“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.
The Legacy Continues
Upon the death of K&W founder, Grady T. Allred, Sr., his eldest son, Grady, Jr. (son of Allred, Sr. and his first wife, Kathleen Rimer Allred) became president of K&W. Grady, Jr. became involved with K&W Cafeterias, Inc., prior to the first restaurant being converted to a cafeteria and assisted his father with the opening of 15 additional cafeterias. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Grady, Jr. retired as president in 1984.
Shortly after Grady, Jr.’s retirement, Gary Thomas Allred became the company’s president. The oldest child of Allred, Sr., and second wife, Vivian Coffey Allred, Gary was destined to follow in his father’s footsteps. When K&W’s second Winston-Salem location opened in Parkway Plaza Shopping Center in 1961, fifteen year old Gary was there, working in the stockroom. In 1972, he received a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Wake Forest University. From the time he became president until his unexpected death in September, 2004, Gary led K&W through tremendous growth, opening 18 additional cafeterias. He is also credited with implementing many new programs at K&W.
In 1989, Gary added a profit sharing plan to the employee benefits package. With this addition, eligible employees began to share in the company’s success. In August, 1990, he added registered dietitian, Janet Neblett, to the K&W staff to initiate a “healthy options” program for the cafeterias. As a result, many new recipes were developed and K&W became part of the Heart Center Dining Program of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. One year later, the first of many cafeterias with a To Go Shop opened in Salem, Virginia to accommodate the increasing take out business. In 1992, under the direction of retired registered sanitarian, David McBrayer, a “Quality Assurance Program” was developed and implemented for K&W. The program heightens the awareness of overall sanitation in the cafeterias through monthly self-inspections, critical temperature monitoring and employee training. This was a pilot program in North Carolina and helped to set a standard for other establishments to follow.
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 30 locations: 22 in North Carolina, 3 in South Carolina, 4 in Virginia, and 1 in West Virginia.