Written By David Wyble
Stuart Anderson is a man of many talents. Creating a restaurant empire that has been voted America’s No. 1 chain restaurant five times just happens to be one of them.
Brother Anderson was one of three children born to Susan and Dr. Roger Anderson, a world-renowned orthopedic surgeon. Born in Tacoma, Washington, his family moved to Seattle when he was one. There he grew up during the Depression and attended several different schools.
“Maybe I had a little too much fun during my childhood,” Brother Anderson said. “I attended three high schools and my folks never moved. That’s gotta tell you something. I was the kind of kid my mother told me not to play with.”
Growing up, Stuart always admired his father. “It wasn’t simply that he was my father,” Anderson said. “He was a talented orthopedic surgeon and was known worldwide as one of the best in his field. He was very dedicated and great at what he did, and this is why he was so admirable.” With a role model like this in young Anderson’s life, it is no wonder he developed such a strong work ethic.
When it came time to start looking for colleges, Anderson moved out East where he enrolled at Dartmouth. Just five months into his freshman year, Pearl Harbor was bombed and the United States was hurled into the Second World War. Wanting to fulfill his duty as an American citizen, he moved back West and enrolled at the University of Southern California where he joined the military and spent the next 12 months driving a tank in Patton’s Army. After completing his term, Anderson enrolled in a college much closer to home at the University of Washington. It was here where Anderson was first introduced to Phi Delta Theta.
“Phi Delta Theta had an outstanding reputation on campus,” Anderson recalls. “Honestly, it wasn’t a tough decision for me. When looking at fraternities at the University, Phi Delta Theta was the easy answer because it was simply the best. I had no intention of joining anything other than the best.” Since Anderson had spent time at other schools and completed a tour in the military, he was older than most members at Washington Alpha when he joined. “My older age didn’t keep me from getting involved in the chapter. Even today I still have great friends I keep in contact with.” Being a member of Phi Delta Theta proved to be a great experience for Anderson and taught him many life lessons. “Because I was older and came from a different background than most of my brothers, I quickly learned how to adapt to my surroundings and get along with people younger than myself and from a different upbringing. This trait has stuck with me through the years and has really helped me out as an entrepreneur and businessman.”
After graduating from the University of Washington in 1946, Anderson, with his new wife, moved to Fort Dodge, Iowa to help his grandfather run a medical office building. After a few years of this, he returned to Washington where he opened his first hotel in a “rough and tumble” neighborhood in downtown Seattle. It wasn’t until he opened a small café in the hotel that he knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. “When I opened that café in the hotel I was immediately hooked! I enjoyed the people, the eating and the fun. It’s so active and there is something new and different to see and experience every day.”
It didn’t take long for the young and ambitious Anderson to take this new restaurant business to the next level. Recalling his childhood role model, you might say such ambition is in his blood. Either way, Stuart Anderson had the recipe for success, and apparently some great steaks in the kitchen. During his tenure, he opened 140 Stuart Anderson Black Angus Cattle Company Restaurants nationwide employing more than 10,000 people. At its peak in the mid-eighties, the chain grossed over 260 million. It was also named America’s No. 1 chain restaurant by Restaurants and Institutions magazine three out of the four times just before he retired from the chain.
Anderson attributes this success to several things. “I have had the pleasure of meeting and getting to work with some great people. These relationships I have made with friends, family, employees and especially customers, have really helped me grow as a person. I’m happy to say that many of these relationships and experiences began during my time with Phi Delta Theta.”
Now, many years later (Mr. Anderson would not reveal his current age, but did offer this information: “I was born the same day King Tut’s tomb was discovered. You’ll have to look it up!”) he is still working alongside his wife four nights a week at Stuart’s in Rancho Mirage, a restaurant they opened recently in the Palm Springs, California area. “My interest in the business and just being around the people is what keeps me going every day. My wife and I love it. I’m still working as hard as when I started. It’s in my blood to never slow down.”
He has truly led a remarkable life, but when asked if he has any advice to offer, he likes to keep it simple. “Enjoy your life. Don’t let any problems you have get in your way. Always enjoy life. It is too fascinating to not look at the positive side. There are always going to be challenges and problems we have to face, but don’t take it too seriously or you’ll never survive.” Stuart Anderson is a man of many talents. To many he is an innovative entrepreneur, restaurateur and rancher. To others he is a veteran, a friend, a family man and an employer. He is an author as well as the face of many Black Angus Steakhouse commercials and presently for low-cost housing in the Seattle area. He changed the way restaurants and ranches operate and created one of the most successful restaurants in America. Any way you look at him, we are proud to call him a Phi.