Ocean Basket’s new smaller stores drive ROI

There’s a buzzing new Ocean Basket at Haasendal Gables, Cape Town, where you’ll find the ever-friendly seafood people, a home-from-home feeling and great value for your hard-earned bucks; but there’s something more important taking place here.

This is a shining example of Ocean Basket’s latest business model for smaller, more efficient restaurants, focused on better utilization of less space rather than the traditional large spaces in mall developments. While malls remain a business imperative, strip malls and smaller, convenient neighbourhood centres are on the rise.


When Fats Lazarides opened the first Ocean Basket seafood restaurant 1995 in Menlyn Park, Pretoria, it was a tiny 60 square meters, with just six tables. The menu offered only a handful of dishes. In true Ocean Basket spirit, Fats invited customers to bring their own drinks and even their own salads.

Fats was born to serve. He knew every customer by name and would regularly test meals to ensure that they were up to Ocean Basket standards. Soon, Pretoria had fallen in love with this loud, crazy, Mediterranean seafood restaurant. That is the true spirit of Ocean Basket and this heritage is reflected in the expanding number of smaller stores in local communities.

Ocean Basket head of Strategy Jean Sloane says there is a compelling proposition for space optimisation: “Rentals are at an all-time high and space is at a premium. Businesses need to innovate around these challenges.” For smaller stores, utilising fewer staff, occupying less space and needing lower development costs all have a positive effect on ROI.

Sloane cautions franchisees: “For the efficient store model to work optimally, you need to reinvent your whole business. It is a total change management project rather than just building an improved, more efficient store.

“Using data on sales, time studies and staff behaviour has liberated the process. It is rather an on-going process of learning and enforcing new ways than developing a new model once off.”

She says efficiency solutions are found in cross-functional teams rather than being remodelled by a store development team.

A key finding was that franchisees cannot take the crew from a larger store and just put them into smaller store: “You need a change management process – they need to understand context, new more disciplined processes and continuous training as they slip back into old habits, as well as different staff scheduling to ensure all staff is optimised fully.”

Sloane says she never stops learning: “We thought we knew how to do it with the first one. But in just one year we have further decreased BOH space by 25%”

This doesn’t mean your favourite spacious Ocean Basket will disappear from the mall: “There is an opportunity for both bigger and smaller stores in a variety of locations. Because of our simple model – no complicated dishes, few ingredients, modular shop designs and the limited need for regular deliveries – we are ideally suited to do both. Small and big stores can deliver good ROI together.”

Source: Cheryl Hunter – PR Ocean Basket

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