Captain D’s CEO unveils 2019 growth plans
In December, Captain D’s capped off a year of significant expansion with the debut of its new restaurant prototype. Based in New Iberia, Louisiana, U.S.A., the prototype features a smaller footprint than the brand's traditional locations.
Throughout 2018, Captain D’s opened more than 10 new locations and inked numerous franchise development agreements to open new restaurants in Florida, North Carolina, Illinois, Michigan, and Oklahoma.
The chain now operates 533 locations in 22 states. In 2019 – the fast casual seafood chain’s 50th anniversary – Captain D’s will continue growing and changing, including adding new menu items.
SeafoodSource talked with Phil Greifeld, the seafood chain’s CEO, about the company’s growth in 2018 and its plans for 2019.
SeafoodSource: What major advancements did Captain D's make in the past year, and why is the company growing so rapidly?
Greifeld: Captain D’s has a highly unique franchise opportunity with strong economics and is the leader of the fast-casual seafood space. Each and every year, we remain committed to investing in our brand and being true partners of our franchisees’ success. In 2018, we debuted a new restaurant prototype…that features a smaller, 1,950-square-feet footprint and several innovations to our kitchen equipment, including a new countertop electric fryer, which allowed us to make more use out of available vertical space. By focusing on kitchen innovations, we were able to build the restaurant around our kitchen and improve our overall layout, creating a better customer experience. The new design also cuts costs significantly for our franchisees and allows for quicker development, so they’re able to see an even quicker return on their investment.
SeafoodSource: What have you changed in terms of operations in the past year? What changes have you made to sourcing? Are you looking for new suppliers, such as suppliers of wild and/or sustainable seafood?
Greifeld: In addition to implementing efforts like our new restaurant prototype, we’re constantly innovating and looking for ways we can better run operations in our restaurants and better serve our guests. This is all-encompassing, including sourcing and suppliers.
We keep [sourcing] information proprietary, but I will say that Captain D’s believes that everyone should enjoy delicious, affordable seafood. In order to provide that for our guests, we meticulously search to find the best ingredients – not only to ensure that our food is delicious, but also that it’s of the highest quality and responsibly sourced. Captain D’s fish is whole fillet cut from the tenderloin – not pieces or square patties. We hold ourselves and our partners to the highest standards, making sure all of our ingredients come from the safest sources – even our wild-caught seafood.
We also believe that sustainable is attainable. It’s why the most popular fish on our menu is a sustainable seafood species. That’s important to us because it helps protect the planet while ensuring there is plenty of fish to enjoy for generations to come.
SeafoodSource: What are the biggest changes Captain D’s made to its menu in the past year?
Greifeld: In 2018, we took the feedback from our guests and really tuned in to what consumers wanted across the board. We are focused on elevating our core menu, exploring ways to expand what is distinctly crave-able from Captain D’s, such as our signature batter on new seafood options. Additionally, we were seeing an industry-wide trend that consumers desire more portable options, so we put a lot behind making our food more on-the-go friendly. This year we introduced our Giant Fish Sandwich, as well as tested limited-time offers like the Giant Catfish Sandwich during our Catfish Craze promotion.
SeafoodSource: How will the menu change in 2019?
Greifeld: In 2019, we’ll be looking to integrate more of these types of portable offerings on our menu, as well as bring more new seafood options for our guests to enjoy. Sandwiches will be the primary focus in 2019. Captain D's is also looking at various carriers that will make its high-quality seafood more portable and convenient. In terms of more new seafood options, the brand isn't looking at new species, but instead creating new flavors or exploring new preparations of existing species.
SeafoodSource: Are you concerned about a downturn in the overall U.S. restaurant economy in the coming year, or do you expect higher sales and consumer confidence?
Greifeld: I believe the only cause for concern in today’s restaurant economy is resistance to change and unwillingness to adapt. At Captain D’s, we’ve carved out a niche in the industry that we’ve been very successful in, which can be attributed to our dedication to innovation, being nimble in times of change, and commitment to our guests. Our guests are at the center of everything we do, so we really listen to their feedback and take it to heart. We also have a very talented internal team that monitors consumer and industry trends so that we can always ensure we’re staying ahead of the curve, offering our guests what they want, when they want it.