Business may be expanded across country through franchising
Written by Scott Muska | The Daily Times
Jun 26, 2011
OCEAN CITY -- When Leighton Moore opened Seacrets 23 years ago, he wanted to bring Jamaica to the United States, he said.
The business model has worked well -- the vacation entertainment complex is one of the most popular spots in Ocean City, brings in millions in revenue on a yearly basis and employs about 500 people.
Now Moore wants to take the Jamaican attitude and food all across the country, and is looking to do so by franchising his business. So far, 70 prospective franchisees have sought information about opening a Seacrets location in places like New York, Florida, South Carolina, Virginia and Baltimore, among others.
"It's always been one of my goals, but it was a matter of getting the right team and timing together, and now I feel like we're able to split some of our ranks and actually help with managing franchises so they're able to go along with the style we prefer at Seacrets," said Moore, owner and CEO.
There are certain requirements and qualifications potential franchisees must meet to be considered, including a
waterfront location with a decent amount of acquirable land surrounding it, according to Gary Figgs, Seacrets' vice president and chief financial officer.
Moore and Figgs are fine with establishments starting out small like Seacrets did in 1988, as long as they have a plan for the future and the wherewithal to eventually expand. When Seacrets opened, it had a capacity of 200. Now, it can handle up to 4,600 customers at a time.
"I wouldn't be adverse to doing the same thing I did (with a franchisee) as long as they have the right demographic, work ethic and land and space," Moore said. Expansion The company is still awaiting approval from Maryland's Office of the Attorney General to be able to franchise the concept in the state, something Figgs said he hopes will happen soon. Fourteen states have a similar requirement, including New York and Virginia, where Moore said Seacrets has already obtained franchising approval.
Moore is also looking for new locations where mass transit is available and owners are willing to eventually incorporate a hotel into building plans. He doesn't want people to have to worry about driving, something he thinks helps contribute to a laid back, Jamaican-esque experience.
Franchising a homegrown OC business has been done before, by some of Moore's peers. The Greene Turtle Sports Bar & Grille originated in Ocean City and now has 31 locations across the East Coast, some of which are franchises. The company started franchising about five years ago -- in April, it awarded its first franchise in Pennsylvania-- and has been successful so far, according to Steve Pappas, an owner and one of the chain's founders. Greene Turtle's original owners had been opening new locations on their own for years before they decided to franchise, a decision they made because they didn't have the money to expand as broadly and quickly as they wanted to, according to Pappas.
"The important thing (when you're franchising) is to make sure you keep your same brand, and I think we've done a pretty good job with that," Pappas said. "The places aren't always going to be the same, but we're able to keep the same atmosphere and food, and we still have the same mugs and peanuts and some of the other things we started with here in Ocean City."
Pappas pointed out that Seacrets' attempt at franchising could be much different, since it's a larger place with a location that's more difficult to replicate. "We can put a Greene Turtle pretty much anywhere, but they have to have water and a more complex theme," he said.
"This isn't something we're going to rush," Moore said, adding that he and the rest of his group will do their due diligence when looking into possible locations. "We're looking for quality right now, and then quantity can come later."
Prospective franchisees will have to shell out an initial investment of $1.6 million-$3.1 million, plus a $45,000 franchise fee. Seacrets will take 6 percent in royalties and 10 percent from complexes with hotel operations. The company directs hopeful investors to www.seacretsfranchising. com for more information.
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