The Secret's in the Recipe

Ted's Montana Grill is and always has been the real deal. From its inception in 2002, the restaurant set out to take its guests back to a simpler time by welcoming them in the door as friends, making them feel right at home, charming them with good service and wowing them with delicious, homemade meals. This year marks the 10th anniversary of Ted's Montana Grill, and to this day, the restaurant company remains one of the most distinctive restaurant brands in the U.S.

So what makes Ted's so unique? The answer is in its recipe, from the background and experiences of its exceptional leadership to its continuous commitment to serve good food, guests, local communities and the environment.

The Vision

Ted's two main ingredients, co-founders Ted Turner (chairman) and George McKerrow (CEO) are the foundation of the recipe. They're the perfect complement to one another and their stories help explain the real vision behind Ted's Montana Grill.

While traveling together on business through the Great West in 2001, Turner and McKerrow brainstormed the idea behind Ted's Montana Grill. The concept was simple, met personal goals for both entrepreneurs and best of all, had never been done before. Says McKerrow, "It seems like yesterday that Ted and I literally jotted our dream of a new restaurant down on a napkin during a trip to Montana. We wanted to create a restaurant that was inspired by the Great West, was truly different and actually served a purpose." What they wrote on that small napkin evolved into a restaurant company that would specialize in bison. In an effort to protect this great American species from what ultimately could have been extinction and rebuild the herds, Ted's focused on educating customers about bison's flavor as well as its nutritional and environmental value. This component of the restaurant's recipe can be credited to Turner, an acclaimed environmentalist and philanthropist who has worked tirelessly to grow and sustain the U.S. bison population. In fact, Turner today owns 55,000 bison and raises them on his ranches. And bison is one of the most popular specialty meats on America's Table today.

Turner and McKerrow, a 40-year veteran of the restaurant industry, also wanted Ted's Montana Grill to deliver an experience unlike any other American grill. They longed for an eatery that embodied the legend of the Old West - where genuine hospitality and good food and kind service were simply the way things were done. They wanted Ted's Montana Grill to be an inimitable restaurant that provided a welcoming atmosphere and evoked a sense of nostalgia for a better way of life where friends and family gathered at the table to share a meal and conversation. To this day, Ted's restaurants are known for their warmth, their freshly made classic American dishes, and of course, their bison specialties.

Service and Spirit

Service of every kind is at the heart of Ted's Montana Grill. From serving delicious food that's cooked to order, to serving guests, to serving local communities and even Mother Nature - service is the heart of the recipe that adds just the right flavor to every single bite and keeps people coming back for more.

Every restaurant serves food, but not every restaurant today is committed to serving fresh food, made-from-scratch and always prepared to order. Nothing is pre-anything at Ted's. There are no pre-made salads or appetizers, entrees, no pre-packaged fries, potato chips or onion rings. In fact, you can't even find a microwave at any Ted's restaurant because there is simply no need for one. From the moment guests walk in the front door at Ted's, they notice something different - a kind, friendly environment that serves a sense of belonging. This warmth is the true character of Ted's Montana Grill, a trait they describe as the "Big Sky Spirit," and it's offered to every friend who stops by to dine. Even the décor and early 20th century architecture of Ted's, which features hickory floors, mahogany paneling, metal crown moldings and beautiful marble, and beautiful replicas of great American West paintings, is inviting and makes guests feel like they're being beckoned by an old Western saloon where they'll get good eats and likely know a few people by name.

The family at Ted's Montana Grill is another characteristic. Ted's team members embody the Big Sky Spirit and serve their local communities to help people in need. There are 44 Ted's Montana Grill restaurants around the country today and all of them work to support local charities, sponsor local youth sports teams and organizations, and do their part to be good citizens and stewards of their communities. In fact, this year, to commemorate its 10th anniversary, Ted's Montana Grill has pledged to raise $150,000 for Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry™, a cause the company has supported for the last three years to help end childhood hunger in America.

The Final 'Straw'

Ted's Montana Grill was one of the first restaurant companies in America to also pledge to do right by the environment. The company, which has been widely recognized in the restaurant industry for its green practices, is committed to operate in an environmentally responsible manner. All restaurants are built to conserve energy. They use energy-efficient light bulbs, recycled and recyclable paper table covers and menus, to-go ware made from corn starch, and biodegradable take-away containers. Used grease is taken away to make biodiesel fuel in many restaurants. There's also a companywide recycling program and some restaurants compost where possible. And the Turner Enterprises and Ted's Montana Grill headquarters in downtown Atlanta are powered by solar energy. Early on, Turner and McKerrow also decided that they would avoid using plastic wherever possible. One example? The paper straw -a product that had not been manufactured in this country since the 1970s. In 2002, McKerrow found the original manufacturer and brought back the paper straw. Today, that little product has saved our landfills from literally tons of plastic straws and is being used by other food companies around the world, even cruise lines. It's efforts like these that prove that Ted's Montana Grill is a restaurant dedicated to doing things differently, and better.

"I'm an environmentalist and have been for my whole life, since I was a little boy. It just comes very natural to me to try to conserve and encourage people to be as efficient as they can possibly be. It makes good business sense and it's the right thing to do for the planet and the people on it," Turner adds.

The Key Ingredients

The Great American West. Saving the bison. The very best food cooked fresh to order. Sincere, warm hospitality. Protecting Mother Nature. And authenticity always. These are the key ingredients that make up Ted's Montana Grill. As McKerrow reflects back over the last 10 years, he's satisfied with the company's roots, but hopes to expand and make an even bigger impact in the future. "I hope we continue to be a really fun, viable, exciting company. And I hope we continue to contribute not only to the health and well-being of the communities we operate in and our guests, but that we remain a voice in the industry, a company known for doing good things. I want us to keep creating great jobs for people and opportunities. Our big dream would be to go international, to share a little bit of what we do with the rest of the world."