Episode 035: Luke's Lobster

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“I don’t think there will ever be a month—a two-month period—that was ever as hard for me to manage a team, a business, a group of friends, as that March and April period. It was brutal.”

Unfortunately, for many businesses operating in the restaurant, franchise and hospitality industries, “brutal” is a word that has been used increasingly to describe the effects of COVID-19 on their companies earlier this year.

Yet, as restaurants and hospitality organizations pivot and adapt to changing consumer demands and new public health guidance, many have found new ways to empower their people and grow their brands.

Such is the case with Luke’s Lobster, a company with an international network of franchise locations, as well as a manufacturing component that provides seafood products to grocery stores.

So, how does an international franchise adapt to a global pandemic? How do restaurants solve for their pain points in an ever-changing environment? What can other companies—in this industry and others—learn from the Luke’s Lobster story of navigating COVID-19?

Luke Holden, CEO of Luke’s Lobster, says, “I asked my teammates, my family members and friends…to make some pretty crazy concessions as a result of COVID.”

In this episode of The Wrap, Luke and CFO Steve Song elaborate on those concessions and dive into the story of how the company has fared in recent months. Warren Averett’s own Charles Bailey, CPA, also joins our hosts to weigh in on what other companies operating in the retail and consumer spaces can glean from this business’s story.

The Wrap Season 4 Episode 6, Luke’s Lobster:

Guests: Luke Holden, Steve Song & Charles Bailey

Kim Hartsock & Paul Perry

Company Overview:

Luke’s Lobster opened its doors in New York’s East Village in 2009. They bring traceable, sustainable seafood to guests across the country. They work directly with fishermen to hand pick the best seafood, bring it straight to their own seafood company and then ship directly to our shacks. Cutting out the middleman means better tasting lobster, crab and shrimp for customers to enjoy and a fairer price for our fishermen.

Luke Holden (Founder & CEO):

Great story about Luke and company from CNBC here.

Luke Holden grew up in Maine – a third-generation lobsterman. After attending Georgetown University and beginning an investment banking career on Wall Street, Luke saw an opportunity to bring a casual seafood spot, like the homegrown lobster shacks of his childhood, to New York’s culinary landscape. In 2009, Luke decided to harness his passion for excellent seafood and his family’s 40-plus years in the Maine lobster industry to open the first Luke’s Lobster in the East Village with his dad Jeff, a lobster processor, and Ben Conniff. To keep up with demand, Luke and partners opened Luke’s Lobster’s own seafood processing facility in 2012. The complete vertical integration ensures every lobster served at Luke’s is handled with care and kept pristine.

Today, Luke spends the majority of the year in Maine, where he maintains relationships with lobstermen and oversees production at Luke’s Lobster’s processing facility. He also sits on the board of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative, the Island Institute, and the Tenants Harbor Fisherman’s Co-op, which he helped found. Luke’s donates a portion of its proceeds to The Ocean Foundation and the Island Institute, helping preserve Maine’s fishing communities and the sustainability of our oceans. Over the years, Luke has also been included on the Forbes’ 30 under 30, Inc 30 under 30, Zagat’s 30 under 30, and Crain’s 40 under 40.

Steve Song (CFO):

Steve Song is the Chief Financial Officer for Luke’s Lobster having joined the crew in 2016. Prior to Luke’s Lobster, he spent 14 years as a private equity investment professional working with various companies and management teams across a variety of industries. He began his career at JPMorgan in 2001 before working at hedge funds and private equity firms including Magnetar Capital and Altpoint Capital.

Since 2011, Steve has also served a Board Member of Minds Matter of NYC, a nonprofit organization serving low-income high school students, and served as its board chair until 2018. He has served on the Board of Directors for private companies, including Ford Models, AHN International and Sanchez Resources. Steve graduated with a joint Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics-Mathematics from Columbia University in 2001.  He has traveled to over 30 countries and has watched a game at every Major League Baseball stadium. He is based in New York City.

Charles Bailey:

Charles Bailey, CPA is a Member in the Audit Division of Warren Averett and he helps lead our Firm’s Retail and Consumer and Alternative Investment practices. He joined the Firm in 2013, bringing with him more than 22 years of public and private accounting experience. Charles provides audit and business consulting services to middle market companies. His extensive experience includes assurance services for restaurant and hospitality clients and alternative investments consisting of private equity groups, hedge funds and venture capital firms, and he serves companies in the franchise and hospitality industries.

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