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What Keeps Our Seafood Franchise Thriving? Ask Our Executive Team!

With the grand opening of Shuckin’ Shack’s all-new Naperville, IL location, not to mention several more franchise locations poised to open their doors in the coming months, it’s safe to say a SHUCK-TON has been going on with our seafood franchise lately! Seems people just can’t get enough of fresh, sustainably sourced oysters, crab legs and more served in a laid-back, East Coast beach-style environment that’s built for fun and family—and who can blame them?

Our crazy-busy schedule didn’t stop CEO Jonathan Weathington and VP of Marketing and Creative Darren Keeler from taking time to sit down and spill their secret sauce for running a tight ship, finding the perfect balance between work and fun, and turning visitors into regulars and friends as the Shuckin’ Shack seafood franchise continues to get love from its growing fan base.

Authenticity is Key

One of the most important aspects of the Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar experience is its unique culture. The moment you walk in the door, you feel like you just walked into a room full of friends. Shuckin’ Shack does something other seafood franchise concepts—and indeed, other restaurant concepts in general—often fail to do, which is convey the feeling of fun and relaxation without making it cringey. Weathington summed up the Shuckin’ Shack culture in one word. “Authentic.”

“It doesn’t need to go beyond that,” adds Weathington. “It’s difficult to pretend [to have fun] when you’re open 365 days a year. You can’t keep up a facade. It’s easier for employees to be themselves. Our culture standpoint is authenticity. Be who you are.” 

Shuckin’ Shack’s commitment to an authentic experience means a genuine love and enjoyment for meeting people, talking to customers and feeding off of their energy to spread the positive vibes and keep them going all day, every day. No need for phony gimmicks or dorky catchphrases. Customers know they’re going to have a good time when they come to their local Shuckin’ Shack seafood franchise thanks to the great food, friendly staff and laid-back, beachy vibe…

Life’s a Beach

…Which brings up a good question: how do Shuckin’ Shack seafood franchise locations achieve the feel of an easy-breezy East Coast beach shack even in Midwestern cities like Chicago, IL or St. Louis, MO? According to Weathington, a lot of it comes down to branding tactics, right down to the fonts the Marketing team uses to evoke the feeling of a fun-filled day at the beach.

That’s not to say we want our Shuckin’ Shack franchise locations to be cookie-cutter copies of one another. Quite the opposite: we encourage each Franchise Owner to put their own local spin on the design and decor of their Shuckin’ Shack to ensure no two are exactly alike. Additionally, we stress that the sunny, feel-good vibes within a Shuckin’ Shack location have a lot more to do with attitude than with decorations. “We don’t want them to feel the same,” Weathington explains. “We want a local feel with East Coast roots. We make sure Franchise Owners understand this from the get-go. It’s up to Owners to keep up the ‘laid-back’ feel; it doesn’t come from decor, TV, booths…it comes from the people within the four walls.”

Shuckin’ Awesome Staff

It’s true that when it comes to the Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar experience, nothing plays a bigger part in bringing that authentically fun energy than the staff members at each location. Keeler explains that hiring and retaining staff members who are genuinely committed to providing a fun experience for every customer who walks in the door is something of a trickle-down effect. “It starts with us at the top, then goes to our Franchise Owners to keep that personality. As long as Owners act the part and are the part, it trickles down to the staff.”

“They [staff members] play the biggest role, no doubt,” adds Weathington. “If we didn’t communicate that effectively, then we will become every other s***y restaurant. We say we are different and we truly are.”

But how do Franchise Owners hire the ideal Shuckin’ Shack staff members in the first place? As Weathington explains, it all comes down to personality. “Hire by personality. We always are big believers in hiring by personality. All we’re looking for is the right person. It’s like the saying, be the person your pet thinks you are.”

Keeler agrees, “You can teach operations; you can’t teach personality.”

Building the Shack

No matter where it’s located or how a Franchise Owner decides to infuse it with their local flavor, Shuckin’ Shack’s standout architecture and one-of-a-kind vibe make it different from every other restaurant in their community. Hitting on just the right feel and tone for a particular market is an involved process, but a very important one, says Weathington. Fortunately for Franchise Owners, the executive team is at the helm to help them navigate the complex waters of the construction and buildout process. “We’re pretty hands-on,” he says, adding, “We have an awesome architect that drives the process.”

A key component of getting Franchise Owners involved in the construction of their Shuckin’ Shack seafood franchise is educating them on the importance of how their location looks and feels when customers walk in the door. “A lot of it is educational,” Weathington notes. “During Approval Day, we talk about architectural services and the feel of the restaurant.”

The executive team accomplishes this by showcasing the very different structures and personalities of several Shuckin’ Shack franchise locations near our North Carolina headquarters.  “We have five restaurants in our local area,” explains Weathington. “During Approval Day, we take prospective Owners to all of them.” This way, potential Franchise Owners can see why having an architectural personality and feel all their own is important. “Personalization is very apparent,” says Weathington. “We never stop talking about it—it’s never on the back burner.”


In addition to each thoughtfully curated franchise location’s unique look and feel, along with a shuckin’ delicious menu filled with sustainably sourced seafood options, Shuckin’ Shack has another secret weapon for seafood franchise success: they never stop coming up with creative and fun ways to market their brand in a way that stays true to their concept and values. From the “Shack-letes” they sponsor as part of their collegiate athlete sponsorship program to the recent Fresh and Raw Tour that teamed local musicians up with nationally-renowned heavy-hitters CJ Solar and Warren Garrett to bring a fun-filled concert experience to Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar franchise locations across the country, Shuckin’ Shack’s marketing ideas are as fresh as our seafood offerings!

“The Fresh and Raw Tour and the Shack-letes have been very awesome,” says Keeler. “We’re going bigger and better next year to strive to make them more successful on a local level.”

Like the true innovators they are, Keeler, Weathington and the rest of the Shuckin’ Shack executive team already have their sights set on how to market their sponsorship program even more effectively in the coming year. “Next year we are gong to revamp and ramp up our Shack-lete program with more content-driven campaigns and showcase the personalities of the Shack-letes more,” shares Keeler.

Keeping it Real

With 2023 on the horizon, Weathington and Keeler, along with the rest of the executive team, continue their search for Franchise Owners who embody the Shuckin’ Shack spirit and can bring their unique seafood franchise concept to new shores—both literal and figurative—in the United States. For Weathington, the single biggest indicator of whether a Franchise Owner has what it takes to own a successful Shuckin’ Shack location is not an impressive management and sales background, strong business acumen or even prior restaurant experience, but how well they can communicate. “Can they have a conversation with another person?” he asks, adding, “It’s pretty simple. I’ve been in the industry for 22 years this year, and the biggest indicator of whether you’re going to be successful is, can you communicate with your customers?”

Weathington’s focus on choosing personable, communicative Franchise Owners to help operations in new territories goes right back to Shuckin’ Shack’s commitment to putting people first in all they do, listening to what people are saying, and giving them the experience they want every time they come in. Giving a SHUCK about others is what Shuckin’ Shack is all about!

Now awarding seafood franchise opportunities for 2023

Shuckin’ Shack is bringing our special blend of great food, ice-cold drinks and a laid-back, fun, people-first atmosphere to a bunch of new cities this year. Wouldn’t it be SHUCKIN’ awesome if your city was next?

Find out how to pre-qualify for our Franchise Discovery Process here.