Batter from America –

Batter from America Published:  07 April, 2014

AN American fish and chip restaurant, based partly on the traditional British model, is on the march.

Ray’s Fish & Chips Seafood, which opened in Forest City Florida eight years ago, has announced that the business has teamed up with NEXT Franchise Systems, a franchise sales and development company based in Orlando, Florida.

The move is to assist in the creation and growth of the Ray’s Fish & Chips Seafood restaurant franchise programme.

Ray’s Fish & Chips Seafood plans to open another company-owned location with a raw bar in 2014 and then focus on an aggressive growth strategy of opening fast-casual and quick service versions of the restaurant, with eyes on mall and strip centre locations across Florida.

Raymond Goonewardena and his wife, Ruth, first opened their seafood restaurant in Forest City, in 2006. Run-away success forced them to relocate into a larger space in nearby Apopka soon after.

Ray’s Fish & Chips has since received rave reviews on social media, restaurant review websites and accolades from various newspaper restaurant reviewers.

The many British people who visit Florida each year would immediately recognise the cod and haddock dishes (from New England) on the menu.

But items such as fried clam strips and clam chowder or black grouper would come across as a little strange to the English palate.

Goonewardena said the key to franchise growth is keeping the investment level to a minimum. ‘With a low investment, the concept can work in multiple locations,’ said Raymond.

‘I’ve heard some people say it’s a lot of work to run a seafood restaurant franchise – it is, but we’ve perfected the operation to such a degree that the operation and management is simple and allows a focus on freshness and live seafood first and foremost.’

Goonewardena said he decided to franchise when one of his best customers, James Emerson of NEXT Franchise Systems, approached him about expanding the brand.

‘I had always thought about franchising, but when James spelled out how easy it would be to franchise and how there’s unlimited opportunity for expansion using the capital of franchisees, I thought, you know, this would make a great franchise.’

Emerson said Ray’s Fish & Chips Seafood restaurant will make an excellent franchise opportunity because the operation is simple, the investment is low, and there is ‘not a whole lot of competition in the market for a fish and chips franchise.

‘Sure there’s Red Lobster and Joe’s Crab Shack out there, there’s Mom-and-Pop seafood restaurants over on the coast, and there’s fast food players Captain D’s and Long John Silver’s, but there’s no fresh fish and chips or seafood franchise out there that has the quality, menu, and low investment of Ray’s Fish and Chips.

‘There’s no franchise out there that works in so many places, from shopping centres, to food courts, to stand-alones, quite like Ray’s Fish & Chips. To us, franchising was a ‘no brainer’ for Ray.’

Goonewardena said his concept is different from the competition because of freshness, value and service. ‘We buy fresh from local sources and import from New England. We hand select and carefully inspect every piece of fish we serve. We also offer our menu items at a good price and focus on customer service.

‘The bread and butter of our menu is fantastic fish and chips, but we also have so many other options on the menu – from fresh Florida grouper to live Maine lobster.

‘You’re not going to find these items at Captain D’s and the others or even in a lot of supermarkets. That’s why we have so many repeat customers and have become a part of the community. Customers appreciate the lengths we go to and become loyal.’

Once the Ray’s Fish & Chips franchise system is in place, the company hopes to open two to four locations in the next year, not including an additional, larger company store.

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