On the spot: Fish Market pushes ahead

Published on
February 1, 2010

Most seafood restaurants went through their toughest times ever last year. The Fish Market, based in Palo Alto, Calif., was no different, closing two underperforming restaurants, bringing its total to six California restaurants, with retail outlets in each. The company also operates its own wholesale distribution facility.

However, instead of languishing during a recession, The Fish Market stepped up its marketing efforts and saw holiday sales rise significantly. Aggressive promotions, along with planned seafood events, are already shoring up the chain’s sales in 2010.

SeafoodSource recently spoke to Durwin Daniels, director of food and beverage for The Fish Market, about the chain’s successful promotions.

Blank: What made your December promotions so profitable?
Daniels: Our 21st annual retail crab sale was more popular than ever; we were selling Dungeness crab, cracked and cleaned, for USD 3.75 a pound. This year, we also featured roasted whole crab in our restaurants, which really supported the sale. Between the retail and restaurant promotions, we probably sold 30,000 pounds of Dungeness crab over the two-week period. I think the radio advertising and internal promotions generated more opportunities to sell crab this year. In addition, we had a promotion in the restaurants, featuring whole Maine lobsters for USD 21.95. We were running out every day.

What other successful marketing programs do you plan to continue this year?
We have two menu options that are very popular. One is our Happy Oyster Hour menu, which includes Miyagi oysters for USD 0.95 and discounted appetizers and beverages. In addition, our “Early Catch” prix fixe menu, offered from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday includes sourdough bread, soup or salad, and an entrée for USD 12. We are offering the same portions as featured on our regular menu and our guests are pleasantly surprised that they receive high quality food for that price. We are seeing return visits between 4 and 6, which is generally a slower period for us.

What other events will help The Fish Market sell more seafood?
We put on casual food events in our restaurants on a quarterly basis. The current one is “The Dungeness Crab Experience,” hosted by our managers and a winery representative. It is a four-course meal, featuring items like Dungeness crab salad, crab cakes, whole roasted crab and Coconut-Crunch Gelato for USD 35. It’s a tremendous value, and sells out the day it is posted. Next quarter, we will feature Alaska halibut.

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