Author Archives: Robert Molinari

Robert Molinari

About Robert Molinari

Robert is the owner of Uncle Sal’s Restaurant & Bar, a family owned and operated restaurant in Scottsdale, Ariz., which provides classic Italian cuisine. The guiding hands that The Molinari Family brings to Uncle Sal's Italian Restaurant is a combined 40 years of experience as hospitality professionals to the classic work of catering. Award-winning Chef James Molinari's kitchen prepares appetizers, entrees and desserts that have made this eatery known to locals as well as visitors to the Valley of the Sun as, "a piece of Italy found right here in Scottsdale." Uncle Sal’s has received numerous accolades and awards including Wine Spectator Award of Excellence and the prestigious DiRōNA Award. For locations, menus, catering and other information, please visit

Family business

Handling Family-Driven Issues Within Your Family Business

Just about every business has one: the parent who either started the family business, ascended to the throne, or had the bright idea to buy the life-changing endeavor. Either way, he has the power to bring you into the company or kick you out, to raise your salary or lower your expectations. We’re calling him “Dad the Decider” because he’s the guy who makes the final decisions on just about everything. He may have gotten to where he is by exercising authority, but he can’t get to where he wants without restraint. His biggest frustration is that he’d rather run the business, not the family.

As the business grows, so does his family’s involvement; the more the family is involved, the more chance for conflict. By no means does he want to ever harm his family’s relationship’s, but — true to his passion — he has a business to run.

In the mind of the Decider, the business needs responsible adults behind him. The bridges that we cross of embarrassment and immaturity bring uncertain feelings at times of if we made the right decision bringing the kids into the business in the first place. At times, patterns develop where they are so wrapped up in themselves, they can’t see serious business issues at hand, much less on the horizon. There is a fear that begins to develop — that the business we have worked so hard to build will collapse from right under the self-created stress. The problem is this is true.

Studies show that one-third of family-owned businesses survive into the second generation. Only 10 percent make it to the third. These aren’t really the odds individuals wish to hear, but being forewarned of that, family-based issues are the greatest threat to family-run businesses.

If you’d don’t take action, the odds are against you from the get-go. Home life only adds to this initial frustration. Once, this was a refuge, now it’s just an extension of the establishment. Who do we protect? The children or the business? This becomes dinner conversation. Are we grateful for a successful opportunity? What better way could we have provided for our children?

Looking back, as we all do when faced with parental challenges, we imagine the hard times we went through in the industry — remembering our mentors, how we worked most nights and weekends and made our job the priority. Customer service and professional conduct seem to have taken a back seat to sibling rivalries and hurt feelings. This builds an uncomfortable atmosphere for everyone at the establishment. Employees pick up on family drama almost immediately, sad but true.

How do we put a lid on these infectious squabbles? Was there ever a way to really quell the storm when they were kids? Maybe by pretending the issues didn’t exist or thinking they would go away by themselves? These aren’t the answers; nor is pulling rank.

There are some tried and true avenues that have been taught through the industry that rank among the top in letting calming heads prevail.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned as Dad the Decider — how to handle family-driven issues within your family business:

· Pay as much attention to the family-driven issues as you would your customer-driven issues.

· Change from being in command to being the compromiser.

· Don’t try to solve all the family business issues alone.

· Predetermine the “rules of the business,” including operational standards, before the family joins you in the business.

· Encourage family members to work within the industry somewhere else before joining the family business.

· Don’t pay more than the appropriate salary for the position. “Pay market rates.”

· Remind family that they represent the company at all times, in and out of the establishment.

· Everyone needs to look at the business as the opportunity of a lifetime. You have; they, if wanting to follow, need to have the same outlook.

· There are always two key parts to family businesses — one who makes the operational decisions and one who handles finances (dad and mom). You end up leaning on each other, for better or worse; remember that. The CFO is the next power position in the family business.

Robert Molinari is the owner of Uncle Sal’s Restaurant & Bar, a family owned and operated restaurant in Scottsdale, Ariz., which provides classic Italian cuisine.
Family Owned Business

Making A Family Owned Business Work

Making a Family Owned Business Work: Lessons from Two Family Owned Neighborhood Favorite Restaurants — Uncle Sal’s and The Side Door

It’s no secret that owning a business can be all-consuming — especially family owned businesses. Even if not every family member is directly involved in the day-to-day operations, they are affected by the business in some way. The goal is to set the boundaries between families and business and as much as possible keep them from getting blurry.

So how does a family owned business keep those boundaries clear on several occasions? Following the rules below has helped us — Uncle Sal’s and The Side Door:


Establish clearly defined roles

If your family is anything like ours, each family member will naturally fall into a role that they are a great fit for. For us, each one of our family members has a very distinct position and a set of responsibilities. This allows for all of our other employees know exactly who to turn to in need. Know which family member’s responsibilities builds strong relationships with our staff; this allows the staff to understand what roles we play in the business.

Treat employees like you do your family and treat the working family members like employees; no exceptions

In order to create a successful environment where everyone feels valued for their contributions, and most importantly, accountable for their responsibilities, equal treatment is a must.

Create win-win situations

In every business, life gets in the way, and at our restaurants we take great measures to let our employees take care of what is most important to them and support them with their challenges. By creating a supportive, caring environment, all of our employees reciprocate the care right back at our customers.

We often get asked how we manage to have everyone on staff — family or not — show the same level of engagement with our business. The answer is simple. By caring about our employees the same way we do about our family members, we instill in them a deep care for the business as well. In fact, they treat the business like a member of their own family, too.

In our next column we’ll talk about the importance of getting everyone in the family on the same page. Our restaurants had just completed a major “facelift,” and we have certainly walked away with many lessons about what to do and what to avoid. Whether you are a family restaurant — or a family owned business of any kind — the one thing you cannot have is too many cooks in the kitchen!