Fresh oysters are the main event at Shuckin’ Shack.
Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar, which started as a 900-square-foot shack in Carolina Beach, North Carolina, in 2007, is heading inland for growth.
“We realized that we have a lot of mom-and-pop competition on the coast,” says Matt Piccinin, co-founder, but more space in land-locked locales. “There really isn’t a full-blown oyster bar concept that is a franchise model that we’ve come across yet, nothing on the national stage.
“What we realized is our inland stores actually do just as well as our coastal stores, and it’s funny to see the ebb and flow of the two different businesses,” he said, with coastal stores going crazy starting about now, spring break time, through the summer, and vice versa with inland stores.
The Raleigh and Charlotte areas were the first two inland markets to be tested, with many customers familiar with Shuckin’ Shack from beach vacations. “We knew that we’d be able to make it in those locations on the brand name alone,”he said. The Greenville, South Carolina, store, two hours west of Charlotte, took more work to spread the word.
Shuckin’ Shack began franchising in 2014 and has 15 stores open. Average unit volumes are $1.1 million with a basic footprint ranging from 2,200 to 3,000 square feet.
Getting oysters to inland customers wasn’t a problem, he said. “Supply chain is a lot easier than we originally thought,” he said, especially with the move toward aquaculture, oyster farms and regulations around oyster sustainability.
Before deciding to open inland stores, Piccinin conducted a test by calling his supplier and asking if they could get oysters to Fargo, North Dakota, where one of his franchisee prospects lived. U.S. Foods said no problem. If Fargo was a go, he figured, so would be most other places.
One thing Piccinin doesn’t want to end is the laid-back, beachy vibe of the brand, and they’ve written what they call a lifestyle guide for franchisees. “It’s really important to us that franchisees share that lifestyle. We’re very relaxed, very low-key when it comes to how we act,” he said. “I go to work every day with shorts, a t-shirts and flip-flop. That’s the way we live, about six blocks form the original store. We stay as close to the original brand as possible because that’s what we were built on.”