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Seafood South Ocean globally. the scenes sensation 94 www. bus- ex. com February 10

Ocean Basket Seafood South Africa's most popular seafood restaurant chain, Ocean Basket, is gearing up to develop the franchise globally. CEO Manny Nichas takes Gay Sutton behind scenes to review the secrets of this success S urrounded by the rich waters of the Atlantic Ocean to the south west and the Indian Ocean to the south east, South Africa enjoys an abundance of good fish and seafood. Little wonder then that it is home to one of the world's most popular seafood restaurant chains, and that the brand is poised to go global. Ocean Basket began life just 15 years ago when three friends, George Nichas and brothers Fats and George Lazarides opened a seafood restaurant at the Menlyn shopping centre in Pretoria. The first Ocean Basket was a small establishment seating just 60 people; and while its size was not indicative of the strong franchise brand that it was destined to become, its popularity and the quality and value of its food was. This quality and value for money was built on the knowledge and experience of founder George Nichas, a seafood procurement specialist who from the very beginning established a unique supply chain model for Ocean Basket which continues today. Only the very best seafood would do, so he travelled the world, visiting seafood shows and major suppliers, procuring the very best for use across all his restaurants. CEO Manny Nichas joined the company three years after its launch. His remit was to steer the company through growth and development. Today, Ocean Basket operates 130 franchised stores and employs some 7,000 people across the franchises. During the first 10 years, however, the brand consisted largely of company owned restaurants that opened up progressively across the nation. Then about seven years ago, the company made a strategic decision which was to shape its future and accelerate growth. " Seven years ago, it was becoming increasingly difficult to manage all of these company- owned stores," Nichas says. " The managers obviously didn't have the interest in the business that owners would have, and consequently many of the stores were underperforming. So we made the decision to sell off all our company- owned stores and run them as franchises. This had a huge effect on the company. Our turnover grew phenomenally while we were left with the task of controlling the operation and maintaining the standards of each restaurant." Nichas has implemented a strong management structure for maintaining the quality and integrity of the franchise brand. Not only does he commission regular independent health and hygiene audits and employ mystery diners to sensation February 10 www. bus- ex. com 95