Born: Nov. 27, 1904 in Randolph County, N.C.
Died: Aug. 16, 1983 in Winston-Salem.
Known for: Transforming his restaurant vision into today’s popular K&W Cafeterias chain.
Grady Allred Sr. worked for years in restaurants before buying into an eatery on Cherry Street in Winston-Salem. Over the next four decades, Allred, his wife, Vivian, his siblings, and his children built K&W Restaurants and Cafeterias into a strong chain of restaurants — and a company that became part of the fabric of the communities it served.
The 11th of 13 children born to farmers Dennis Harris Allred and Cynthia Ward, Grady lived most of his youth in Greensboro with his siblings and mother. Allred’s first recorded job was selling newspapers but he’d later follow in the footsteps of his older brother, Coy, to work in a restaurant.
In 1935, the year his mother died, Allred became interested in the Carolinian Coffee Shop in Winston-Salem, which was owned by three brothers and their brother-in-law. He bought a one-third share in the business and started work to make it profitable, bringing in his own experienced brother to help with the new plans. Eventually, he landed a contract to feed 150 teams visiting for a basketball tournament in 1936. At that time, they changed the name to K&W Restaurant, the initials of the original family of owners (Knight and Wilson), but by 1941, Allred was the sole owner.
The business grew slowly, with their third location opening in 1960, and transitioned to cafeteria-style service, which became popular after WWII. By 1971 there were nine locations, many with a private banquet room.
The company’s values prioritized family, both in operations and in customer service. Civic organizations such as the Lions Club International, various Civinette clubs, and the American Association of University Women, held regular meetings at the cafeterias; K&Ws became regular venues for birthday parties, wedding receptions, anniversary dinners, and high school sports banquets. In addition, the company supported local food banks and other charities and, in 1963, Allred began the process of desegregating his businesses ahead of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which would require such actions.
Grady Thomas Allred Sr. built a company that today has locations in four states and has defied the odds, transitioning successfully to the third generation — something fewer than 12 percent of family-run businesses manage in the U.S.
And the corporate website still uses a quote from Allred Sr. in its banner: “While trends come and go, good food at a reasonable price is never out of style.”