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Casual-dining pioneer Norman Brinker dies


New York Norman Brinker, a pioneer in casual dining, died Tuesday in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Brinker, the chairman emeritus of Brinker International Inc., was 78. He died of pneumonia complications.

Brinker founded Steak & Ale in 1966. The chain, which helped pioneer the concept of casual dining and introduced such innovations as a salad bar, went public in 1971.

In 1976, Steak & Ale merged with The Pillsbury Co., and Brinker became an EVP and board member of Pillsbury.

In 1982, Brinker was named president of the Pillsbury Restaurant Group, overseeing Burger King, Steak & Ale, Bennigan's and Poppin Fresh restaurants.

He left Pillsbury in 1983 to invest in the then 28-unit Chili's Inc., The name was changed to Brinker International Inc. in 1991, and the company now has more than 1,700 restaurants under the banners of Chili's, On The Border Mexican Grill & Cantina and Maggiano's Little Italy brands.

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