Shula was honored by the Dolphins Business Alliance for his success in business for the incredible staying power his Shula’s Steak Houses, LLLP has maintained. It’s been 23 years since the first Shula’s Steak House opened in Miami Lakes and now there are 36 variations, including two of his newest venture, Shula Burger. One of them opened today in Kendall with the other on 17th Street in Fort Lauderdale and in addition to his 17 steak houses across the country, Shula also has Shula’s on the Beach at The Westin Diplomat on Fort Lauderdale Beach and some Shula’s I and Shula’s II restaurants.
“This is an award that I certainly didn’t expect but I’m very thankful that they did honor me,” said Shula shortly before being presented the award (a special game football) by Miami Dolphins Chief Revenue Officer Jim Rushton. “I’m proud of the fact that we’ve done well in business and I had a good background in sports and the two of them tie in together.”
A number of Shula’s former players followed him into the restaurant world, including linebackers Kim Bokamper, Bob Brudzinski and John Offerdahl as well as Bob Baumhower and the late Jim “Mad Dog” Mandich. Shula’s son, Dave, came into the business with his father after coaching in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals and is now the company’s president.
Back when he first made the decision to put his name on that first steak house in Miami Lakes, Shula took his time because as his son pointed out, putting his name on a chain of restaurants is risky. It’s the family reputation being put out there on display, so Shula’s late wife, Dorothy, helped convince him.
“I was talked into going into the business out in Miami Lakes because they had a restaurant there that wasn’t doing that well and the son-in-law of the Graham family approached me,” Shula said. “He said, ‘Why don’t we call this a steak house and advertise it as the best steak in South Florida.’ I resisted it for a while and finally my late wife said, ‘Why don’t we give it a try?’ We tried it and the sales jumped immediately about four times what it was and I said, ‘This is not a bad deal.’ Then we opened another and another and another and my current wife, Mary Anne, came up with the Shula Burger concept.”
In all there are six different restaurant concepts within the chain and the fact that Shula’s is doing so well in this volatile economy is a testament to the formula the father and son have developed. There also is a need to hire the best chefs, restaurant managers and support staff much the like Don Shula had to do with his assistant coaches and staff.
“We’re real proud of the fact that we’ve had that kind of staying power because it’s not easy in the restaurant business to survive year to year let alone 23 years,” Dave Shula said. “We’ve had some of that have closed but we’ve had a lot of great success stories, too, and the brand continues to grow.”
As his father mentioned, there are some definitive parallels between football and business and he feels that those characteristics he looked for in his players and coaches are the same as what he looks for in his restaurants. He also believes that’s why so many of his former players have enjoyed similar success.
“They didn’t specifically come and ask me (for advice) but they might have seen that we were doing quite well and wanted to try that, too,” Don Shula said. “I understand they’re all doing well and I’m happy about that because these guys were good football players, they’re good human beings and they’re the kind of guys you want to see be successful in whatever they do.
“There are so many things that are common – the hard work, the attention to detail – all of these things are important in being a good football player, being a good football coach and being a good restaurant operator. You have to do all of those things, you have to work hard and attention to detail is probably the thing that I value the most. I don’t think there’s any detail too small not to be covered.”
Those are words that surely resonate with all of Shula’s former players and his coaches.