FOLEY — The welcome wagon showed up for the grand opening of the newest national franchise to call Foley home and broke records.Captain D's opened Monday, Jan. 16, in Foley and shattered the …
FOLEY — The welcome wagon showed up for the grand opening of the newest national franchise to call Foley home and broke records.
Captain D's opened Monday, Jan. 16, in Foley and shattered the single-day sales record for the entire Captain D's brand. The location joins over 530 Captain D's across the country and is the 53rd franchise branch for Trident Holdings LLC which is based in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Chris Benner, president of Trident Holdings LLC, said he knew opening day would be big, but he didn't have any idea it was going to be that big.
"No Captain D's restaurant has ever done what we did opening day in sales all in one day. It was almost $19,000 in one day. The previous record, off the top of my head, was around $16,000," Benner said.
Benner said only two locations have surpassed $100,000 in sales for the week, and Foley is one of them. The other is in Pooler, Georgia.
"It really is staggering for fast food. Those kinds of numbers are like Chick-fil-A numbers. Chick-fil-A restaurants are juggernauts, and $100,000 in one week for Chick-fil-A is honestly run-of-the-mill for them, but for all the rest of us that is kind of a big deal," Benner said.
In the last two months, Foley has seen the opening of Jim 'N Nick's Community Bar-B-Q and Chipotle and is already home to many national franchise brands. South McKenzie Street (Highway 59) is the main artery for those heading to and from Baldwin's beaches.
Benner said the Foley area was suggested to him by a friend when Trident Holdings was looking to expand on the Gulf Coast. The growth of Baldwin County was attractive, and it was also close to three locations they acquired in Pensacola.
Benner decided to drive to Foley to look at property and get a feel for the area. While in town, he spoke with a manager at Burger King.
"I went into the Burger King and had lunch and started talking to a manager who was working. He indicated that Burger King location is one of the busiest in their whole franchise," Benner said. "I thought we needed to dig further and learn more about Foley and explore this more. I came back a month or two later with my business partner, and he and I drove up and down South McKenzie, and he liked the corner where we are."
Captain D's is next to Culver's at 3209 S. McKenzie St. and is the most expensive piece of property Trident Holdings LLC has purchased.
"We had never spent that kind of money on real estate before. He reached out to the developer and found out what they wanted for that piece of land, and it was significantly more than any piece we had bought before for a Captain D's," Benner said.
"To that point, the most we had ever paid for a piece of property was $575,000, and that was for a nice corner in Shreveport, Louisiana, and this property was almost double, but it was a much larger tract at 1.4 acres."
He also credited the city of Foley for giving him the idea to have a double drive-through. This branch is the fourth location in the brand to have one.
"We built out the double drive-through believing that we were going to need it to accommodate all the folks in Foley, to keep things moving and get folks in and out fast," Benner said. "It has cut the wait in half."
With 53 Captain D's in eight states, Benner is familiar with the struggles of staffing. He said 2022 was extremely difficult.
"We really struggled everywhere throughout our organization in 2022. As we emerged from 2022 into 2023, we saw things improving everywhere except for Georgia. It continues to be very problematic for us with staffing. We have 11 restaurants in Georgia, and we struggle at all of them, and it continues to be a real chore to find folks in Georgia. Everywhere else we are doing much better," he said.
Locally, Benner said he worried about staffing with other new restaurants opening around the same time but says they have been lucky.
"We have put together a great team of folks. Not as many employees as we would like to have but darn more than I thought we were going to have," Benner said. "We have nice people working for us that are friendly, hardworking and showing up. We are really pleased with our workforce."
Trident Holdings LLC employed some creative tactics to attract and hopefully hold on to their staff.
"We have some incentives for our folks to stay on our team. There are some inventive ways they can earn if they are still with us further down the road six months from now. We did do some referral incentives so if they would refer some friends or family, if we hire them, we had some bonuses for them to cash in on if they were able to provide us with some good candidates through referral," Benner said.
Benner said Trident Holdings LLC was attracted to the Captain D's brand eight years ago after Phil Greifeld became president and CEO in 2010 and made some bold changes.
The brand got its start in 1969 and has always been known for battered seafood. Since 2010, the brand has reeled in a fresh look with a bold beach theme and the addition of grilled seafood for customers looking for healthier options.
"The changes have made a big difference and broadened the audience and appeal of the brand," Benner said. "Captain D's is really taking off and become a hot brand."
Benner expects the numbers to continue to soar as tourist season approaches.
"We have been chatting about this internally," Brenner said. "We are not even sure we have seen our biggest week yet because we are not really in season in the area."