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Seattle Business Owner Takes Team on 'Around the World in 80 Hours' Trip with the Help of Business Credit Card Points How a third-generation business owner of Seattle's longest-standing fine dining restaurant has innovated an iconic business.
By: Brian Canlis, Co-Owner of Canlis
As the co-owner of a family-owned businesses, I know firsthand the challenges and pressures that come with sustaining a generational business. My grandfather founded Canlis in 1950 and, today, it continues to be a landmark fine dining destination in Seattle.
Truth be told, I never thought I would be here – the business owner of a restaurant that has endured three generations, seven decades and now a worldwide pandemic. And I'm not alone. In the U.S., less than one-third of family-owned businesses survive the transition to a second generation of ownership – and only 13 percent of family businesses remain in the family for more than 60 years.
What I've learned over the last 14 years is the importance of putting your own spin on a family business, including finding the right partners and being agile in a rapidly changing industry which has seen increased competition and evolving consumer behavior. Ultimately, it is our creative approach and dedication to our team that has allowed Canlis to continue thriving throughout the past century – even being recognized by Food & Wine as one of the 40 most important restaurants in the past 40 years.
Here's a few of our keys to success, including a look at how we manage to infuse creativity into our business and inspire our leadership team by taking them Around the World in 80 Hours on once-in-a-lifetime adventures.
Chart your own path.
My brother and I took over the business in 2007 and, by then, the history of Canlis had been built over two generations. Our grandfather, Peter Canlis, was a Greek runaway who came to America to find a new home. He was a restaurant visionary who staked it all to make a name for his family. His goal was simply to build the best restaurant in the world.
The business transformed in the late 1970s when our parents took over. They breathed life into Canlis by instilling a mission and values that inspired all people to turn toward each other and chose family at every single turn. They ran the business secondary to being great parents and community members and in the process, elevated the brand in a growing industry.
When my brother and I took ownership of the business, we began putting action behind the mission and values of Canlis by serving one another in a way that makes people feel valued and restored. Our focus has been on creating the best possible restaurant experience in the world, while also cultivating an environment for our employees to grow – emotionally, relationally and professionally – and support their families.
My brother and I have always worked toward one goal: to live out and grow the idea that it's worth putting other people first. We believe that Canlis exists to do more than put great food on people's plates. If I went to work every night with the simple goal to feed people, Canlis would quickly feel like a job and a burden. What keeps our flame burning is the belief that Canlis exists to change lives. We really believe that – and we put action behind those words to positively impact the lives of our customers and our team members every day.
Find partners that align with your mission.
It takes a village to create the best restaurant experience for our guests and our employees. That's why it's so important to remember that every member of your team influences your culture, including your external partners. Like any other partnership in business, and in life, the relationship only works if your values are aligned and you're working toward a common goal.
For us, finding the right financial partner – one that aligned with our altruistic mission and vision for Canlis – made a real, tangible difference in the way we've been able to do business.
Over the last decade, we have sent our leadership team on what we call Around the World in 80 Hours, an immersive fine dining experience where members of our leadership team select one restaurant anywhere in the world to indulge the senses. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our team and, ultimately, it allows us to continue to grow and adapt our business based on learnings from some of the best restaurants in the world. The trips aren't cheap though.
We sought out to find a financial partner whose business credit card would provide us with the best rewards for our needs. We chose Chase and its suite of Ink business credit cards, which complement the way we manage our business. We now have three cards in the Chase Ink portfolio that we use for all business purchases – the Ink Business Unlimited® card, which earns unlimited 1.5% cash back; the Ink Business Cash® card, which earns 5% cash back in select business categories; and the Ink Business Preferred® card, which earns 3X points on internet, cable, phone services, shipping, traveling and select advertising.
I would encourage all business owners to really understand the points and rewards associated with their business credit cards. We brought in a finance controller who helped us fully take advantage of our Chase Ultimate Rewards® program. Ultimately, the rewards we earn throughout the year on normal business expenditures more than cover the cost of all expenses associated with the Around the World in 80 Hours trip. There are so many simple ways to earn points, which could in turn be used to pay for future business expenses, travel and other expenditures.
Learn to be agile.
Canlis was the first restaurant in the country to announce that we were closing our dining room and offering takeout only due to the pandemic. That was huge for us. It wasn't a decision we took lightly because Canlis doesn't just close – we've closed only twice in more than 70 years, serving our customers during snowstorms and after earthquakes.
I happened to be in Seoul, South Korea in February 2020 when the pandemic began to hit there, so I saw firsthand the devastation that this virus could cause. When I returned home, we began making plans in the event we needed to close the dining room and create an option to shift to takeout. When the pandemic hit stateside, we weren't left scrambling. We had a plan and we were ready to execute on that plan, while ensuring the health and safety of our people.
We look at every day as an opportunity to make a lasting impact on our customers through their experience with us, and we have the same ability to do that with our employees. Building and sustaining a generational business comes with its own set of unique opportunities and challenges, and my brother and I know we must continue to adjust and make difficult decisions while charting our own path to success.
Don't lose sight of your history but embrace your own unique perspective as you work to see your family business grow and thrive into the future.
To learn more or apply for a Chase Ink card today visit this link.
Rewards shown were accrued over the course of several months and represent above average earn for customers with this credit card. The actual amount of rewards you accrue will be dependent on your credit limit and purchase activity.