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Norman Brinker, the Texas-based entrepreneur and former chairman of Brinker International who took a single Steak & Ale restaurant and turned it into a restaurant empire with banners such as Bennigan’s, and Chili’s, died yesterday at age 78.

Brinker International also owns Maggiano's Little Italy, Romano's Macaroni Grill and On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina – a total of 1,700 restaurants in 27 countries.

In its obituary, the Washington Post writes that Brinker “was known not only for emphasizing friendly customer service, but also for quick calibrations in response to changing customer tastes. Chili's, for example, was one of the first chains to respond to consumer concerns about health and nutrition by offering an array of chicken and fish items, in addition to its steak and burger staples. He also was a mentor to other restaurant entrepreneurs around the country, including the CEOs of Outback Steakhouse, Houston's and the Chuck E Cheese pizza chain.”

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