Successful restaurateur addresses Bedford County business community

By | August 19, 2016

BEDFORD, PA — “Entrepreneurship is about how you want to live your life,” said George W. McKerrow,
Jr., Co-founder and CEO, Ted’s Montana Grill. “It’s the great American spirit. Entrepreneurship is not a
job, it’s who you are as a person.”

McKerrow was in Bedford to address the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Bedford County Development
Association. The meeting recently took place at Bedford Springs Omni Resort and Spa.

Encouraging the creation of business start-ups and entrepreneurs has been a topic of much discussion
recently. In the last 12 months a number of major initiatives have been launched throughout the region.
BCDA is working hard to encourage entrepreneurs to create businesses in Bedford County and the
surrounding region.

McKerrow’s talk detailed the narrative journey he took in his career, including the failures. Starting as a
busboy as a young teen, McKerrow developed a fondness for the restaurant and hospitality industry.
He graduated from Ohio State and convinced himself he’d go to law school “next year,” following a yearlong
sabbatical. He never made it to law school.

He soon found himself employed by Victoria Station Restaurants. “I asked myself if I really wanted to be
working for someone else,” McKerrow explained. He chose life as a self-employed entrepreneur.

“An entrepreneur is a person who will work 100 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours for someone
else,” he said, with great conviction. “Working for someone else didn’t give me satisfaction.”

Noting that he had a high tolerance for failure, McKerrow quit his job and attempted to own and
operate a successful restaurant business. His first venture was a flop.

To be a true entrepreneur, failure is not a reason to quit, it’s simply a lesson to be learned, McKerrow
said.

“Keep the dream in your pocket and find another way. Refocus and re-energize”, he said. One lesson he
quickly learned was the need for a plan. “You have to have a plan. Absent a plan, there can’t be success.
Have an accurate and well thought-out, serious business plan.”

Success began to take shape. In 1981, McKerrow started LongHorn Steakhouse in Atlanta. The casual
dining concept became popular and LongHorn grew into a national chain which evolved into RARE
Hospitality. McKerrow took RARE public in the 1990s and soon experienced life on Wall Street where
“you were only as good as your quarterly earnings”. Wall Street wanted predictability yet the restaurant
industry is unpredictable. “I told them that restaurants are the only industry that orders, receives,
manufactures, sells, produces and delivers a product all in one day,” McKerrow noted.

At the turn of the century, McKerrow and his wife hiked Mt. Kilimanjaro. Climbing the mountain helped
him to decide what he wanted to do next. Did he want to continue in a public company or be a part of a
small entrepreneurial business? “I realized I was missing something in my inner spirit. What really
made me happy was my entrepreneurial spirit.” He came home and resigned as Chair of RARE
Hospitality “to see if I could catch lightening in a jar a second time.”

He knew that Ted Turner — well-known entrepreneur and media mogul — was a strong advocate for
Bison in North America. “He wanted to save the Bison herd, help the Bison ranching business and create
a self-sustaining restaurant industry,” said McKerrow.

He pitched an idea for a Bison restaurant to Turner. “He loved the idea. We shook hands and created
the restaurant.”

Although they grew Ted’s Montana Grill too quickly, the partnership has thrived. “We created 56
restaurants in 72 months in 19 states”, McKerrow stated. “We went too fast.” But the setbacks only
meant they needed to rethink the business. They did, and now operate 46 restaurants in 16 states,
taking 56,000 Bison to market every year.

“Our business is very environmentally conscious,” McKerrow noted. “Chasing the almighty dollar is not
as important as living your core values. You have to do a moral inventory.” He and Turner believe in
nourishing the Great American West.

As for the notion of working together, he stated, “There is an “I” in team. You have to find out where
you fit into the team. There’s no Lone Ranger out there.”

Today, Ted’s Montana Grill serves more Bison than any restaurant in the world.

As an entrepreneur, McKerrow has learned many lessons. However, one lesson stands out above all
others. “I have failed more times than I’ve succeeded,” he said. “But I don’t give up and I never quit.”

Please click here to see the video –>  BCDA Annual Mtg. Speaker: George McKerrow, Jr.

George McKerrow, Jr., Co-Founder & CEO of Ted’s Montana Grill

George McKerrow, Jr., Co-Founder & CEO of Ted’s Montana Grill

For more information, contact:
Bette Slayton, President
Bedford County Development Association
Phone: 814.623.4816
Email: slayton@bcda.org