I’m pretty sure I’ve explained my theory that many of the really great food places in this country are not very fancy. Actually, my friends would tell you I regularly use another term, ending in “hole”, to describe them. Sonny Bryan’s, Arthur Bryant’s, Dreamland – all great BBQ places, all decoratively challenged (I love euphemisms).As I’ve written before, each of those places has a limited menu, uses simple ingredients, and executes to perfection. Great business model. On my recent sojourn to Myrtle Beach, I found another to add to the list: Mr. Fish. Ted Hammerman runs the place and the restaurant is only a side business to his seafood consulting work. Frankly, it’s a side business to the retail fish market which is his side business! His daughter Shana, a Johnson & Wales – trained cook, waits tables and helps in the kitchen. His son works the floor. The menu is fish – whatever is fresh.
A few of us went there one night and couldn’t wait to bring the rest of the group back a couple of nights later. Everything was, at worst, above average and most was extraordinary. Best soft shell crabs I’ve ever had. The blackened grouper bites and the gumbo were fantastic. When you look at the menu you think – “eh, I’ve seen all this before”. But that’s the point and the business lesson.
It’s not just the menu – it’s how everything is executed. It’s not the fancy setting that’s there to impress people – it’s how the food tastes. The staff is small but incredibly skilled, the ingredients are top notch, the preparation is simple and the results fantastic.
That’s the formula. Focus on the dish – your core competency. Make sure the staff is great. Don’t lower your standards – we asked for something on the menu and were told they couldn’t get it fresh so they weren’t serving it even though a frozen substitute was certainly available. First mover advantage? Ha! There are dozens of seafood places within a few miles. This one is packed and with good reason. Don’t worry about being first – worry about being the best.
If you’re anywhere near Myrtle Beach, I highly recommend Mr. Fish. If you’re in business, I highly recommend the lessons Mr. Fish can teach.