Cape Cod Institution Leans Into Off-Premises
Restaurants large and small are flexing their creativity and leaning into off-prem, including Mac’s Seafood in Wellfleet, Mass.
Like many restaurants on Cape Cod, Mac’s Seafood is known for its fresh oysters and live lobster. Founded by Mac Hay and his brother Alex 25 years ago, their original venture was to source the freshest, most sustainable marine delicacies from local waters with the best possible service.
“Mac wished to evoke the feelings of summer on Cape Cod”, said John Newman, current manager of the restaurant. “Staying local has had the mutual benefit of providing the freshest product possible, as has supporting local fishing families and the greater community.”
Today, the restaurant has expanded to five locations that offer both casual seafood eats and elevated cuisine. The company has more than 80 full-time employees and usually employs 400 seasonal workers during its summer "high season."
This year the large crowds are gone, but you can still hear the crash of the Atlantic Ocean mixed with the smells of fresh crab and lobster tail.
“The early days of the lock down were a test of our resolve,” said Newman. “We knew we had built a strong company, and had the team around us to persevere, but so much was unknown and Mac instituted a one-day-at-a-time approach. We took it as an opportunity to fight — and that was the best way to be proactive in the face of uncertainty.”
The fight meant innovating, and innovate they did, from new systems for online ordering, curbside service, native delivery, heat-and-eat meal kits (Mac’s Meals), Grab n Go platters, contactless payment, a loyalty program, a new website, beer & wine and cocktails to go at its location in Eastham. Paired with an already-existing shipping program, the transition was just another opportunity to kick things up a notch — and that ultimately benefited second-home residents who arrived to the region earlier than usual.
“I remember talking with customers in Eastham during what is typically a quite slow time, four months ago now unbelievably, who said, ‘We’re here for the duration,’” said Newman. “When we combined what we were doing with an already strong heritage of customer service, you have the makings of providing a sense of safety and comfort for the customer. That is what everyone needed.”
At Mac’s Shack, the employee experience has always been of the utmost importance. Leadership rolled out new training procedures, including safety and health for 500 employees, all while staying abreast to local, state and national guidelines. Employees now start their shift by logging their personal wellness.
“We check in frequently with our employees at all locations to provide whatever support is needed, whether operational or personal,” said Newman.
Technology has also played a critical part in business success at Mac’s. It is among the growing number of restaurants that have embraced contactless solutions, specifically QR codes and touchless payments.
“We were seeking an integrated system that would allow us to leverage as many different aspects of the business seamlessly,” says Newman. “Integral to this, was being sure any new technologies would interface with our Oracle Micros Point of Sale technology. We selected another platform for loyalty, gift cards, and customer retention, and another system for online ordering and data capture.”
Newman and Mac’s recognize that the pandemic has illustrated an interdependency between everyone in society and empathy is of utmost importance. Besides serving hungry customers, the restaurant has also reached out to vulnerable populations by donating meals and offering some semblance of normalcy.
“I feel confident saying Mac’s Seafood is here to stay,” said Newman. “When your founder and CEO announce at the start of the lock down that he does not expect to make any money this year, but says we have to be here because our community is counting on us, that inspires everyone to step up.”
About the Author
Michael Forhez, Global Managing Director – Retail, Oracle. He has long sought the tranquility of the Cape Cod peninsula in Massachusetts for peace and quiet — and now an escape. This year he made his way over in March and in his search for answers, landed at Mac's. You can read his full conversation with Mac's Seafood here. He welcomes your comments and stories on how your company has weathered the challenge.