In a School of Tin Fish No Two Locations or Expansion Strategies are the Same

In order to know where you’re going you have to know where you’ve been. Fifteen years ago, Tin Fish Restaurant was launched to create an exciting blend of delicious seafood with a mission to deliver a high-quality experience through offering fresh lean healthy seafood meals and incredible Fish Tacos to its customers. However, The Tin Fish story goes back quite a bit further and starts with the chef who created it all, current Licensor and Franchisor, Joseph Melluso.

Joseph Melluso, was only a boy of 11 but he worked as hard as a man in the Long Island fish market where this “fish tale” all begins. In his teens he started working in many aspects with the world famous Fulton Fish Market. For years Joseph worked in successful filet houses and markets, as well as working as a lobsterman. He clammed, eeled, even cultivated clams and oyster beds for the NY State Conservation Department. Joseph learned the fish business inside and out from the “old Salts of the Sea”.

Joseph became inspired to study cooking. He studied and received his formal training under two world renowned chefs–Giulliano Bugialli in NY at New School and Libby Hillman on Long Island and Vermont.

A Name with Nod to History

Joseph’s early experience of business ownership includes bidding on a restaurant location in Old Town San Joseph_Melluso
Diego in 1998. The beautiful old building had originally been a tinsmith shop. The property’s history told that over 150 years ago there was a man, E. W. Nottage who had sold fish in front of this interesting old building. The name E. W. Nottage Tin Shop Museum Restaurant was cumbersome…Tin Fish Restaurant was born!

The Growth of a Brand

Tin Fish Restaurants started by opening over 11 Tin Fish locations in 4 states, the Tin Fish Restaurants have become a fast growing restaurant chain that have always been willing to try something new and stand out from the crowd. They started as a licensor of the brand and had the benefit individual independent Tin Fish restaurant owners over many years provide continuous input that assisted in the development the Tin Fish brand and concept.

Now the Tin Fish Restaurant Group targets the specific niche of Fresh, Superior Quality Seafood, served in a casual quick service fun, eclectic environment that creates an upbeat, exciting, and memorable dining experience for visitors and diners of all ages. The Tin Fish dining experience goes far beyond enjoying a plate of good food, it’s about the experience, memories and relationships they create with each and every customer, and the Tin Fish staff works daily to elicit from customers the WOW! Factor in all of the restaurants.

How Local Can A National Restaurant Be?

The core of a licensed or franchised restaurant is around the brand and scalability of the concept; both in the quality and consistency of the menu, service and over-all experience.  While these core tenants will always be valuable to consumers, a shift has emerged that customers are seeking a more “local” experience in some markets. From locally sourced menu item to atmospheres that include more of a neighborhood look and feel that incorporates the culture and personality of the surrounding areas into the dining experience.

The Tin Fish brand was built around these core concepts that have become so popular today. Tin Fish has worked very hard to be a local restaurant that utilizes a unique balance of sustainable products and systems that work all around the country while maintaining a scalable and national brand.

In-addition to offering consistent and delicious Tin Fish menu items throughout all locations; no two Tin Fish locations are alike in appearance! This allows for some of our existing Tin Fish restaurant owners and new to the system, future Tin Fish restaurant owners to adopt the local culture and atmosphere of the community and blend nicely with their neighborhood.


Plenty of Fish in the Sea – Expansion Plans

Natural growth and changes within the restaurant landscape and local customer expectations have evolved some our licensees of the Tin Fish brand into larger full service kitchen and bar experiences and a more quick service environment – with some hybrids offering quick counter service where you order at the counter then pick your food up when ready for the small size location or have the food served by food runner depending on the size to full service for restaurant and bar.  With the demand for these offerings The Tin Fish Restaurant Group dug deeper into how they could support the growth and expansion of these concept evolutions without compromising the brand or the pillars that make this national concept have a local and unique look and feel.

After much research and development, 2013 ushered in the launch of two new models that were based around developing restaurant systems that included advanced levels of support, training and operations. The restaurant group launched both the express and restaurant model to better serve the evolving needs of market demand.

Tin Fish Express is a business model that will be targeting office buildings, theme parks, ballparks, snack bars, tourist destinations, walk up window at downtown city and waterfront destinations, and small footprint spaces, Tin Fish Express concept allows for co-tenancy with other QSR concepts.

The Tin Fish Restaurant model targets larger footprint spaces, offering their full- spectrum-menu selections with their order at the counter Quick Service Restaurant format. (QSR)

From Licensing to Franchising
The third core tenant to this expansion strategy is evolving to a franchise business model. The plan is to implement an aggressive expansion program through franchising in order to expand both models throughout the United States, and eventually globally.

Tin Fish has approached Franchise Marketing Systems, Atlanta-based franchise development and consulting group, to assist them in the development of their franchise program.

Franchise Marketing Systems President, Christopher Conner stated, “After gathering the facts and conducting preliminary research, we felt it was unquestionably the right thing to do packaging the Tin Fish as a franchise. They will be one of the few Seafood restaurant franchise programs on the market and this is a rare lifetime opportunity, we see an enormous opportunity to build the brand in the seafood segment, with time, focus, systems and the right operators we look forward to growing this concept across the country.”

For more information on the difference between licensing and franchising go HERE to read Christopher Conners article in Franchising USA magazine.