Businessman who helped build Shoney's chain

Raymond Danner Sr., a businessman who helped build the Shoney's restaurant chain, has died.

Danner, who was 83, died of cancer at his Nashville home Saturday, said Beth Courtney, a spokeswoman working for his firm, the Danner Co.

Raised in Louisville, Ky., the son of a German immigrant started his career by purchasing a small grocery store in his hometown. He retired in 1987 as Shoney's chairman and then formed Danner Co.

“He said to me one day, he didn't run toward being successful and wealthy,” Danner executive vice president Francis Guess said. “He ran away from being poor.”

Danner is survived by his wife, two daughters and two sons. Funeral services were scheduled for Wednesday.

Shoney's was started by Alex Schoenbaum in 1947 with one drive-in restaurant in Charleston, W.Va. In 1959, Danner acquired the franchise rights for Shoney's Big Boy and opened his first restaurant in Madison, Tenn.

It merged with Danner Foods of Nashville in 1971 to become Shoney's Big Boy Enterprises and became Shoney's Inc. five years later.

For years, the Nashville-based company was a darling of the restaurant industry and Wall Street, expanding rapidly and diversifying broadly.

At its peak, Shoney's was one of the largest restaurant chains in the world with 1,600 stores and annual sales that surpassed $800 million.