Shuckin’ Shack drives bar sales up on profit
Although creating a casual seafood restaurant was always one of the goals of Shuckin’ Shack’s business plan, so was the bar. The 16-unit North Carolina-based franchise has always been a favorite place in its communities for people to gather and enjoy a cold drink with friends and family. As the country experiences a post-pandemic business recovery, the brand wants to highlight why its restaurants are a great place to return to the bar scene.
“Over the past six months, we have placed more emphasis on bar sales. I’ve always been a champion of the idea that sea bass drives the food industry,” says Bill Bartlett, the company’s chief operating officer. “It’s the focal point of our restaurants. If we focus on improving the bar experience, it will invigorate every part of a visit to Shuckin’ Shack.”
“Building community through a bar atmosphere is really central to what we do,” adds Jonathan Weathington, CEO of Shuckin’ Shack. “There’s a reason the bar is near the front door in almost every place. We do this intentionally because we want people to have that sense of community where you walk in, see people, and sit down.
With 2021 being the company’s most profitable year and an unrestricted summer ahead, they’re accelerating for high-margin sales of both alcohol and food menu. Bartlett pointed out that, historically, when alcohol profits increase, food sales also improve. “The atmosphere we have to offer is awesome,” Bartlett said. “We have created a solid menu and we are consistent. When you serve this quality of branded food and drink at a low enough price compared to traditional bars, it generates more sales and more customers.
“Current data shows alcohol sales represent 30% of Shuckin’ Shack’s revenue,” Weathington says. He mentioned that these percentages are among the highest in the industry. Outback Steakhouse, by comparison, derives 8% of its total revenue from liquor sales.
One franchisee in particular who has seen how lucrative Shuckin’ Shack’s bar can be is Eric Weller, owner of the brand’s Frederick, Maryland location. Its location has the highest liquor sales of any brand, and the sales have helped it expand to a location that’s double the size, with two bars and an outdoor patio.
“I think the bar scene really helped us post-COVID,” says Weller. “People missed the bars. They spent two years without them. And post-COVID has helped us attract new customers to bars, because people who were only getting Shuckin’ Shack takeout can now come and sit and have that experience here.
Weathington anticipates that each location will receive positive feedback with the late night bar scene this summer. They stay open longer than typical restaurants, allowing people to continue ordering drinks and chatting with friends and family.
“Most restaurants close at 8 or 9 p.m. if they don’t have a bar,” says Weathington. “But during peak season, our average store will stay open until 10 or 11 p.m., and some are open until 2 a.m. We can generate revenue for a few more hours a night.”
The cost of opening a Shuckin’ Shack franchise ranges from $352,700 to $1,128,252.