Captain D's Moving Back to the Beach
Fast-casual seafood chain, Captain D’s, in the middle of a reinvention centered around beachy restaurant redesigns, a retooled, healthier menu and increasing its share of franchised locations.
The Nashville, Tennessee brand currently has 513 stores nationwide, with 273 of those owned by the company. As the company looks to shift that balance in favor of franchisees, the company is focused on aggressive growth, thoroughly testing its new ideas and taking care to avoid over-committing its pool of franchisees.
While some brands say operating company stores takes management’s eyes off their franchisees, Chief Development Officer Michael Arrowsmith says it isn’t moving entirely away from company-owned stores, because they serve a vital role as incubators for new store designs and restaurant concepts.
“We don’t just want franchisees to invest in the brand,” he said. “We’re investing in our brand as well and opening new restaurants because the returns are there.”
With a dramatic store renovation program that’s on track to have 51 percent of its locations remodeled by the end of 2015, Arrowsmith said the new design is meant to evoke a beach resort-like ambiance, and also help position the company as a fast-casual, rather than fast food restaurant.
He was quick to add that the brand’s evolution is much more than just renovations.
“We have done so much to listen to our customers and make the brand more relevant in the marketplace,” he said. Those changes include new grilled menu items and upgraded plate-ware, among many others.
Many of the stores that have made the change are reporting double-digit sales growth, as the entire chain has experienced four straight years of same-store sales growth.
Changes at Captain D’s have been significant, but Arrowsmith suggested the company has many other changes coming soon that will continue the brand’s transformation.
“We’ve barely scratched the surface of where we need to be, which is exciting,” he said. “We have so many things coming down that I really can’t speak about—it’s going to keep our trajectory in a positive direction.”
Arrowsmith’s enthusiasm throughout our 45-minute conversation makes it clear that the management team is fully engaged, and that its “test test test” mantra of data-driven choices will maintain that momentum as long as they consumer spending stays strong and the brand can attract new 'zees to its beachy bandwagon.