No longer are fish tacos relegated to SoCal or lobster rolls commonly found only in Maine. Fast-casual upstarts are bringing regional seafood favorites even to landlocked areas, hoping to snag customers seeking healthier, high-quality seafood options that are less expensive than what they’d find in a full-service place.
But it’s not all about the menu; there’s a push among emerging concepts to source sustainable seafood—likely an attempt to appeal to millennials looking to spend their dollars with eco-conscious operators.
Here’s a look at some of the players diving into the fast-casual seafood pool.
Units: 2, plus food truck
Spin: Bringing Maine-style lobster rolls to the Midwest in a variety of prototypes—a food truck, walk-up counter and BYOB restaurant with seafood served in red plastic baskets with checkered paper.
What’s next: While there’s no talk of expansion on the Internet, the concept appeared on CNBC’s “The Profit” in November, rejecting an investment offer from entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis.
Where: Mostly New York, with a few other locations in Washington, Boston, Las Vegas and Chicago
Spin: Boasts sustainability and sourcing quality lobster for its lobster rolls as its primary focus, with founder Luke Holden meeting with Maine fisherman to examine lobsters regularly.
What’s next: The chain is in expansion mode, looking beyond its original New York market to hit the Midwest market.
Spin: Touting itself as a modern seafood shack serving sustainably raised seafood, 60 percent of which is wild-caught. Owners Andrew Gruel and Jethro Naude launched their own wholesale company to buy directly from purveyors to keep menu costs low.
What’s next: It started franchising in 2013 with the goal to reach 500 locations in 10 years, including at least 50 sites now planned for the Middle East.