NEW HANOVER COUNTY –– Carolina Fish Fry Co. owner Tyler Morgan said it’s normal to produce 180 orders of fresh fried fish per night. And it works with just three fryers in its 1,800 square foot Market Street restaurant.
By the end of the summer, Morgan will operate a second Carolina Fish Fry, double the space and double the equipment. It is slated to open at Ogden Market Place, the mall that also houses Publix.
“I can seat about twice as many people at Ogden Restaurant as I do here,” Morgan told Port City Daily from his Market Street location.
The 2,700-square-foot building will have 90 seats, including alfresco dining, not to mention more kitchen space and more fryers – five to be exact. Although this is Morgan’s second restaurant, it is his first stint in the restaurant business. Morgan became Managing Director of Carolina Fish Fry in the summer of 2020 and left the company in September, before returning to acquire it in October 2020.
“I officially became the owner on November 1,” he said.
At the time, he revealed that the company was only making about $ 5,000 in sales per week. After Morgan remodeled the space and improved the food, including using oysters and local spots, he noted a week’s sale of $ 18,000.
“This is the most important week we have had so far,” said Morgan.
It’s a coincidence in some ways that he ends up in the seafood business. Morgan said he had a childhood dream of opening a restaurant, mostly out of fish fries that he and his father would host. in their Bessemer City neighborhood: “I’ve been fishing since I was probably 2 years old with my dad – you know, cut them up and clean them myself since I was probably 8 years old. . . . [E]every three weeks we cooked fish and hosted a group of people.
“I think everything happens for a reason,” Morgan added, “but it wasn’t necessarily that I was looking to own a fish restaurant.”
He first gained managerial experience working for national retail stores, overseeing sections of appliances and housewares that grossed $ 13 million or $ 14 million a year. Today, he said, he may be overseeing a transaction with fewer sales – averaging $ 700,000 a year – but he appreciates the greater role he plays as a business owner.
“We have a very simple process, a simple menu, with, really, 10 items listed in a number of different ways,” he said. “So our preparation, our cooking process is quite easy and quick. “
Carolina Fish Fry serves plaice, oysters, popcorn or jumbo shrimp, stuffed crab, scallops and clam strips – both as platters with two sides and as hushpuppies or sandwiches. It also has a few items for earth lovers, including cheeseburgers and chicken fillets. Morgan said he would increase seafood and other seafood at the new location on a daily specials menu.
He has started working with Seaview Crab Company and plans to add other local suppliers. He also brought one of his favorite childhood snacks that he used to have at a burger restaurant, Blacks, back home in the western state.
“Have you ever heard of corn nuggets? ” He asked. “These are fried and breaded cream corn balls. Oh my god they are amazing! They were a hit – everyone loves them.
Having a say in the creation of new products attracted Morgan to the restaurant industry more than his previous career in retail. He said he enjoys playing with promotions and upgrades that help create a good experience for customers.
“With retail sales, you are given a product and you just present it,” he explained. “You have no membership on this product. You are selling someone else’s idea. I’m still the one selling someone else’s idea – because we’re a franchise – however, basically me and my team are the architects. We design the product, we create the product, it’s 100% on us.
Morgan hired a team he believes are reliable and focused on team building and inclusiveness. He also said he pays more than the minimum wage and plans to offer benefits once the second location opens, which will help him meet the minimum number of employees (he will have around 30 people between the two restaurants. ).
“It certainly costs more to hire and keep employees today than it was just eight months ago,” he said. Morgan starts employees at $ 10 an hour plus tips. “I divide everything among the whole team, so on average our employees make between $ 12 and $ 13 an hour,” he said.
In addition to rising labor costs, Morgan said feed costs have increased. For example, he recently increased menu prices by 50 cents.
“On average, every case of food we buy in bulk has gone up, I would say, by about $ 4 a case,” he explained. “The shrimp fluctuates like crazy; this can range from $ 20 to $ 40 per case.
The various residential developments around Carolina Fish Fry’s location in Ogden drew Morgan to open a second restaurant at the north end of the county. He said that while there are some seafood establishments in Porters Neck that are perhaps more upscale, he’s confident he will fill a different niche.
“There really isn’t any seafood in the general Ogden area that is quick, laid back, cheaper, your kind of place served on a paper plate,” he said. “It will be the only thing that is in a good neighborhood with a lot of families.”
This will be the sixth Carolina Fish Fry franchise, founded by Sam Garner.
“He’s actually been in the seafood business for about 30 years,” Morgan said. “They owned some of the seafood buffets in Myrtle Beach.”
The first Carolina Fish Fry started on Market Street in Wilmington five years ago and has since expanded to Greensboro, Garner, Burlington, Mt. Olive and Jacksonville.
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