Chicago-based restaurant owner finds retail success with boil-in-bag seafood offerings
When the COVID-19 pandemic closed indoor dining across the United States in spring 2020, a Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.-based restaurant owner developed a unique way to keep her business afloat.
Two Fish Crab Shack “didn’t have a carryout business to fall back on” when the pandemic set in, its CEO and founder, Yasmin Curtis, told SeafoodSource. So, Curtis took to her kitchen to create an at-home solution for the eatery’s popular boiled seafood dishes.
“While we worked on figuring out the logistics of managing a carry-out business, I also got to work figuring out how we could offer a frozen package of our popular seafood boil so people could cook it at home,” Curtis said.
The restaurant’s menu offers an array of seafood options, including lobster tails, whole lobster, snow crab legs, shrimp, catfish, and perch, all of which can be paired with its selection of unique sauces such as 3 The Chi-Way, Garlic Butter, Lemon Pepper, Cajun, and Jerk.
Curtis decided to combine two customer favorites – shrimp and crab legs – with Two Fish’s 3 The Chi-Way sauce in an easy-to-use, one-pound package, and dubbed the resulting offering “Two Fish To-Go.”
“At first, I thought we would just make this an offering at the restaurant, but that quickly changed after we attended a neighborhood Mariano’s marketplace event and quickly sold out of the frozen Two Fish To-Go packages,” Curtis said.
Seafood buyers at Mariano’s, which is owned by supermarket chain Kroger, called soon after the event and invited Two Fish to conduct a trial of the product at four of its Chicago-area stores.
“Much to everyone’s surprise, we sold out in one weekend,” Curtis said. “After that, we were asked if we could produce enough of our Two Fish To-Go packages to serve 100-plus Chicagoland stores starting January 2021, and we’ve been growing ever since.”
Due to the success of the seafood boil-in-bag products, Two Fish is expanding to Roundy’s Pick ’n Save stores in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area, and Curtis is “actively in conversation with other grocery retailers to expand our exposure to other communities across the country,” she said.
The company also added one-pound shrimp-only boil-in-bag packages that are available at more than 250 Mariano’s and Milwaukee-area stores.
“Creating an offering with shrimp only allows us to connect with an even greater audience,” Curtis said.
Both the shrimp-and-crab and shrimp-pounder bags retail for USD 19.99 (EUR 16.50) each.
Two Fish is also packaging its 3 The Chi-Way sauce for sale at retail.
“By continuing to listen to our customers and learn from our retail partners, we can adjust to develop product offerings people will crave at home,” Curtis said.
When she first started “playing with the idea” of developing a frozen package for customers, “it was with the understanding that many of our restaurant patrons may not return to indoor dining any time soon, even as COVID-19 restrictions lift,” Curtis said.
“I can only host so many people in my restaurant at any given time, but I can reach thousands of people with Two Fish To-Go, which is quite powerful,” she added.
Despite the company’s retail success, Curtis is still focused on the restaurant she opened in 2014.
“It’s been a challenging time for our business, no doubt, but we’ve been blessed with great partners and a loyal fan base, so we’ve been able to work through initial obstacles and adjust our pricing to preserve our margins and continue growing the business,” Curtis said. “I love being in the restaurant business and wouldn’t want to replace the connection I have with our staff and our community.”
Photo courtesy of Two Fish Crab Shack