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Don Shula’s Recipe for 30 Years of Success

Updated: May 18


Shula’s Restaurant Group steps into a new era as NFL’s most-winningest coach hands over the reigns.


Don Shula is no stranger to victory. As the NFL’s most-winningest coach, including a 17-0 unbeaten season for the 1972 Miami Dolphins, Don’s penchant for excellence never left him. Even after his retirement in 1980, Don continued giving everything in his life his all, including the restaurant group he founded in 1989.


After 30 years in the restaurant business, Shula’s Restaurant Group now encompasses an incredible 28 locations throughout seven states within the U.S. The group is comprised of five brands, spanning the spectrum of fine dining, premium casual, casual and fast-casual concepts, including: Shula’s Steak House, Shula’s 2 Steak & Sports,347 Grille by Coach Shula, Shula’s Bar & Grill, and Shula Burger.


Though each brand has its own distinct menu and atmosphere, there’s a common thread throughout each Shula’s Restaurant Group location: a commitment to excellence in food and service for every single diner. It’s a tradition that mirrors Don’s personal and professional dedication to quality and performance.


“Our friendship with the Graham family in Miami Lakes was our first introduction to the restaurant business,” says Don of his first steps toward building the legendary namesake brand. “I wanted to connect with the local community on a different level, as well as celebrate the accomplishment of winning a ‘Perfect Season.’” Don’s main prerogative was to instill his own philosophies into the restaurant staff, as well providing an upscale dining experience.


You might not think there’s much connection between professional football and the restaurant industry, but Don doesn’t see it that way. He takes pride in the competitive nature of the business, and taps into his desire to win to see the restaurant group through challenges. “The day-to-day operations are very much in line with how you prepare a sports team to win! You have to hire the right people, make sure they are coached properly for their positions, have the tools and equipment they need to succeed, and have a game plan in place,” he says. “It takes a lot of preparation and planning to make sure the guest has a winning experience every time.”


Over the last three decades, Shula’s has been a mainstay in the restaurant industry as an example of a brand with staying power in an ever-changing culinary climate. “I think initially Shula’s was successful because of the name recognition, but that only works once or twice. You have to give people a reason to come back to the restaurant, and that’s our consistent and quality product,” says Don.


He also believes that great partnerships are key to success, both on the field and in the restaurant business. “Our partners have believed in the brand, and have strived to live up to the standards we’ve implemented,” says Don. “We never compromise on quality, and that’s apparent on many levels. When a customer has a great experience, they share it, and word spreads.”


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To help propel the future growth of the company, in 2019 Don brought in a new executive team that he believed could take the Restaurant Group to new heights over the next 30 years. A crucial member of that team is the new Corporate Culinary Director, Chef Demetrio Zavala, who has cooked under the tutelage of some of America’s best culinarians, including Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park, Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin, Rocco DiSpirito of Union Pacific, Daniel Boulud of Café Boulud, and Gordon Ramsey of Cielo. With Chef Zavala driving the menus and bringing creativity to the kitchen, the Shula’s stable of restaurant brands is poised for continued greatness. Additionally, Shula’s will be reimagining some of the concepts, and introducing new branding imagery and redesigns of some of the restaurant spaces over the next year.


For his part, Don is enthusiastic about the changes, as well as the plans for Shula’s Restaurant Group in the future. “We hope to continue to build great relationships and expand our partner base, as well as opening new restaurants in new locations in the near future,” he says. “[My wife] Mary Anne and I have always wanted to build a legacy with the restaurant group that complemented my coaching career. It’s always our goal to present an extraordinary business that our family will be proud of for generations to come.”


For more information about Shula’s Restaurant Group, visit Shulas.com.