What’s Special About Our Menu?
From grilled items to fresh vegetables as sides, the Captain D’s franchise menu reflects American consumers’ desire for healthy dining
Every burger shack, chicken joint and pizza parlor says its menu is special. And if by “special” they mean “slightly different from the competition,” then they’re telling the truth. But at Captain D’s, when we say special, we mean it in many different ways.
First and foremost, our quality and price are unparalleled in the industry. Nobody offers the quality of fish and the variety of preparations that we do. Outstanding seafood at an affordable price is the cornerstone of what we do.
Extensive menu redevelopment pays off
If you want to be the best seafood franchise, innovation is key to success. That means more than just rolling out one or two new menu items every year. It means a constant effort to re-imagine, expand and improve our menu. Here again, Captain D’s is a category of one.
“We get ideas for new menu items from lots of places, but we always take them straight to the guests,” says Jason Henderson, Vice President of Product Innovation and Executive Chef. “If they like the idea and think the price we’re talking about sounds good, then we begin testing.”
That’s no small matter. Less than 10 percent of suggestions make it from the idea stage to the actual Captain D’s menu board. Can our vendors supply us with what we need at the quality we demand? How does it look and taste? Does it work well with our other menu items? In 2013, it went like this:
A prime example of this attention to every last detail is the grilled menu. Since these entrees took their place on the menu they have become almost 10 percent of total sales — before we launched most of our national marketing.
“When we’re ready with a new food item, that means that we’ve worked out how it’s prepared and who’s involved in that, all the back-end processes,” Jason says. “But then it’s time to ‘birth the baby’ and get it into the restaurants! For that, we’ll go into three markets, about 30 restaurants, and do a full-court press. It might even be in broadcast TV ads, a really high-profile launch.”
Captain D’s franchise: longtime favorites never get stale
At the same time, the anchor menu items (the “fan favorites”) are always guaranteed to be top-quality. That’s especially true if the executive chef has a favorite.
“I really enjoy the batter-dipped fish,” Jason says. “The Alaska pollock variety means that we are getting the whole muscle, not pieces pressed together. None of our competitors offers that. I’ve been on the trolley boats when they catch those fish off the coast of Alaska, so I can vouch for it. It’s why this product has been with Captain D’s since 1969.”
Jason also enjoys the new Parmesan-encrusted tilapia on the grilled menu.
“It just shows so well what our guests love about us: seafood expertise,” he says. “Not just the value, but the variety. They like the way we can cook seafood, from healthy to indulgent.”
Custom request? No problem for our kitchens
That also means catering to special requests — never a problem in a Captain D’s restaurant.
“We are set up so that we can take care of a customer’s need,” Jason says. “Our food is not sitting under a heat lamp waiting for someone to buy it. We begin cooking when the guest places his or her order. That way, we can ensure not only a fresh plate of seafood, but also take into account any special needs they have. Being able to customize orders is another way that Captain D’s stands out in the fast-casual market.”
But in the end, it’s about the fish, the cole slaw, the hush puppies, and all the rest.
“The taste and quality of our food ranks at the top of the list of why people are coming again,” Jason says. “We test everything thoroughly, and then we test it again in two or three markets. We take every single step very carefully and analyze all the data we can gather. Fewer than 10 percent of the ideas we either get from guests or come up with ourselves make it from concept to menu. But the ones that do are generally successful.”