Despite a plethora of cuisines to choose from in New York City, new franchisees with seafood brand Captain D’s felt something was still missing.
“There are so many options for food, you can get about anything here,” said Kelly Moughal. “But we noticed what the area was lacking was a well-priced, good seafood option.”
That absence is what led Moughal and her husband Muhammad Saleem to sign a three-unit development deal with Captain D’s in late October. In addition to their desire to provide another option to the market, the couple has a mix of experience from the franchisee and franchisor sides.
Saleem immigrated to the U.S. from Pakistan in 1981 and became a franchisee in 1989. Moughal, meanwhile, worked in business operation roles at 7-Eleven for more than a decade.
The two were married in 2001 and Moughal joined Saleem in the franchising model. Today they own three Little Caesars, two Subways and were also the first to introduce Checkers and Rally’s to Manhattan.
Regarding their latest brand, Moughal said it was a concept they came across regularly during family trips to Florida. When they considered the seafood brand, she said they were impressed with Captain D’s leadership, unit economics and day-to-day operations.
“They’ve really thought out their kitchen,” Moughal said. “It has a great flow, and that is so important when you want to serve a customer quickly and efficiently. It’s also important from a staffing perspective, for it to work well for your employees. We really liked seeing this in the stores we visited.”
The way Captain D’s evolves its practices regularly was another selling point, she said.
“They are looking for ways to innovate,” Moughal said. “Where a lot of companies will just say ‘These are the standard pieces of equipment and practices,’ they try to do it better. Of course, I’ll know for sure when we open our stores, but from what I’ve seen, it’s ahead of its time.”
The couple is currently considering sites for Manhattan and Long Island, with the first expected to open in late 2024. Despite the opening still being months away, though, leadership at the brand already have confidence in the new owners.
“It’s fantastic for us,” said Brad Reed, Captain D’s chief development officer. “It’s something we’ve been exploring for a while, but finding the right franchisee to get us into New York was very important. We’ve been fortunate to get Kelly and Muhammad to sign up. They’re industry veterans and it feels great having people who know the restaurant space.”
What especially sold Captain D’s on partnering with the couple was their work with the Checkers brand.
“What intrigued me was that it is a drive-thru driven model,” Reed said. “The sites they went into, though, were all in-line, so it was a departure from what Checkers usually does, but they’ve had big success with their units there.
“Drive-thru operations are a large part of our business, too,” said Reed. “It feels great to partner with individuals who know how to go in and work the in-line space with no drive-thru and capitalize on third-party delivery.”
Predominantly in the Southeast, Captain D’s has more than 530 restaurants across 23 states, going as far north as Fredericksburg, Virginia. Reed said the brand is making its way north, though, with agreements in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Ohio. Moughal and Saleem have no doubt it will be just as popular in northern states.
“We couldn’t be prouder to bring the food to New Yorkers,” Moughal said. “I think they’ll enjoy it because it’s good quality seafood at a great price point. Today people also want to do things quickly and be in and out, and Captain D’s is wonderful for that.”