When building a family-run pub empire, it’s important to plan for succession from one generation to the next.

The family-run pub is an iconic cornerstone of Australia’s hospitality industry. Publicans in the sphere often note the value and positive sentiment of working as a family, and some of the most successful groups in the country have family ties at their core.

But business is rarely easy, and family pub groups are no exception. As the group and the family grows and gets older, one of the big question marks is the future. Succession plans are one thing that helps bring an element of certainty into the equation, especially as new generations and non-family members join the business.

There’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach to family succession plans, but what is key to most of them is the continuation of a successful business as the family legacy.

The Matthews family, of Matthews Hospitality in South Australia, has been operating pubs for almost 80 years. They finalised their succession plan earlier this year, and director Lisa Matthews said it’s enabled them to think strategically for the long-term.

“Every business needs a succession plan and the timing was right for our family. We began these discussions last year and have created a good outcome for our hotels, our family, staff and customers,” Matthews said.

A different approach is held by the Bayfield family, of Bayfield Hotels in NSW. While they don’t have as formal a plan as the Matthews, COO Kaine Bayfield said their plan helps family members learn to manage a successful business and continue the group generations into the future.

“There is nothing in writing as such but the succession of the business has always been in the forefront of planning since Pop (Neville) walked into Dee Why Hotel with Dad (Wayne) in 1977,” Bayfield said.

Regardless of method, the importance of planning for future succession cannot be understated. These two families shared their learnings via different approaches with Australian Hotelier, offering great insight about balancing corporate and family life in the industry.

What succession looks like

“Matthews Hospitality has been fortunate in our success across four generations of the Matthews family. Our succession plan has been designed to strengthen and build on this for future generations while maintaining 100 per cent family ownership,” said Matthews.

The recently finalised plan sees Matthews and her brothers Scott and Ward acquire seven of the nine hotel venues and other assets owned by the group, while retaining the company name and brand. Meanwhile, Lisa’s uncle Guy and cousins Shaun, Brett and William are acquiring the Flagstaff and Mansfield Park Hotels.

Matthews and brothers Scott and Ward have also now moved out of operations to provide leadership on the Matthews Hospitality board, while non-family member Andrew Kemp has been moved from Group General Manager to CEO.

Through implementing this plan, Matthews said they have learned the importance of remaining true to their vision and values, while also reaffirming their passion for the industry.

“Matthews Hospitality has a proud family history, legacy and values, and we have designed our succession plan to preserve and honour these qualities for future generations,” she said.

“Developing a succession plan has encouraged us to focus on our culture and why we exist as hoteliers – to provide our communities with great venues where they can connect with family and friends – and to ensure our family business structure continues to support this.”

As a group, Bayfield Hotels is younger than Matthews Hospitality, but shares that same goal of passing down values through the family.

Bayfield said after his father Wayne and grandfather Neville first started in the industry, his uncle Mark then joined. That was the beginning of how the family learned and grew in the industry together.

“Mark and Dad managed the pubs and learnt every aspect of the hotel. Pop then led by example in passing on his business acumen to Dad and Mark so they would learn how to take on the business in later years,” Bayfield said.

Bayfield’s mother Sharon, grandmother Pam and aunty Yvonne have also worked in the business over the years, as has his own generation and their spouses, including Bayfield’s own wife Vanessa who currently does the group’s marketing.

“As with Mark and Dad, my generation was never forced to work in the pubs but the option was always there.”

One of the important elements of the Bayfield succession plan is to “understand every aspect of the business.” Bayfield also says before one can get to a level like he currently holds as COO, the family member needs to learn different sides of the business to ultimately comprehend how it operates as a whole.


This feature was originally published in the September issue of Australian Hotelier. To continue reading it, click on the original article below.

Brydie Allen

Brydie Allen is the Editor of National Liquor News. She has been with Food and Beverage Media since 2019, when she joined the company as a journalist across National Liquor News, Bars & Clubs, The...

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