The owners of Pace Food and Drink, a popular State Street restaurant serving up classic American cuisine, recently announced an open contest — with an entry fee of just $500 — for full ownership of the facilities and personal assistance in taking over the business.

Owners Jeff and Kim Snyder are offering the winner of their contest $20,000 in startup money to cover expenses, the first year’s worth of payment on the lease and 120 hours of mentoring by Jeff Snyder. To enter the contest, applicants are required to submit a $500 entry fee, a YouTube video explaining why they would be a successful future owner and a one-page description of their intended concept. Once the submission period closes on May 12, 10 applicants will be chosen, one of whom will be selected based on the number of likes on their YouTube video. The Snyders will narrow down the finalists to the top five, who will be asked to come to Santa Barbara to present their proposed menu and plans for the restaurant in person.

The final decision to determine the winner will be made after the top five entrants each prepare and submit a sample dish for evaluation by the Snyders and a panel of local food service professionals on June 1, 2014.

According to the website for the restaurant, Jeff Snyder has spent 35 years as an executive chef in hotels, resorts, and other venues across the state — including the San Francisco Bay area, Monterey and San Diego. Pace opened its doors just two years ago, but has managed to become a hot spot for locals and tourists alike, with a 4.5 star rating on Yelp.

Originally, the Snyders intended to pass the business along to their sons. However, according to Jeff Snyder, his sons — Ryan and Cole — decided the restaurant business was not for them and the couple was then left to decide what to do with Pace. Snyder said the best option for the family, as well as its business, was to give it away to a bidder they found most fitting.

Kim Snyder formulated plans for the contest, according to her husband, by taking into account the family’s loyalty to their business and their desire to see a similarly devoted individual take charge.

“The idea that Kim came up with really works to everybody’s advantage,” Snyder said. “It’s a win-win situation. We have an opportunity to pick somebody that has the same kind of vision and mindset that we do, [who] can carry on what we’ve done and also have a good loyal customer base to start with.”

Snyder also mentioned that having a contest among interested parties would be a good way to avoid various potential pitfalls that could accompany simply selling the business, including “having people walk through here and not even understand what we’re about.”

“Where does that leave our local customer base? Pretty much out in the cold, so to speak,” Snyder said.

Already, the Snyders have seen considerable interest in the contest, which opened for entries just a couple weeks ago. According to Jeff Snyder, they have received inquiries from applicants as far as Brooklyn, New York and a number of unique applicants, including a girl whose family has owned restaurants her entire life, according to Snyder.

“It’s open to everybody and we’re getting a lot of people that are just looking at this opportunity as something they want to take advantage of,” Snyder said.


A version of this story appeared on page 4 of Thursday, February 27, 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.