45 years of catching a locally-sourced meal at Richard’s Fresh Seafood on P.E.I.
Posted on August 20, 2021 | By Alexander Chafe | 1 Comment
Originally owned by Richard Watts, Richard’s Fresh Seafood first opened in 1976 in Covehead Wharf, P.E.I. A fisherman himself, Richard opened a canteen-style restaurant with his wife Anne, serving local fishermen at the docks. After over 30 years, Watts decided to sell the business, now among the Island’s oldest fish eateries.
Looking for a change from office life in the world of finance, Ryan Doucet moved to Ontario to pursue culinary school in 2008. With no solid plans, he figured the worst-case scenario would be an improvement in his cooking skills. After school, Doucet returned to P.E.I. looking for an opportunity and purchased Richard’s Fresh Seafood in 2009/2010.
The first order of business for Ryan was to simplify the large menu that included nachos and other pub-style staples. Using his culinary education, Doucet stripped the menu to only essentials that one would expect at a local fish shack. At first, there was hesitancy about the seafood exclusive menu, but it was embraced over time. Ryan reports that about 85 per cent of sales come from the two most popular menu items – the lobster roll and the fish and chips.
Just about everything on the menu today is made by hand and locally sourced. Doucet buys local fish, lobster and Island scallops, as well as other necessities like dill, chives and potatoes. Commenting on the use of local suppliers, Ryan said: “I really like the local aspect of being on a first name basis with everyone.”
Ryan aims to create a relaxed atmosphere at Richard’s, consistent with what Islanders and tourists expect from a fish and chips joint located right on a wharf. Taking advantage of the restaurant’s location, patrons are given a pager after ordering, encouraging them to take a walk down the beach to enjoy the views. Waiting in line has also become a social occasion with tourists chatting about the next place to visit on the Island.
Given the restaurant’s popularity with tourists, selling souvenirs seems natural. However, the idea came to Ryan just two years ago after hats printed for staff were disappearing quickly. Turns out, employees were giving them away to customers who asked for them.
Merchandise has since expanded to include shirts, bags and more, allowing tourists to take a piece of Richard’s home and helping spread the word.
Expanding Business, Consistent Quality
Consistent with tourism season on the Island, Richard’s opens in June each year until at least Labour Day. To meet increasing demand, a second Richard’s Fresh Seafood location was opened in Victoria in 2019.
When asked about ingredients for success, Doucet mentioned being particular to a fault and always reminding employees “don’t just send things out for the sake of sending it out.” After all, in the restaurant industry “you’re only as good as your last meal.”
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