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Home » Franchise spotlight: How Shuckin’ Shack grew from a dive bar to a budding chain
Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing franchise series highlighting brands that are new to franchising or expanding aggressively. Is your restaurant starting the franchise? Email us at [email protected]
When Matt Piccinin and Sean Cook opened an oyster bar called Shuckin’ Shack in Carolina Beach, North Carolina in 2007, the twenty-somethings didn’t want to build a burgeoning chain. They just wanted to open a bar, have fun and stay open. The first Shuckin’ Shack, a 1,000-square-foot restaurant that was essentially a dive bar, quickly grew in popularity. By 2010, the founders were ready to open their second location in Wilmington, North Carolina, 25 minutes away, said Jonathan Weathington, CEO of Shuckin’ Shack.
The founders wanted a proof of concept in a larger market in a location twice the size of the first restaurant. The Wilmington location allowed Piccinin and Cook to expand the menu with a larger kitchen and offer more seating, Weathington said. This second location added dishes like seafood tacos, fried oysters, crab cakes, and fresh salads to the menu.
Weathington, who knew Cook from his work at Cook’s Beach Rental Shop between undergraduate and graduate school, helped set up the second location. In 2014, the founders were approached about franchising. They approached Weathington, who had extensive experience in the retail segment, and asked him to join them on this venture. At this point he became CEO of the company. Since then the company has grown to 19 units, 17 of which are franchisees. They expect to open three more locations this year.
Management was poised for a franchise in 2015 because it felt Shuckin’ Shack was unique from other full-service oyster bar and fish chain concepts, Weathington said. Shuckin’ Shack also proved to be profitable at the corporate locations. In 2022, compared to 2019, same-store sales increased by 7% and average selling prices increased by 14%. These restaurants are smaller, typically averaging 2,500 square feet, and require about 25 employees, Weathington said.
Shuckin’ Shack offers franchisees extensive hands-on support and location assistance. Weathington said he goes to all locations to read up on the market and make sure they are in a good location. In addition, Shuckin’ Shack has supplier contacts, preferred architects and general contractors to ease some of the build-out burden, he said.
Shuckin’ Shack offers two weeks of in-depth training at its Wilmington headquarters, approximately five to six weeks after a franchisee’s opening date. The biggest focus of this training is teaching franchisees how to run a restaurant, from opening and closing procedures to hands-on experience at one of the company restaurants, Weathington said. As part of ongoing communications, Shuckin’ Shack has a benefits plan for its franchisee and is engaging with operators at least weekly to help new operators plan for the grand opening. In addition, Shuckin’ Shack offers Aloha’s point-of-sales system and online learning management to provide training videos and quizzes.
Permission granted by Shuckin’ Shack
Development Plans: As of January, Shuckin’ Shack expects three units to open in 2023, but that could change depending on some outstanding leases, Weathington said. Shuckin’ Shack typically likes secondary markets and does really well near dormitories, Weathington said. These markets give Shuckin’ Shack access to a customer base that can be visited multiple times a week, rather than just on special occasions, he said. Shuckin’ Shack plans to expand primarily in the Southeast, where it has a majority of its locations, but has also opened restaurants in Illinois and Texas. The chain is open to locations where the brand fits from a management and experience perspective. Ideal franchisees: Restaurant experience is not required to be a Shuckin’ Shack franchisee, but the company is looking for candidates who are hospitable, communicative and involved in the community, Weathington said. Franchise Quick Facts Initial investment: $453,000 to $1.1 million net worth: $500,000¹ Liquidity: $250,000¹ Franchise Fee: $45,000* License fee: 3.5% (year one), 4.5% (year two), 5.5% (year three). Marketing fee: 1.5%
¹Varies based on market, franchisee credit profile and other factors. *Based on FDD 2022 but expected to increase with FDD 2023.