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Local restaurant chain to expand into the UK

Business | Published:

JPRESTAURANTS is to export its Crab Shack restaurant brand into the UK. The business has just opened its third Crab Shack in the Island, next to the Central Market in St Helier, and is actively looking for two potential sites in the UK in areas with a similar demographic to Jersey.

The new St Helier Crab Shack

The family-owned Jersey Pottery business has significantly changed since being taken over by the Jones family in 1954. It still includes the Jersey Pottery ceramics brand, but also has Capsicum Catering, the schools catering arm, and JPRestaurants. The catering side of the business now accounts for 90% of turnover and staff.

Director Dominic Jones said they have invested over £12 million into the Jersey economy over the past ten years and have worked hard to create a unique brand for the Crab Shack. ‘We want to take the best of Jersey across to the UK,’ he said. ‘We’re proud of what we do here.’

The group will still continue to invest in the Jersey Pottery brand, which focuses on exports, despite the difficult retail market: ‘It is a tough business. Our biggest customers over the last five years have been retailers like John Lewis and House of Fraser and lots of those have suffered either significant trading difficulties or gone into administration. What we are doing is orienting much more to direct-to-customer through our website.

‘Jersey Pottery is part of our DNA. All of our Crab Shack design has taken inspiration from Jersey themes and our ceramics is the same thing. So the ability to make things ourselves and design them is a key part of the uniqueness of what we do.’

Jersey Pottery retains a small shop in St Helier but manufacturing is in western Europe and the UK after the factory site in Gorey was sold in 2010.

JPRestaurants has been investing heavily in its processes and technology. ‘We’ve been in business 70 years now as a family so we are investing for the next generation and that enables us to have a much longer term view,’ Mr Jones said.

‘We’ve been working hard to create a sophisticated model to drive the processes in the business to give not only good customer service but to use technology to track food safety and allergens. If you come into a restaurant you can ask for an allergy list. We are analysing data to see how many vegetarians, vegans and gluten-free customers come in and recently invested a quarter of a million pounds into technology to upgrade customer service.’

Capsicum Catering leverages the food safety and buying skills of the business, but has stopped the outside and private catering service as they felt it required a different business model. They currently provide catering for nine schools across the Island.

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One of the issues that many businesses struggle with is recruitment, but Mr Jones said they don’t have a problem with this and currently employ 180 people in Jersey, 90% on the catering side: ‘We’ve been able to guarantee the living wage across all our staff in the business. We don’t have people on zero-hours contracts unless they request it. We’ve worked very hard on our working environment for chefs and front-of-house staff, everything from the minimum wage, providing good holiday and other benefits and split shifts – so our staff get tips even when on holiday.’

There are some challenges, however: ‘If there is one thing it is just the high input costs of investment in terms of building and land. The Market Street Crab Shack took us six months longer than we would have looked to get it done, purely because we needed to try and minimise the costs. Had we not, then we would have spent another 20 per cent and that 20 per cent is the difference between a sustainable business and one that isn’t.’

The group re-invests half its profits back into the business each year, and invests in outside talent as well as utilising the family director skills. Paul Woodman is finance director and chief operating officer. He joined the business from Deloitte where he was a director and head of tax.

The new St Helier Crab Shack adds to the existing sites in Gorey and St Brelade. JPRestaurants also has Oyster Box and Banjo, plus three Café Ube locations in St Helier and a fourth inside a bank facility. The group is still investing in the existing sites and in January both the St Brelade restaurants will undergo a complete re-fit. They will also consider further sites in Jersey, but at present there are no opportunities.

Gwyn Garfield-Bennett

By Gwyn Garfield-Bennett
Business Editor

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