Family Matters

Dave Shula, president of Shula’s Steak Houses and son of Don Shula.
Dave Shula, president of Shula’s Steak Houses and son of Don Shula. Shula’s Steak Houses

Keeping a restaurant business in the family for several generations may be every owner’s dream, but it’s not the quick and easy process some envision.

Building a career and legacy in the restaurant industry for nearly 40 years—27 of those with family-dining concept Golden Corral—Mickey Chance would love nothing more than to keep his company, Chance Hospitality, going for years, decades, and even generations to come. And it looks like he’s doing just that, as he recruits, preps, and grooms his son, David Chance, to one day take over the family business and carry it confidently into the future.

While David Chance is now the vice president of Chance Hospitality—a company that owns two Golden Corral units in North Carolina—his father already has plans in place for David to succeed him once he’s ready to step down. “It’s all set up. It’s in his corner,” Mickey Chance says. “He can carry this business as far as he wants to.”

The Chances’ story is inspiring for many family-owned businesses in the restaurant industry and beyond, but it’s more the exception than the rule. “One generation is the norm,” says Rick Bisio, franchise consultant and author of The Educated Franchisee, a book detailing family business ownership strategies. “Most businesses do not get passed down to children, although most business owners hope one day that their children will take over the business.”

In fact, of those businesses that classify themselves as family-owned and -run, only about 30 percent successfully transition to the next generation. Of that 30 percent, just 15 percent make a successful transition to the third generation, and of that small pool of candidates, only 12 percent go on to transfer the business to the fourth generation. Beyond that, just 3 percent manage to keep the business in the family any further than the fourth generation, according to statistics from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC).

Bisio says there are several contributing factors to these low-succession rates, one of which is the fact that the next generation may not want to be involved in the industry or doesn’t have a passion for the business in the first place.

“You can have a lawyer involved and you can put all kinds of instructions in place, but the reality at the end of the day is, if you don’t have a person who wants to run the business and is willing to put the time and effort into doing that effectively, it can be very hard to successfully transition,” he says.

In some cases, the next generation simply doesn’t possess the abilities to run the business. In fact, according to PWC’s 2010–2011 Family Business Ownership Survey, owners who would like to pass on the business but choose not to cite the succeeding generation’s lack of skills as a primary reason.

“You have to have a child that doesn’t just want to, but is able to, and has the capabilities to run the business,” Bisio says.


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