US seafood chain sales rebound
Sales at both full-service and limited-service U.S. seafood chains soared in 2012 as the economy rebounded, according to new data provided exclusively to SeafoodSource.
Full-service seafood restaurant chain sales climbed 4.5 percent in 2012, compared to 2011, according to preliminary information from foodservice consulting firm’s Technomic Inc.’s Top 500 Chain Restaurant report, which will be released in mid-April.
The seafood category follows the overall restaurant industry growth of 4.9 percent in 2012. “It is certainly encouraging to see overall industry growth rates return to levels not seen since 2007,” said Ron Paul, president of Technomic.
The full-service seafood sales growth rate of 4.5 percent in 2012 was remarkable, since the category grew only 2 percent in 2011. “Red Lobster drives that sales growth, since it comprises such a large portion of the full-service seafood segment. Red Lobster’s sales grew 4.5 percent in 2012,” Mary Chapman, director of production innovation for Technomic, told SeafoodSource.
Sales growth at Darden Group-owned Red Lobster can be attributed to a number of changes in the past year, including improvements to its menu, an increased focus on value, and changing the interior design of its stores, according to Chapman. “Red Lobster has been working consistently on … increasing and promoting the quality aspects — such as fresh, seasonal, and wood-fired — of the products they are serving. They also continue to offer price promotions, to increase value to the people who are concerned about value,” Chapman said.
Captain D’s was the star in the limited-service sector in 2012, with an earnings increase of 7.8 percent, according to the early data from Technomic. “Their sales have been up for four or five consecutive quarters. Sun Capital, which owns Captain D’s, is working on menu and brand positioning before expanding,” Chapman said.
In addition to upgrading its core menu items, Captain D’s has launched a “Fire Grilled” menu that has been positively received by guests, Captain D’s CEO Phil Greifeld told SeafoodSource last year. Captain D’s television commercials, store re-design program, and numerous other efforts have also contributed to an increase in the chain’s profitability, according to Greifeld.
The story is not so great for Long John Silver’s, which had a sales drop of 3.1 percent in 2012, according to Technomic. “Their new parent company has made many of the same efforts as Captain D’s, including menu positioning. Hopefully, those changes will take effect as time goes by, but our numbers show they haven’t yet,” Chapman said.
Among casual seafood operators, Bonefish Grill is one of the casual category leaders with a spike in sales of 11.2 percent in 2012. “Bonefish is also leading in our consumer research. They do well with executing and promoting the freshness of their food and utilizing social media,” Chapman said.