Legal Sea Foods’ new owner looks to expansion after menu innovation
After a very rough year in which it carried out closures of several of its restaurants – some temporary and some permanent – Legal Sea Foods is considering an expansion.
In late December, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.-based PPX Hospitality, which also operates the Smith & Wollensky and The Strega Group restaurant chains, acquired Legal’s restaurants and quality control center. As part of the deal, Legal Sea Foods former President and CEO Roger Berkowitz retained rights to use the Legal Sea Foods’ name in retail, e-commerce, but PPX is now making executive decisions concerning the future of the company’s restaurants and quality control center, and is looking to grow the well-regarded restaurant chain and reinvigorate its menu.
Legal Sea Foods was forced to streamline throughout the pandemic, temporarily closing restaurants for several months after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last March. Most of the full-service restaurants re-opened last summerr, while others closed permanently. The chain shrank from around 32 locations prior to the pandemic to 23 currently. Its last two temporarily closed locations in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, and Kendall Square, Boston, are slated to reopen this summer, PPX Marketing Officer Kim Lapine told SeafoodSource.
Despite the difficulties, PPX has plans to grow the longstanding restaurant chain, Lapine said.
“We would love to expand in the near-future, and we are working on new possibilities all the time,” Lapine said, without providing additional details.
First up, though, is streamlining PPX and Legal’s seafood suppliers and revamping its menu. Sharing seafood suppliers with Legal and other PPX brands “has allowed us to combine our resources to provide Legal Sea Foods guests with the very best of the best cuts of meat and seafood,” Lapine said.
“We were very pleased as a result of PPX’s history with Double R Ranch and Snake River Farms as well as North Coast Seafoods to be able to bring them with us as trusted vendors with our same commitment to quality, sustainability, and freshness,” Lapine said.
PPX has been working with Boston, Massachusetts-based wholesaler North Coast for around 12 years to supply Smith & Wollensky’s restaurants, PPX’s Chief Culinary Officer and Chef Matt King told SeafoodSource.
North Coast is a third generation, family-owned business “with a passion for freshness and delivering seafood with unwavering integrity,” according to King.
“They’re a trusted supplier because they’re one of only a handful of seafood processors that participates in the United States Department of Commerce USDC Grade A 'voluntary’ inspection program, and their commitment to controlling every step of the process translates to exceptional tasting seafood,” King said.
PPX is also continuing its direct relationships with local fisherman, lobstermen, and oyster farmers to supply Legal’s restaurants.
Meanwhile, Legal needed a menu update, because “as with any menu, selections can get tired and lack creativity as flavor trends evolve and guests look for something new,” King said.
In crafting the new menu, PPX executives wanted to honor Legal’s classic dishes such as New England Baked Haddock – Anna’s Way, Legal’s Signature Crab Cake, Crispy Calamari, and Clam Chowder, while adding some innovative preparations to some of the fish cuts and other seafood mainstays, King said.
New dishes include appetizers such as Crispy Fish Tacos, Oysters Rockefeller, and Cape Cod Quahog Stuffies and entrees such as Baked Stuffed Colossal Shrimp, Cioppino Fish Stew, Grilled Swordfish Steak with an olive tomato-caper relish, Seared Gulf of Maine Scallops in a carrot purée, and Baked Lobster Mac & Cheese made with one whole Gulf of Maine lobster served in a lobster shell.
In addition, PPX refreshed some of Legal’s fan favorite dishes “to make them bigger and better than ever,” according to King, such as its Maine Lobster Roll, which is now a half-pound, and its Colossal Naked Shrimp Cocktail.
Legal serves sustainably certified seafood, including Four-Star Best Aquaculture Practices-certified and Aquaculture Stewardship Council-certified farmed shrimp; Marine Stewardship Council-certified scallops, pollock, halibut, haddock and swordfish; and salmon that is certified organic by E.U. Soil Standards.
Photo courtesy of Legal Sea Foods