In this exclusive Q&A, we sit down with Andy Diamond, president of Angry Crab Shack, to chat through the brand’s recent community giveback amid the pandemic.
Franchise Chatter (FC): Let’s start with the basics – tell us a bit about Angry Crab Shack.
Andy Diamond (AD): The concept of Angry Crab Shack was founded back in 2013 by Ron Lou. Ron is now a dear friend and has an incredibly inspiring story – a first generation immigrant, Ron was the first Asian American to play in the NFL. He played for the Houston Oilers and Philadelphia Eagles before shifting to focus fully on his passion for launching restaurants.
Ron developed Angry Crab Shack to be a casual gathering spot with not only amazing food, but a contagious culture. The brand is all about rolling up your sleeves surrounded by friends or family to enjoy fresh seafood with an Asian Cajun flare.
Our headquarters is located in Mesa, Arizona. We actually just moved into a larger campus as we’ve continued to grow and bring on more team members throughout the years. The new building is filled with areas specifically for training new staff and franchise owners as well as areas for collaboration and meetings.
It’s crazy to think that we’ve already been franchising around three years. We now have 12 locations open and operating – six of which are franchises.
FC: In a time when most restaurants are playing it safe or cutting spending, what inspired you to ramp up community giveback?
AD: We as a team wanted to remain committed to the health and wellness of the communities we are in, especially amid a pandemic. We strive to set a philanthropic example for the business community, so ramping up charitable giving during the height of the pandemic was a must and something that we were in a position to do.
We gave to Phoenix Children’s Hospital, the Arizona Housing Coalition and several food banks throughout the Greater Phoenix Area. We want to help offset any scheduled donations that many people and businesses may not have been able to make this year because of financial hardship related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We want to show that Angry Crab Shack is committed to supporting the community – giveback has always been part of our DNA. We were fortunate enough to be in a position to continue our yearly donations and step up for any others that were hurting this year.
FC: How did you choose which organizations to donate to?
AD: Near and dear to our hearts, and headquarters, is the Phoenix Children’s Hospital. We have a longstanding partnership with the hospital, donating a portion of sales from the Phoenix Children’s Fries directly to the facility. On a normal day, it costs millions of dollars to staff and operate the hospital – amid a pandemic, the cost is even greater. In order to ensure our local families still received the care they needed, we donated $90,000 this year.
We also donated to the Arizona Housing Coalition to support their teams and the variety of resources they provide to our area military veterans. The $40,000 we raised will help them keep up with the increased demand for housing assistance, clothing, meals, haircuts and more to homeless or at-risk veterans.
Lastly, with families all across the country grappling with furloughs and lay-offs, we wanted to make sure food banks were well equipped to handle the increased need. We donated to St. Mary’s Food Bank in Phoenix and United Food Bank in Mesa which resulted in 120,000 meals for Phoenix area families.
FC: Did you have to shift any focuses or update any operations in the business model during the pandemic?
AD: We took the pandemic to slow down and refine our operations from top to bottom, resulting in increased sales and new hires. One of the big changes we made was taking a top performing General Manager, Sloane Emden, and repositioning him as Corporate Chef. He brings a wealth of professional experience and a passion for the Angry Crab Shack brand and mission. Sloane helped evaluate every menu item and made improvements such as incorporating our proprietary spices into our battered shrimp and cod as well as create new menu items that will appeal to all seafood lovers no matter what part of the country they live.
In addition, Sloane created virtual training modules for cooking and presentation procedures that can be used by our corporate locations and franchise owners. Sloane and our team used restaurants open for limited hours due to the pandemic to bring together our entire kitchen staff for comprehensive and continued education. He also helped us streamline takeout orders – which now accounts for 20% of sales – and overhaul presentation and packaging with the help of our new Director of Operations Eric Kardon.
Kardon was key in helping us shape our team for the growth ahead. Putting people in the right seats is Eric’s strength – in fact, he’s the one that recommended we move Sloane, which has been unbelievably valuable for our company.
Finally, the virtual training modules created by Sloane are part of a new virtual training resource that’s been developed and that’s currently being rolled out to the franchise network. We’re calling it the Crab Lab. This resource will enable our franchise owners and their staff to expand their knowledge and achieve improved operational efficiencies in a wide variety of areas.
FC: When I think of carry out, a seafood boil doesn’t immediately come to mind. Have you done anything to perfect your carry out orders?
AD: You bring up a great point. There are challenges a consumer wouldn’t even think about, like how to keep the seafood hot while transferring it without overcooking it. The key is finding a carry out container that allows for ventilation to avoid overcooking, but keeps the food hot for the guest. And, streamlining the cook to carry out timeline. We were able to focus on these details during the slow down time of the pandemic with Sloane leading the charge.
FC: How has the pandemic impacted your 2020 growth goals?
AD: Even amid a pandemic, Angry Crab Shack is continuing to grow. We recently signed new deals in Arizona, Illinois and Nevada in addition to launching new restaurants in San Tan Valley, Arizona and Orange Beach, Alabama. Recently signed franchisees are also bringing the brand to Arlington, Texas; Salt Lake City, Utah; Atlanta, Georgia and Parkland, Florida, with site selection well underway for the new restaurants.
The pandemic has certainly brought forth more opportunity for taking over second-generation real estate as businesses may be choosing to permanently close or move operations.
FC: Where should readers go to find more information on Angry Crab Shack?
AD: We’re always looking for qualified and passionate people to help us grow our brand. We have a goal to have 100 locations open and operating by 2025, as we’ve refined operations, increased our infrastructure, and improved our training procedures and materials to simplify the opening process. For more information on our franchise opportunity, candidates can go to https://www.angrycrabfranchise.com/why-us/.