Our monthly “Meet Our Team” series continues today with a brief interview with Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar Co-Founder, Matt Piccinin. Beyond being an original founder, Matt is also who is involved in the day-to-day operation of the Shuckin’ Shack Franchise team, and in the leadership and direction of this restaurant franchise as Chief Operating Office (COO). Below, he answers several questions that potential franchisees for “The Shack” should find insightful as they consider this fresh new restaurant concept!
Q1: After opening your first Shuckin' Shack Oyster Bar in 2007, with co-founder Sean Cook, when did you start to consider the possibility of expansion through franchising?
After our second year in Historic Wilmington, we were debating opening a third location or franchising. After speaking with multiple people we decided to move in the franchising direction. We took the next year getting our business systems in place and began franchising in 2014.
Q2: What other restaurants or franchise companies inspired you or resembled what you would consider to be truly successful business system?
I wouldn't say there was a concept in particular that inspired us. However, we did study a variety of other concepts in all stages of franchising. We didn't want to reinvent the wheel, we just wanted to tweak the system to match “The Shack” brand.
Q3: Your 3-4-5 franchise royalty structure is revolutionary within the restaurant franchise niche; where did this idea come from and how has it benefited your newest franchisees?
We knew that many new restaurants fail within the first year or two of opening, so we decided to give our new franchisees a break during those critical years. This gives our franchisees more money to put into marketing and growing their business. It also allows them to completely recoup there initial franchise fee, with our AUV hovering around 1.1 million - that equates to about $30K in savings.
Q4: Your team recently re-opened a flagship restaurant model in Wilmington, NC: Why is it so important for franchisors to operate a location of their own?
We expanded our flagship restaurant to be a model for future franchise locations. This location also gave us the ability to consistently improve our operations, training, and perfect our menu.
Q5: Speaking of the menu, last month your team expanded "The Shack" menu while still keeping it to single page. What new menu items were added that your existing Shuckin' Shack franchisees are excited about?
We really focused on sandwiches to drive lunch sales. We have added about 10 new menu items and revamped a few more. The Tuxedo T-shirt (lobster grilled cheese), Breakwater Burger and Fo' Rilla are three of the items we’re really excited about. We also added a vegan option, in the form of a black bean burger, per franchisee requests.
Q6: From the perspective of a potential franchisee, what are the primary benefits of your single page menu?
Limited products that they have to keep in house. When utilizing a single page menu, we are able to cross utilize items in different dishes. This cuts down on inventory on hand and the possibility of food spoilage.
Q7: What is it about the fresh seafood niche that would be appealing to existing franchisees who might already operate hamburger or sandwich franchises?
We’re different. We focus on fresh, sustainable products and we let the seafood speak for itself. We serve our seafood steamed and raw without the frills that other brands do.
Q8: Final question! With 2019 just now getting started, the Shuckin' Shack Restaurant Franchise is projected to finish this year with over 20 operating restaurants. What do the next few years look like for your brand, in terms of unit expansion, target markets and your ideal franchisees?
Our target for the next five years is to open just 5-8 units each year. We have the team place now and are in the final development stages of our CRM and LMS (The Hinge) which will streamline these process and allow us to manage multiple openings at a time. As for target markets, we want to continue throughout the Southeast, as our brand is a natural fit. We would also like to break into Pennsylvania , Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee. We know our brand would bring a truly different dining option to these states.
Q9: Between launching your first restaurant in Carolina Beach, and basing your franchise company in Wilmington, you've established strong ties to North Carolina. Were you born and raised in the Carolina's?
While I was born in Canada, I spent a lot of time in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh as a kid. The one constant was always our Summer vacations to Carolina Beach, where I was fortunate enough to move to permanently in 2002. Having spent so many years in the Midwest, we know people truly desire fresh seafood and a coastal experience that isn't 10 hours away. We know that, logistically, Wilmington may not be the ideal place to be based, but for us to stay true to our brand and coastal lifestyle, we know this is where we need to be!
We sincerely thank Mr. Matt Piccinin for his time, and for co-founding such an amazing restaurant brand. As he mentioned, our franchise team is targeting Ohio for expansion, starting with Columbus in 2019. If you or someone you know is sincere about opening a great seafood restaurant and sports pub with a vibrant coastal vibe, please Share this link today!