Premium seafood upgrades paying off for Texas-based restaurant chain
Richardson, Texas, U.S.A.-based Rockfish Seafood and Grill is paying much higher prices for some of the seafood featured on its new summer menu. However, Rockfish CEO Seth Wilkinson said the move is affording the chain versatility and modernization.
For example, Rockfish switched from Alaska pollock to cod at all 11 of its restaurants, doubling the price it was paying, but now the chain has more flexibility in its offerings, Wilkinson said.
“The Fish and Chips is currently our highest-selling dish on our menu. Our goal with that item was to make it the best dish we could, without changing it very much,” Wilkinson told SeafoodSource.
Rockfish can use the “more restaurant-friendly” cod in eight-ounce and 16-ounce sizes for more applications, such as offering it as an option on its Fish Market boards, Virginia Pivonka, director of procurement and marketing at Rockfish, told SeafoodSource.
“Although we know that the Alaska cod market is very high right now and we’re paying more than double what we were for Alaska pollock, the cod gives us more flexibility,” Pivonka said. “We were using a 2/4 ounce pollock previously, and that size had limited uses. The texture and consistency of the cod has also been well-accepted by our guests.”
Rockfish also added a new Crab-Topped Alaska Cod entrée to its summer menu.
Rockfish sources the cod and most of its other seafood from Ocean Beauty Seafood’s distribution facility in Dallas Texas, as well as Seattle Fish of New Mexico, which was purchased by Santa Monica Seafood in March 2018.
Similar to the cod change, Rockfish recently switched from tuna steak to saku block sushi-grade tuna, which is nearly double the price.
“We made the change in order to give us more options down the road with sushi appetizers and other on-trend dishes,” Pivonka said.
The upgrade immediately allowed Rockfish to add a new dish - the Ahi Tuna Poke Bowl - to its summer menu.
Other new menu items for the summer include: Deviled Eggs Topped with Lobster, Lobster Roll, and Crab and Artichoke Stuffed Salmon.
Menu items updated to modern taste trends include Rockfish’s Flash Fried Calamari with blistered Shishito Peppers and Mussels Barcelona.
“The mussels dish used to be a very basic scampi. We wanted to get away from flavors of the past and kick it up with andouille sausage, peppers, and a spicy marinara sauce,” Wilkinson said.
“We walk a very delicate balance of trying to keep our menu recognizable to our very long-tenured, high-usage guests and deliver new contemporary styles and flavors to stay on the cutting edge of today’s food trends,” Wilkinson added. “The Poke Bowl and the Deviled Eggs were two such items.”
Rockfish was able to offer the lobster roll this summer “because the price of lobster came down to a point where it was feasible for us to offer it in our price range to our guests, and we felt like adding a lobster option to our menu was important,” Wilkinson said.
Rockfish prints its menus two times a year, on average, and its lobster supplier agreed to keep the price consistent for a minimum of six months “to allow us to have cost-protection on the dish,” Pivonka added.
Meanwhile, the Crab-Topped Alaskan Cod was a replacement for a different stuffed fish dish.
"We felt like this new dish, made with a seafood cream sauce using from-scratch seafood broth, was an upgrade to that dish,” Wilkinson said.
The addition of the crab is another example of Rockfish seeking out more premium ingredients for its menu offerrings.
“The price of crab meat is higher and we had the heads-up before we printed the menu so that we could price dishes containing crab accordingly,” Pivonka said.
Rockfish has also seen an uptick in sales by adding delivery via DoorDash and Uber Eats.
"As we just celebrated our 20th anniversary, we know today's diner likes to have the option about where they eat and what they eat. We wanted to ensure our guests have carryout options and access to a variety of high quality, chef-inspired dishes,” Wilkinson said.