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April 21, 2023

Why restaurants?
A little by accident. I interned at Brinker International [an American multinational hospitality industry company] while I was in school and loved the culture and fun we had at work, so I stayed there for 20 years before moving on to other restaurant ventures. The restaurant business is all about bringing the joy of food to friends and family spending time together. Sometimes in the restaurant, sometimes at home with our food.  Either way, we help bring people together to have a good time.

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
Listen and learn. You don’t have to have all the answers!

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants?
I love all kinds of seafood and seafood restaurants – that’s my favourite type of food.

What motivates you?
Being a part of a team that working together does great things. I grew up playing sports and I find great satisfaction in the bond that comes from working together for a common goal.

What keeps you up at night?
Thinking! It doesn’t matter what the topic, good or bad, if my brain clicks on, then I might as well get going.

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
I have been fortunate to have several mentors and colleagues over the years and currently who collectively have influenced my approach in our business. While it is very difficult for me to say who had the most specific influence, I can definitely say that I would not be where I am right now without the influence and guidance of Doug Brooks, the former CEO of Brinker International.

Coffee or tea?
Coffee, black.

How do you let off steam?
I go fishing.

What’s your signature dish to cook at home?
I like to grill – strip steak cooked medium rare and covered in sautéed mushrooms.

Favourite holiday destination?
Sanibel Island in Florida with my wife.

What boxset are you currently watching?

What was your dream job growing up?
Major League Baseball pitcher – I’m a lefty, so I thought it was a natural fit!

What’s been your best business decision?
Working at Brinker International for the first 20 years of my career. I learned more and was given more opportunity during those 20 years working with some of the greatest leaders in the industry than I could have ever hoped for.

And the worst?
Every decision that I made to not do or say something that resulted in a bad outcome. Mistakes of action are opportunities; mistakes of inaction are lost opportunities.

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
Listen, ask questions, be curious, do your homework and tell people what you think.

If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
One thing? I would make pizza a doctor prescribed required weekly dining option!


Born in Dallas, Texas, Lee studied business at Baylor University in Waco, Texas and interned at Brinker International before working there full time after graduation. While at Brinker, he received his Master of Business Administration from the Southern Methodist University in Dallas. After Brinker, Lee went on to become CEO at Rockfish Seafood Grill, which operates sites across the US. After that he became CEO of 800° Degrees Pizza. Founded by chef and restaurateur Anthony Carron, 800° Degrees Pizza operates 35 sites worldwide in locations including the US, Japan and Singapore. The group recently made its debut in the UK​ with an opening at Gravity Wandsworth, with further UK openings are planned in the months ahead.

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