The local Captain D’s Seafood Kitchen is literally on top of the hill these days in physical presence and the sales sheet.
The Milledgeville franchise has ranked No. 1 three out of four years, besting 560 worldwide.
Area franchise partner Wes Cummings said the staff and management deserves every accolade.
“They are the ones who get it done and understand our philosophy as a company,” he said. “They live it, breathe it and work it everyday some for 50 and 60 hours a week.”
Milledgeville’s Captain D’s has a visible, long-term staff. The eight-person team brings nearly 130 combined years in the industry.
“There’s a comfort with our guests being able to see the same people day in and day out,” Cummings said. “Every single manager employed at this restaurant with the exception of one grew up in the business.”
Current head manager Alan Carswell has 28 years invested.
Carswell said he started working in the kitchen toward the end of high school.
“I took over the store as a general manager at 19 years old,” he said. “When I first started, sales were about half of what we are doing right now.”
Carswell attributes most of the consistent success to fellow staffers.
“We have very good people that have been with us for a long time,” the manager said. “Traditionally, we have the least amount of turnover in our entire company. I don’t think there is another store that hangs in with employees as much as we have.”
Back in 1969, Shoney’s Inc. was the original Captain D’s franchisor.
The local eatery’s parent company SPFS Inc. started its first Captain D’s by 1976. SPFS operates 18 restaurants currently.
The Milledgeville franchise opened in 1978. Cummings purchased the seafood restaurant nine years later.
The establishment used the current Pickle Barrel Café building, until moving near Walmart in May of 2005.
Cummings said the move was “huge.”
The two-mile move added 40 seats and a traversable parking lot.
“It’s more guest-friendly,” he said. “I’d like to think that once you made the decision to come and dine here in a much newer, nicer and roomier Captain D’s you were hooked.”
To date, Cummings partners with six seafood kitchens located in Athens, Dublin, Forsyth and Newnan. Each franchise uses a simple structure for success.
“It’s all about sales and guest service. That’s where our day begins,” Cummings said.
It’s not burdensome to track down management.
“Everything that we do is tied into customer service,” Carswell said.
Information at each table and on each receipt lets patrons give immediate feedback. If you aren’t happy, the restaurant will fix it.
“We have to be good at the basics everyday and make that connection with our guests,” Cummings said.
Captain D’s “owns every problem and opportunity.”
“I’m not a guy that’s hard to get in touch with,” Cummings said. “I look forward to every one whether it’s a complaint or a compliment. That’s what helps us know how we are doing. I’ve had guests call me while they are eating.”
Over the years, menu flexibility has tightened, but the local Captain D’s brings grilled items and even pasta to customers.
Affordable platters contribute to the franchise’s ascendancy. The $4.99 special is a community favorite.
“Our ticket average is still in the low $7 range,” Cummings said. “We believe that’s pretty low when you can come in and get a full meal.”
The seafood-based eatery has a niche in a wide scope of area restaurants.
“People love to eat out in Baldwin County,” Cummings said. “I look forward to every time a new restaurant comes here because that gives people another opportunity to make another choice and eat out. If a guest chooses us as their dining destination, we want to make it the best part of their day.”