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Remembering Mike Nahkunst

Founding Chili's Restaurants executive and former Cheesecake Factory COO dies at age 63.

Mike Nahkunst, one of the original seven employees that started Chili's in the mid 1970s, died on May 23. He was 63 years old.

Nahkunst got his start in the restaurant industry with Pelican's Wharf in Austin and eventually became one of the first employees of Chili's Restaurants in Dallas, which later grew into Brinker International. He spent more than 17 years with Brinker International as senior vice president. After departing Brinker, Nahkunst became chief operating officer for The Cheesecake Factory, and later accepted the position of chief operating officer of BJ's Restaurants.

In 2011, Nahkunst became CEO of Kona Grill based in Scottsdale, Ariz. He eventually returned to Austin to co-found Austin Restaurant Partners. "Mike was a hard working restaurateur, executive and mentor to many. He loved life with the Aloha spirit," says Michael L. Atkinson, Nahkunst's friend and business partner at Austin Restaurant Partners. "Mike was a true leader and restaurant business visionary."

Additional information is available at Donations in Nahkunst's memory can be made to Keep Austin Fed.