How Fourth-Gen Schweid & Sons Built a $250M Business on Burgers

Few family businesses last three generations, let alone four. Jamie Schweid, the fourth-generation CEO of Schweid & Sons, a Carlstadt, N.J., purveyor of hamburger meat, is one of the outliers.

From its start as a butcher shop on New York's Lower East Side, the company rode the burger boom as one of the main suppliers of ground beef to the popular Five Guys chain. Now, Schweid, 38, and his brother, Brad, 41 - the sons in Schweid & Sons, as the business was rebranded by their father, David, 73 - are pushing hard into supermarkets, seeing an opening for a premium ground-beef brand. Today, the company sells more than 80 million pounds of ground beef, the equivalent of well over 200 million hamburgers, with revenue approaching $250m. In an interview that has been edited and condensed, Jamie Schweid spoke about taking over the family business and why they decided against selling a stake in it to finance their expansion.

Feldman: Tell me how the business began.

Schweid: In the late 1800s, my great-grandfather Harry immigrated to the United States from Eastern Europe, and opened a butcher shop on the Lower East Side. My grandfather joined him when he returned from the Army, and started fabricating hindquarters and forequarters up in Harlem. You would take in full trailers of hindquarters and forequarters [the cow having been cut into four at the slaughterhouse] from different facilities throughout the country.

Feldman: How did the business become what it is today?

Schweid: In the 1970s, the big slaughterers of the world figured out they didn’t need to sell these big hindquarters and forequarters to the cities. They didn’t need my dad or my grandfather to sell boxed beef to retailers, they could do it themselves. A customer my dad and grandfather was working with didn’t have the money to pay for boxed beef, but had a cooler on 14th Street, so they got into the burger business together. This gentleman lasted two months and left the business, and my dad moved into the burger business.

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From its start as a butcher shop on New York's Lower East Side, the company rode the burger boom as one of the main suppliers of ground beef to the popular Five Guys chain. Now, Schweid, 38, and his brother, Brad, 41 - the sons in Schweid & Sons, as the business was rebranded by their father, David, 73 - are pushing hard into supermarkets, seeing an opening for a premium ground-beef brand. Today, the company sells more than 80 million pounds of ground beef, the equivalent of well over 200 million hamburgers, with revenue approaching $250m. In an interview that has been edited and condensed, Jamie Schweid spoke about taking over the family business and why they decided against selling a stake in it to finance their expansion.

Feldman: Tell me how the business began.

Schweid: In the late 1800s, my great-grandfather Harry immigrated to the United States from Eastern Europe, and opened a butcher shop on the Lower East Side. My grandfather joined him when he returned from the Army, and started fabricating hindquarters and forequarters up in Harlem. You would take in full trailers of hindquarters and forequarters [the cow having been cut into four at the slaughterhouse] from different facilities throughout the country.

Feldman: How did the business become what it is today?

Schweid: In the 1970s, the big slaughterers of the world figured out they didn’t need to sell these big hindquarters and forequarters to the cities. They didn’t need my dad or my grandfather to sell boxed beef to retailers, they could do it themselves. A customer my dad and grandfather was working with didn’t have the money to pay for boxed beef, but had a cooler on 14th Street, so they got into the burger business together. This gentleman lasted two months and left the business, and my dad moved into the burger business.

Read Full Article