In 1989 my partner, David Younts, and I opened our first Shula's Steak House, in Miami Lakes, Fla. It should have been the beginning of a big chain, but I waited too long to expand.

David, who is extremely bright, would mention the idea of expansion to me from time to time, but I was so focused on coaching the Dolphins that I didn't think about it. We waited a full six years before we opened our second location, in Tampa.

I'm not crying over spilled milk, but we definitely missed a great opportunity for growth. When we started, there were lots of steak houses around, but we were in the elite. Since 1991 we have been ranked one of the 10 best steak houses in the country by an industry group. We could have started a big push into new markets before competitors like Ruth's Chris Steak House, the Capital Grille, and Smith & Wollensky got there first. We've grown a lot in the past five years, but if we had just opened one new location a year for each of those first six years, the business would be four or five times its current size.

By the end of the year we will have opened a total of 15 restaurants, and we project that gross annual sales will be more than $50 million. My son Dave, the former head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, is executive vice president of our company, and with his leadership and experience, we are well positioned for the future. I visit the restaurants in Florida frequently and the other ones at least two or three times a year. My philosophy in anything I do is to be the best. As a player and as a coach I always wanted to be the best, and my lifetime record reflects that. And when we opened the restaurant, I wanted to be associated with the best, too. We like to eat our own cooking. - From an interview conducted by Mike Hofman

Copyright 1999 G+J USA Publishing