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Emerging Brands

How a seafood boil chain is preparing for off-premise growth

Angry Crab Shack is testing take-home seafood boil kits while also making sure to focus on the in-restaurant experience.
Photograph courtesy of Angry Crab Shack

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The concept: Angry Crab Shack

The details: The Mesa, Ariz.-based boil-in-a-bag seafood chain currently has 10 units in Arizona, with franchised expansion planned in Alabama, Florida, Texas and more. Units are typically 5,200 to 6,000 square feet, with seating for 180-250. The restaurants, which serve boiled seafood tossed in a butter sauce spiked with Cajun-Asian flavors, all have full bars.

The backstory: Angry Crab Shack was started in 2013 by restaurateur (and former NFL player) Ron Lou. Andy Diamond joined the company as president a couple of months later, heading up franchise growth.

Why it’s worth watching: Consumers increasingly look for an experience when choosing a full-service restaurant, and messy-fun Angry Crab Shack delivers hands-on dining and a wide variety of sauces and spice levels. Year-over-year sales grew 16.5%, according to the company.

angry crab shack

Photograph courtesy of Angry Crab Shack

HERE ARE FIVE GROWTH-MINDED QUESTIONS WITH ANGRY CRAB SHACK PRESIDENT ANDY DIAMOND: 

  1. How do you approach site selection?

We do a really good job in our site selection. When we’re looking for locations, we weren’t looking at, “What is the area like today?” It’s “What’s it going to look like two to three years from now?” A couple of our stores have had 30% growth over previous years. We look at school, worship areas. We go to the school boards and look at enrollment. If [founder Ron Lou] sees enrollment creeping up, he knows families are moving in.

  1. Many full-service restaurants are struggling as consumers move to off-premise options. How are you making it work with Angry Crab Shack?

A lot of it is our concept. You’re not getting a meal, you’re getting a full dining experience. It’s a destination place. You’re going to have fun.

  1. But you’re also exploring ways to bring your concept to people who might not want a night out, right?

We don’t deliver. We don’t use online delivery companies. We just do to-go now. We’re going to be able to give you a kit. We’re working on a way to do your own boil, so you can do it at home. We’re in the testing phase right now.

  1. Angry Crab Shack is very focused on charitable donations. Besides the obvious act of doing good in your community, have you seen the donations make an impact on your business?

It’s not just the guests, but when our employees see us doing things like that, it’s a place they want to work. We have many employees here, servers, for four or five years. Guests come in and they see a familiar face. They see all the things we’re doing.

  1. With so many consumers with dietary restrictions, have you made any accommodations for them?

We want to make sure we have something for everyone. With seafood, it’s nice because it meets a lot of those requirements. … It’s knowing all these types of new diets and how people want to eat. There’s no plant-based seafood. When we first started, we didn’t have salads. Now, you can get a veggie bowl with tofu. We know these might not be big sellers, but you want to make sure you have options for them.

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