WHY I BOUGHT
Why this Steakhouse Franchisee Chose to Invest in Shuckin' Shack to Build Top-Grossing Location
After 16 and a half years of working for a steakhouse franchise, Jason Thorpe shifted gears and became the owner of the most successful Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar.
Today, with 20 years of foodservice experience under his belt, Jason Thorpe, owner of Summerville, South Carolina’s Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar, is the ideal restaurant owner. He was first involved in the restaurant industry in the late ‘90s in Augusta, Georgia and later worked for a large steakhouse franchise.
From 1999 until 2005, Thorpe held nearly every restaurant position at multiple locations of Logan’s Roadhouse. He rose through the ranks to become a bar manager, an assistant manager, and eventually, a general manager in 2005. Over the course of 16 and a half years with the steakhouse franchise, Thorpe was involved in 11 restaurant openings across Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
However, upon seeing no further advancement within Logan’s Roadhouse, Thorpe yearned for something more than being a general manager for the rest of his life. In 2014, he began the search for something new and stumbled across a job posting on Craigslist for a manager/owner position with Shuckin’ Shack.
“I had never heard of Shuckin’ Shack before then. Honestly, I never thought of going from a steakhouse to an oyster bar, either,” said Thorpe. “But, I saw a good opportunity, even if I was a little skeptical to be a franchisee at first. Since the company was still small and their franchising was just starting out, I was nervous to see who the other franchisees would be. I didn’t want to buy into something that would start off with a bad image.”
Even with his uncertainty, Thorpe took the chance. He was eager to own his own restaurant, especially after 10 years as a general manager. Only one week after contacting Shuckin’ Shack’s franchise developer, Thorpe was invited to Wilmington, North Carolina’s Shuckin’ Shack, the system’s second restaurant, for an initial in-person meeting. After the meeting, he knew he was ready to franchise.
“What mattered most was that I knew I’d get help along the way,” said Thorpe. “I’m not entirely on my own when it comes to menu building or store branding, especially since I didn’t want to create anything like a menu on my own.”
In April 2015, Thorpe’s Summerville Shuckin’ Shack opened its doors. Seating 35 guests in the main dining room and 24 on the patio, the restaurant is only 2,200 square feet, divided evenly between front-of-house and back-of-house operations.
“Coming from a 350-seat steakhouse, it’s quite a change. Most Fridays and Saturdays we have a long wait,” he said. “But guests gladly wait for the food, which says a lot.”
As the number-one-grossing franchise location and part of a three-unit business, Thorpe plans to expand in the future as a means to account for growth at his Summerville Shuckin’ Shack. However, he’s only looking to expand, not rebuild.
“I’m looking forward to opening another location, even if we haven’t chosen property yet,” said Thorpe. “I don’t want to change anything about the Summerville location, either. I’m a firm believer in the phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. But to open a new location may take pressure off our current location, especially during those busy times.”
Busy indeed, Thorpe continues to see significant growth. Summerville for the first two years, saw an average 15 to 20 percent increase in sales. This past year alone, Thorpe exceeded his growth trajectory, recording a 50 percent increase.
Although it has presented unique challenges compared to being in general management, Thorpe is eager to continue seeing where his restaurant and the franchise are going from here. He attributes his success to his client-driven approach, his effort to increase sales every day and his experience in and knowledge of the restaurant industry.
“I have roughly 20 years of restaurant experience. Add that to a lot of industry knowledge and you’ve got a solid foundation for making a number one restaurant,” said Thorpe. “But I think the real secret is that we deliver customer service culture as guests expect it to be delivered. We treat our guests so they’ll feel like family and always want to come back. Personally, those three things are what makes a restaurant so successful, and we have all of them.”
Stopping by Shuckin’ Shack’s Summerville location only adds to the argument for an authentic customer service culture. Thorpe’s restaurant has become a local watering hole for residents where nearly everyone who comes in is a regular, always the shaking hands of fellow diners and checking in about their families. With such local camaraderie, Thorpe and his wife donate time, food and money to the community by getting involved with local schools and sports teams in addition to helping organizations such as Children in Crisis and Courageous Kids.
“Giving back to the community and owning a franchise is a lot more rewarding, both financially and emotionally, than just being a general manager,” said Thorpe. “Both the company and I have come a long way, especially in terms of structure. But it’s that customer service, whether in the restaurant or outside of it, that makes us so successful.”
The startup cost for Shuckin’ Shack ranges from $234,200 to $541,350, with a franchise fee of $37,500 to $75,000. To learn more about franchising with Shuckin’ Shack, visit https://www.shuckinshackfranchise.com/.
About Shuckin' Shack
Shuckin' Shack Oyster Bar grew out of a vision for a local establishment that would appeal to families of all ages. A place where friends and family can enjoy fresh, delicious meals and creative cocktails in an environment that exudes relaxation. Shuckin' Shack offers its guests a "lifestyle experience" in addition to exceptional seafood. The brand started as a 900-square-foot shack in Carolina Beach, North Carolina, in 2007 and began franchising in 2014. Today, Shuckin' Shack has grown to 16 locations across five states, and soon to be six, with several more locations slated to open by the end of 2019. To learn more about Shuckin’ Shack, visit http://www.theshuckinshack.com.