was the beginning stages of Operation Enduring Freedom," he said. "That following year, I got activated for 15 months and that was about three months prior to the war starting in Iraq. At that time, we were already engaged in Afghanistan. We've been sending troops over there, especially out of Fort Bragg."
He deployed for four months in spring 2003 to Kandahar, Afghanistan, where most of the danger came in the form of rocket fire from a mountain range that stood between the airfield and the city.
"Kandahar was the training ground for the Taliban, so it was sacred and holy ground to them, and to me, those guys are somewhat ruthless. They don't hesitate and you can tell Americans are not popular in that region," he said.
After demobilization in 2003, it would be seven years until his next deployment.
"In 2010, we were in the early stages of shutting down Iraq," he said. "Myself and about 12 others deployed to a location in northern Iraq to help with some of the base closures. We were pushing to get a lot of these places shut down and get troops and cargo out of the country by the September deadline imposed by President Obama. We went from that location to another location in Iraq and from there, they forward deployed us back to Afghanistan to help out with the surge there."
He returned Aug. 27 from his latest deployment, a six-month tour in Kuwait.
Swanson said seeing other countries gave him a better appreciation for serving in the armed forces and for being an American.
"When you're 8,000 miles away from home, you start missing all the little things we take for granted. You start to appreciate things so much more, especially when you see how some of these other countries are," he said.
Swanson's military service began shortly after he graduated from Murray County High School in 1994. He worked in fast food for about a year and then joined the Air Force at the age of 19. He wanted to join one of the military services because his father and uncles have all been members of the armed forces in their lives. His father was an equipment operator in the Navy Seabees; one uncle was in the Air Force; another uncle was in the Army and one was in the Marines.
"We've all spent our time serving," he said.
Swanson left active duty service in 2000 to enter restaurant management at McDonald's Corporation. In 2006, he shifted to LongHorn Steakhouse after a friend convinced him to make the move.
"I had a good friend. He and I spent many years at McDonald's. He came onboard with LongHorn and talked to me about it and helped me my get my foot in the door," he said.
In addition to service to his country, Swanson serves his community and other veterans as one of 11 members of a veterans committee in Chatsworth who took it upon themselves to design, raise funds and build a $300,000 veterans memorial park.
Brad Cowan led the Thanksgiving project as acting chairman of the North Fulton Community Charities. Read the full story
Employees from the LongHorn Steakhouse in Roswell and Sandy Springs helped organize non-perishable food donations last weekend.
Last Saturday, employees of the Sandy Springs and Roswell LongHorn Steakhouse restaurants helped organize non-perishable food donations that were distributed to more than 900 local families.
Brad Cowan, Managing Partner of the Sandy Springs location, led the restaurants' Thanksgiving community involvement project as the acting chairman of North Fulton Community Charities.
Cowan said over the last few years Sandy Springs, Roswell and East Cobb locations have partnered to donate 77,000 pounds of food donations to the charity.
On Saturday his team organized organized the at least 10,000 canned and dry goods, he said, before another group bagged them for the families.
"Giving back is a big part of our business here," Cowan said. "It also puts a sense of pride into our team members. It's not just a job."
Business Weekly interviews Michael Carter, managing partner, about what it's like to work with LongHorn. Read the full story
The restaurant business is brutally competitive, and profit margins typically run from 2 percent to 3 percent. A national chain has the brand recognition and deep corporate pockets to enter a new market and build a customer base. That's Michael Carter's job. Carter, 43, came to Berks County in February to open the Wyomissing location after four years running the LongHorn restaurant next to Park City in Lancaster. LongHorn is part of Darden Restaurants, which also operates Red Lobster and Olive Garden. Carter sat down recently to talk about how the new operation is faring.
Business Weekly: We were just chatting a little bit ago, and you said you've been with LongHorn for 11 years but you're fairly new to Berks County. What brought you here?
Michael Carter: Berks County was a new opportunity to come into this area as a new restaurant and also a new manager.
BW: How are things going?
Carter: Very good. We're still breaking into the Berks County area, but our guests seem to be very receptive. We seem to be enjoying ourselves here.
BW: What's the main competition nationally and locally?
Carter: Locally, right now we do have the Outback Steakhouse and we also have Texas Roadhouses that we want to compete with. Locally, we do have some of the smaller restaurants that are still here and established. (A place like) Austin's Steakhouse is one of our competitors.
BW: How did you get into the restaurant business?
Carter: I went to school for computer science, and I stuck with the restaurant business since I was out of high school, working in restaurants, getting to know people. I found it was more of a way to meet more people in the area.
BW: We emailed a little bit before this morning, and I asked if you have a favorite piece of managing advice. Talk about your answer to that.
Carter: The answer to that was, what gets measured gets done. I think that's a good way of looking at and training your employees to say, hey, this is what we're looking to do, this is how we grow, this is the area of the restaurant that we would like to focus on to improve on.
BW: Do you have some specifics about things here that you measure as a way to track performance and to identify areas for improvement or growth?
Carter: We usually have our guest customer service surveys that come back to us with our customers giving us realistic expectations of what they would like in good service, (things like) being more attentive to the client to make sure you can get those refills in a timely fashion. So we rely a lot on our guest feedback.
BW: How do you encourage customers to take the time to fill out the survey?
Carter: Just by simple conversations at the table: "Thank you very much for coming in. Your feedback is very important to us." And there's also a possibility to win a prize if you do fill out these surveys.
BW: LongHorn is a franchise owned by Darden. Tell me a little bit about how the franchise operation works. Do you have an ownership stake in this?
Carter: It's more of a corporate restaurant setting. As a managing partner or a general manager, you get time to take over the restaurant as a person who is going to be represented. So the stakes of ownership is making sure we do a good job, making sure that we're financially successful and making sure that we build a loyal guest.
BW: So it's not like a Subway or a McDonald's, where an individual owns a restaurant or multiple restaurants in an area?
Carter: Not at all.
BW: Do you have a long-term plan or goal for the restaurant? Is there a benchmark that you would like to see the restaurant hit?
Carter: I would like to see LongHorn Steakhouse grow in this area and to make an impact on the community. We would like to be here for a very long time. I mean, this isn't a five-year deal or a 10-year deal. This is more like a 30-year deal. We would like to grow with the area. I know we're new, but we want our guest to come back in here and be loyal to our guest.
Headquarters: Parent company Darden Restaurants Inc. has corporate headquarters in Orlando, Fla; local restaurant is in Wyomissing.
Company annual revenue, 2012: Darden Restaurants owns and operates more than 2,100 restaurants, including LongHorn Steakhouse, Red Lobster and Olive Garden, which combined generate more than $8.5 billion in annual sales.
Number of employees: 75 at the restaurant, more than 200,000 companywide.
Background: Spent 11 years as manager and four years as managing partner at LongHorn in Lancaster before coming to Berks County to open the new location in February.
Personal: Married to Stephanie Carter for 16 years, and they have three children: Anne Marie, 14; Jacob Lloyd, 10; and Kelly, 6
Hobbies: Fishing, golf and football
Favorite book about business or leadership: "Leadership Series" by Spencer Johnson
Best piece of management advice: "What gets measured gets done."
Best one or two sources of information that are must-reads to do your job:"One Minute Manager" and "Who Moved My Cheese" by Spencer Johnson.
Bill McConnell, an Army veteran who works as a court security guard, said the regulars at LongHorn are treated like family. Read the full story
Bill and Martha McConnell usually have dinner at the LongHorn Steakhouse on Lower Roswell Road about three times a week. Most often, they split the chicken. But on Fridays, they'll spring for a steak and sometimes a dessert.
"We live just right down the road," said Martha McConnell, who is retired from the federal court system. "We've gotten to know a lot of the waiters and servers over the years."
Bill McConnell, an Army veteran who works as a court security guard, said the regulars are like family. The couple has gotten to know many of the restaurant's staff so well that they visit them when they transfer to other LongHorn restaurants.
Each holiday, they bring the staff cakes and fudge treats. Martha McConnell even helped the restaurant's valet parking attendant pick out his fiance's engagement ring.
The McConnell family is just one example of the community of longtime LongHorn fans that have kept the longest-standing LongHorn restaurant going. They, along with several of their friends, will help the oldest LongHorn restaurant in the country celebrate 30 years of service this Saturday with a community breakfast event benefiting North Fulton Community Charities.
"We just get attached," Martha McConnell said. "I guess we're like the mother and father figures here and they just get really close to us. We just really feel kind of like they are our kids."
Bill McConnell said another plus is that the staff knows what he and his wife want to order.
"We don't even use menus," he said.
They made a new friend while dining Monday night, a young server they hadn't run into before. She hailed from Summerville, just like Martha McConnell. The couple has been making new friends since the restaurant was still a little white house and patrons were encouraged to throw their peanut shells on the floor. The former building's front door is framed at the entrance, welcoming both old and new customers inside to take in some of the tradition.
"The food was good and hasn't changed," Bill McConnell said. "So you gotta keep comin'."
Miguel Roman, an employee of 15 years, fires up the restaurant's grill each night and has kept his own mementos over the years.
"I have a menu in my house - the old menu - the food (used to) run like $12," Roman said. "Long time agohttp://media.longhornsteakhouse.com. like 20 years ago!"
Jamiee St. Denis, managing partner for the restaurant for the past two years, said it's people like Bill and Martha McConnell that make her love working at the restaurant.
"The great thing is that is not unusual here," she said of the restaurant's loyal customers. "A majority of our guests are repeat visitors, just great loyal guests. Being in the oldest LongHorn, that pride that you feel is amazing because the guests feel that pride, too."
St. Denis said this Saturday's breakfast is about celebrating the restaurant's success by giving back to the nonprofit they support year-round. Tickets, which are $5 and can be purchased at the restaurant, will provide a breakfast of steak and eggs. The event runs from 8 to 10:30 a.m. with a celebratory toast at 9 a.m.
"I'd like to see us give over $1,000 to the North Fulton Community Charities," St. Denis said.
Over the past few years, the east Cobb LongHorn has donated more than 23,000 pounds of fresh food to local nonprofits, part of the nationwide LongHorn program called Darden Harvest.
Last year, Darden restaurants throughout metro Atlanta came together to donate more than 2 million pounds of fresh food, including fish, meats, soups and vegetables - not leftovers, just unused, fresh food.