Visiting Cousins Maine Lobster at the Morgan Street Food Hall was a high priority for us on our last trip to Raleigh.
Between Cousins Maine Lobster and Makus Empanadas, we figured we would be enjoying a delicious lunch. And we were so right. Steve and I had wanted to have their famous lobster roll ever since we saw the young entrepreneurs on Shark Tank a few years ago. Theirs was the best lobster roll we have ever tasted. Mainly because the toasted buttery roll held about a pound of tender, sweet Maine lobster. I mean huge pieces of succulent shellfish. And very little else. But then what more do you need in a lobster roll.
To give you some back story, Cousins Maine Lobster started in a very similar way as Apple or Facebook. They were all founded by men in California. Cousins Jim Tselikis and Sabin Lomacand got together in Los Angeles in 2011 when Jim fled the frigid, snowy winter in Boston to visit Sabin, thaw out, and discuss business opportunities. They discussed the burgeoning Food Truck Industry that was taking over the L. A. food scene and came to the revelation that the only thing missing was those tasty Maine traditions they loved as kids. That’s when they decided to join forces and their savings to launch a food truck that celebrated Maine and its bounty.
The beginning was chaotic, confusing, promising, and exciting all at the same time. They opened in 2012 with one truck, a small staff, and very little restaurant experience. Thankfully passion and an amazing product led to lines of 50 to 60 people from day one. With very little means they had created a culture and brand that customers gravitated to. The result was increased demand, more sales and a potential to expand their business. But before they even had the chance to scale and put another truck on the road, they appeared on ABC’s hit show, Shark Tank
Shark Tank producers had been customers and had tried our food and seen the craze. Although they did not know it at the time, they had been regular patrons at their truck in the very early weeks. The producers wanted them on their show. With less than a month’s worth of sales under their belt, a very youthful company, with no proven sales and a complete unknown of the business, they actually turned down the show… not once, but twice. Crazy as that was, fortunately, the opportunity to get on Shark Tank never truly disappeared. With a bit more confidence after a few months of sales and a helpful call from an executive producer, they decided that all of the stars were aligning and finally took the plunge.
As nerve-wracking as it was they knew they wanted to target Barbara. And at the end of the wild ride in the Tank, they left hand in hand with her. In the year and a half after the show aired, they added 3 more trucks in Los Angeles, which increased their revenues and of course demanded a more robust infrastructure. Hiring the right team members, implementing the most efficient systems and growing their relationships back home in Maine were all main focal points as they grew their brand in California.
The cousins continue to care as much as they did on day one. We have 20 trucks in 13 cities throughout the country. We are the Franchisor to some amazing, talented and hungry Franchisees, and have the same core of hard-working, dedicated and loyal employees in LA. Their company in its entirety support more than 100 valued employees. In fact, they are now franchising brick and mortar restaurants, which will be the next chapter to unfold in Cousins Maine Lobster playbook.