The family business El Veedor (restaurant) and El Ultramarino (local grocery store) was started in 1975 by Juan’s father. The story begins in 1975 when Juan’s father, while he was living in a small village and destined to be a goat header, realized he wanted to do something different in life. He left his village and moved to Cadiz – a small picturesque coastal town on the Atlantic coast of Andalucía. He bought an old, almost in ruins building and started a venta (a small local shop and restaurant in Andalucía). The next move was to bring innovation and diversity into the food made available to the locals. For this, he started introducing cured pork products, a totally new thing at that time, along with cheese, and wines. With time, it eventually turned out is not only successful but also an iconic business in Cadiz attracting citizens from all corners.
The building where El Veedor is located is over 200 years old and while it looks modern from the outside nowadays you would still be enchanted after stepping into this historical site. As well as the building, some particulars of the history of the restaurant are also noteworthy of highlight. Back then, women would shop
at the grocery store and men would get a drink, or several, in the bar which was then divided only by a glass door.
A couple were not permitted to shop and attend the bar together as back then it was not considered proper for a woman to enter a bar for a drink. There were two separate doors to El Veedor that were not visible to those who entered. The men couldn’t see their wives in the store and the woman could not see their husbands drinking. It was chauvinistic in its origins.
Juan’s father was the sole owner of the business until 2002 when his only son, Juan, finished his degree and expressed interest in joining the family business. Juan’s ambitions were previously not really pointing to the family business, his professional dream was to become a forensic scientist and work in police investigation. However, he eventually took the decision to choose his father’s path as he possessed a strong will to not lose the family business after all the hard work done by his father.
At the moment, Juan is the only owner and manager of the company. His sister never showed interest in the family business and dedicated herself to the world of television. The succession happened when Juan’s father took a decision to retire and pass the business to the son.
Difficulties? A lot of difficulties were faced when doing the transition. Mostly in terms of inter-generational shock that often results when people from different times work together. The father had been through war, hunger, hardship, and the fact that Juan wasn’t raised by him – had its impact on the succession process. The first setback occurred when both realized they saw the company’s future in different ways – the father was more into keeping things as they were while Juan was more interested in changing and innovating working process and conditions for the company’s workers. The story of succession began when Juan opened his own restaurant right in front of his father’s restaurant. That was done on mutual accord and there was an agreement to keep these two-business distinct from each other. They both understood clearly that the two establishments would have their own distinct clients and working policies. Opening his own restaurant in close proximity to his father’s was Juan’s approach to entering into the family business.
When his father eventually retired, in order to have enough time to dedicate to both businesses, Juan had to find an external manager for his own restaurant. At this time, he was able to bring in a chef with a Michelin star named Mauro Barreiro. With this, he was able to focus on his father‘s business.
The transition between father and son took about 4-5 years to complete and was done slowly and gradually. There was no established succession plan – it‘s been a natural process with no external assistance but simple financial moves and required notary and bank changes. The intention was not to rush things and completed it overnight so that the El Veedor workers would have confidence in the successor.
Although being the only manager of El Veedor at the moment, “my father would always remain the owner of the family business with the right to change or unchange things and he would always follow him in doing so”,
says Juan, the 2nd generation owner.
Regarding the situation with the next generation, it is complicated. Neither Juan or his sister has descendants. Yet, Juan mentions that in case of having children, he would let the succession be carried out in the same way as it was with his father. He is convinced that in order to run a family business the children would have to study hospitality management and business administration, and to have “cariño” (strong affection in Spanish) for the family business.
The future of the family business El Veedor is uncertain. Juan expressively pointed out both his father and him would prefer not to leave the business in the hands of someone outside the family. What will happen in the future? If things remain, Juan will continue to grow the business until he finds a suitable person to sell the restaurant to, but only the time will tell.
Reflections from Juan on how to pass through a succession process:
„First, be humble. Humility, education, self-respect, self-confidence is fundamental. You have to have many values because you are building upon something from someone who has done something important and you need to realize that, if want to or not, it will not be the same. You need to learn to do things differently, not copy, have your own identity and not be a copier.“
- How can you further build on what your ancestors have established?