Quick service restaurants that center their menus around seafood are pretty hard to come by. It seems to be that most of the seafood restaurants out there are geared toward table service, or even fine dining.
Captain D’s is one of the leading quick service seafood restaurants in the nation. They offer a delicious menu of seafood and non-seafood options, that is sure to please everyone. With many of their stores being located in the American South, they have developed a loyal following in the states below the Mason-Dixon Line.
Captain D’s is looking for more franchisees as they plan for further expansion across the United States.
Captain D’s History
Originally called Mr. D’s Seafood and Hamburgers, the first location opened in Donelson, Tennessee, in 1969. They also began franchising that same year.
By 1973, the popularity of Mr. D’s was spreading, as they had opened 15 locations in the U.S. A year later, in 1974, they changed their name to Captain D’s, as the decision was made to focus more heavily on their seafood options. Their fish and shrimp dishes were quickly becoming the stars of the show, and they wanted to showcase them exclusively.
Because of the increase in Captain D’s popularity with families, they began introducing aspects of their restaurants that appeal to children in the 1980’s. These included the Kids’ Birthday Club and various comic books for children. By including children in their marketing strategies, Captain D’s was able to grow their level of appeal with with families, increasing their revenue each year.
The 1980’s were also the beginning of a new era for Captain D’s. As their popularity grew, they began experimenting with new menu items and redesigning their logo. This trend continued through the 1990’s, with several different promotional periods bringing forth new items and looks for the restaurants.
In 2012, all restaurants began undergoing a complete refurbishment. This included a new coastal theming to bring a warm, welcoming atmosphere to guests as they arrive. The goal with the redesign was to bring the chain into the 21st century. Prior to the remodel, the chain felt that the restaurants were beginning to look dated and unwelcoming.
Today, there are more than 500 Captain D’s restaurants in operation. The chain has high hopes for further success and larger growth to new parts of the country.
To join Captain D’s team of owners, the first step is to submit the inquiry form on their franchising website. This will prompt a member of their franchise development team to contact the applicant and begin the conversation.
There are several factors that Captain D’s looks for in their new franchisees that will set an applicant apart from the crowd.
The first is a substantial history of previous business success. This experience will help the applicant immensely in the process of launching and running the location. It helps even more if that experience comes from a quick service restaurant.
Previous experience in this setting shows that the applicant has the ability to succeed in the industry and will be able to handle the ups and downs that come with owning a restaurant. In an industry that can be fickle and hard to peg down, previous experience is the best weapon to bring into battle.
After experience, the next most important qualification for an applicant is their financial strength. Captain D’s requires their franchisees to come into the agreement with a net worth of at least $1,000,000. Additionally, they will need $350,000 in liquid cash.
The next requirement that Captain D’s looks for in their franchisees is the willingness to open at least three locations. Captain D’s is on a mission to expand and they need franchisees who are willing to help with that. Because it costs them just as much to train a franchisee no matter how many locations they own, it’s in their best interest to find owners who are committed to opening multiple units. They get several locations for the price of training one franchisee.
After the initial phone call where these qualifications are discussed, Captain D’s will invite those they deem as qualified to a market visit at their corporate headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee. If this is unrealistic for the applicant, the corporate sales team will then travel to their location to have a face to face meeting.
During this meeting, both parties will get to know each other a little deeper to determine the likelihood that a business arrangement would be mutually beneficial. It’s important for both sides to feel comfortable with the potential business partner and the expectations of the arrangement.
If both parties agree to move forward following this meeting, the candidate will be asked to fill out an application. Through the application, the candidate will need to detail their prior experience. They will also need to provide proof of financial status. This is also the point at which Captain D’s will conduct a background check on the candidate.
If all is approved on the application, the candidate will be sent a copy of the franchise disclosure document. This document is important because it will detail the agreement between franchisor and franchisee. The applicant is encouraged to spend several days combing through the information before making any decision or moving forward.
Applicants who wish to move forward after careful consideration of the contents in the franchise disclosure document will be permitted to complete validation calls to current franchisees. These franchisees will provide the applicant with some much needed insight into the relationship with Captain D’s. Because they are the only ones that know what owning a Captain D’s franchise looks like from the inside, they will be able to provide helpful information and a perspective that no one else will.
Following these calls, the applicant will have one final call with the franchise development team to ensure the relationship is a good fit. From there, all that will be left is to sign the paperwork, pay the license fee, and begin construction.
The franchise license fee will run the franchisee $35,000. This will allow the franchisee to conduct business under the Captain D’s name, as well as provide access to their products and suppliers.
With the license purchased and contract signed, the franchisee can begin to search for the perfect location to house their restaurant. With their new design that debuted in 2012, they are able to house their restaurants in smaller spaces and reduce their footprint. This is also good news for the franchisee, as it means that their real estate and construction costs will be lower.
After the site has been selected and the restaurant has been constructed, the space will need to be outfitted with equipment, furniture, and staff. The estimated cost to launch the restaurant, less the cost of real estate and construction, will range between $781,000 and $1,113,000.
As far as quick service restaurant franchises are concerned, Captain D’s is on the high side for investment costs.
Captain D’s Treasure Trove
The big question most potential franchisees are eager to ask is how much money will the location make. The purpose of starting a business is to turn profits, so asking this questions is pretty obvious.
Captain D’s is pretty up front about the earning potential of their locations. They state that the top one-third of franchised locations earn an average of $1.549 million per year in gross total sales. For a quick service restaurant, that is an incredibly good average. Granted it is only the top third of all franchised locations, but it’s still good statistic.
In addition to the revenue generated by the top earning stores, the growth pattern is also a helpful statistic. By watching the growth rate, it is possible to make educated guesses in regards to the profitability of the chain. Since the chain seeks out franchisees who are willing to open multiple locations, it can be deduced that increases in location counts can point to at least moderate success in current locations.
If current locations were not succeeding, franchisees could not and would not open additional locations.
Throughout the early part of the decade, Captain D’s was maintaining steady franchised location numbers. There were no sizeable increases or decreases between 2011 and 2015. Sometime in 2015, though, things started to look a little dire. Franchised locations were disappearing at a decent rate, with no apparent reason for the losses. This continued until 2017.
Since 2017, Captain D’s has managed to come back, at least a little bit. They have not recovered the nearly 20 locations that were lost in that 2-year period, but they have made progress.
If they did not show any signs of rebounding after that period of loss, it would be more concerning. It is not uncommon to see this particular trend in restaurant chains, and the fact that Captain D’s is doing their best to bring their number back up to where they used to be says a lot about their system. They have faced loss but have not given up.
Seeing the average sales figures for the top-earning locations and the upward trend that is currently happening in their location counts paints a picture of a brand that is on the rise.
Saying “Aye!” to the Captain
With nearly 50 years of franchising experience under their belt, Captain D’s has proven multiple times that they know what they are doing. They have taken their concept and evolved it on more than one occasion to keep up with the demands of their customers, as well as the times.
Having a franchisor that is aware of their surroundings and that is able to adapt is helpful to any franchisee. Being a part of an organization that does not know how to respond to changes in time or demands of customers puts franchisees at a disadvantage.
Captain D’s abilities to stay current, along with their high earning potential and steady history make them a strong choice in franchisors. Any entrepreneur looking for a quick service restaurant opportunity would be encouraged to investigate Captain D’s and see if it is right for them.
Even with a couple of bad years with location losses, they have proven their ability to rebound and stand tall. That is a sign of a good, strong franchisor that any franchisee could be proud to partner with.