Texas Roadhouse CEO died by suicide amid ‘unbearable’ post-COVID symptoms, family says

The family of Texas Roadhouse CEO Kent Taylor says he died by suicide while experiencing “unbearable” symptoms related to COVID-19, media outlets report.

Texas Roadhouse announced the death of Taylor, who founded the Kentucky-based restaurant chain in 1993, on Thursday.

Taylor’s family said he killed himself after experiencing ongoing symptoms, including “severe tinnitus” after he was infected with COVID-19, WLKY reported.

Tinnitus is often described as ringing in the ear and usually caused by underlying conditions, including age-related hearing loss, according to Mayo Clinic. A study published in November found COVID-19 worsened the condition.

“Kent battled and fought hard like the former track champion that he was, but the suffering that greatly intensified in recent days became unbearable,” Taylor’s family said in a statement to the Louisville Courier Journal.

Taylor will be remembered for giving away his entire compensation package to support frontline employees, the company said.

“This selfless act was no surprise to anyone who knew Kent and his strong belief in servant leadership,” Greg Moore, Lead Director, said in the company’s statement. “He was without a doubt, a people-first leader. His entrepreneurial spirit will live on in the company he built, the projects he supported and the lives he touched.”

The family says Taylor created the idea for Texas Roadhouse on a cocktail napkin, growing the business to over 600 locations in 49 states and 11 countries, WLKY reported.

“We are saddened by the decision Kent felt he needed to make and want to emphasize more than ever the importance of reaching out for help if you or someone you love is suffering,” the family said in the statement to WLKY.

The COVID-19 study found about 40% of people with symptoms of the disease also experienced a worsening of tinnitus.

“The findings of this study highlight the complexities associated with experiencing tinnitus and how both internal factors, such as increased anxiety and feelings of loneliness, and external factors, such as changes to daily routines, can have a significant effect on the condition,” Eldre Beukes, the lead author of the study, said in a news release from November.

On Friday, Texas Roadhouse announced President Jerry Morgan will be named CEO of the company headquartered in Louisville.

“While you never expect the loss of such a visionary as Kent, our succession plan, which Kent led, gives us great confidence,” Moore said in a statement. “Jerry’s operational background and 20-plus years of Texas Roadhouse experience will be key in helping the company and Roadies move forward after such a tragic loss.”