“While trends come and go, good food at a reasonable price is never out of style.”
Grady T. Allred, Sr., Founder of K&W
With a one-third interest in the business, Grady T. Allred, Sr., started to work at The Carolinian Coffee Shop, in downtown Winston-Salem, on Thanksgiving Day, 1935.
After serving breakfast and lunch on that first day, Allred curiously checked the cash register to discover only $42 had been taken in. The Depression still had its grip on the city and business was slow. After six months without a paycheck, Allred finally got his first big break. An annual high school basketball tournament, sponsored by the local newspaper, brought more than 150 teams to the city over a three-week period. Tournament organizer, Frank Spencer, gave the contract to feed all the participants to Allred. Consequently, Allred received his first paycheck.
Around 1937, the original investors (T.K. Knight and his brothers-in-law, Thomas, Kenneth and William Wilson) decided to change the coffee shop’s name. Using their initials, they created the name K&W Restaurant. As business began to increase, so did Allred’s shares in the business. In1941, Allred became K&W’s sole owner after acquiring the last remaining share from Thomas Wilson.
Eventually, the cafeteria style service became so popular, Allred converted his High Point and Winston-Salem locations entirely to cafeterias.It wasn’t long before Allred involved his family in the new acquisition. His wife, Vivian, worked as a cashier and Allred’s brothers, Ted and Coy, joined the business as managers. Soon, a second K&W location opened in nearby High Point. Both restaurants flourished until December of 1951, when a fire forced the downtown Winston-Salem location to close for several months. After extensive repairs and restoration, the restaurant reopened in 1952 with a slight twist - it was now a restaurant/cafeteria combination. Eventually, the cafeteria style service became so popular, Allred converted his High Point and Winston-Salem locations entirely to cafeterias. Hence, K&W Cafeteria was born.
K&W occupied the original Cherry Street (Winston-Salem) location until an urban renewal project forced it to relocate to the outskirts of the downtown area in March, 1972. Many loyal patrons considered the closing of this landmark a “culinary crisis.” Allred encouraged his patrons to follow him to the new location on Coliseum Drive and they did. Over the next few years, wherever he opened a cafeteria, his reputation for “good food at good prices” followed him.
On August 16, 1983, Grady T. Allred, Sr., passed away at the age of 79 after working as usual at the company’s corporate office. This well-respected restaurateur had expanded his business from one small coffee shop to 16 cafeterias throughout the Carolinas and Virginia. K&W Cafeterias continued with the commitment of his children, Grady, Jr. Gary, Donnie and Shirley.
Donald C. Allred, brother of Gary Allred, currently serves as Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer. Grady Sr.’s Grandson, Dax Allred, is President and Todd Smith (married to Gary Allred’s daughter, Natalie) serves as Executive Vice-President. Nearly every member of the Allred family continues to be involved in the operations of K&W Cafeterias. The strong family foundation established by Grady Allred, Sr. still lives in the hearts of his descendants. Their passion for K&W, their love of one another, and the livelihood of the over 2,400 individuals that they employ is a testament to the foresight and vision of Grady Sr.
K&W Cafeterias is headquartered in Winston-Salem, N.C., and now has 33 locations: 23 in North Carolina, 5 in South Carolina, 4 in Virginia, and 1 in West Virginia.