An Arizona lobster drive-thru company that touts a $9.99 lobster roll bought a Maine dock in an effort to cut out the middleman and keep its price rock-bottom.
Angie’s Lobster said this week it had purchased a dock on Bailey Island and started a lobster processing operation in Maine. The move, which the company says is designed to offset inflation, is a rare example of an out-of-state company attempting to create a vertically integrated business in Maine’s lobster industry.
Lobster rolls in Maine now regularly cost more than $30, but Angie’s co-founders Tony and Roushan Christofellis say they’ve invested $10 million and plan to create “the most efficient restaurant business the world has ever seen” by owning every step of the process and eliminating third parties wherever they can.
The husband and wife duo had intended to buy directly from Maine lobsters and process their own lobsters at some point in the future, but decided to pull the trigger now as they tried to make it work eight driving lobsters in Arizona in the next year.
“The original plan was to accomplish this in 10 years, but we couldn’t wait,” Tony Christofellis said in a statement. “[W]e had to take our destiny into our own hands to accomplish our mission of making lobster accessible to everyone.
The drive-thru will have no seating, low operating costs and only two menu items: a lobster roll and a fried lobster tail.
The couple say they will benefit Maine anglers by paying them “more for their catch and lowering the cost of fuel and bait”, while ensuring a steady income. Christofellis said he would do this by selling both fuel and bait at cost and without the usual markups that most docks have.
“We didn’t buy the wharf to make it a profit center,” he said.
While some out-of-state businesses have docks in Maine, it’s unusual for an out-of-state catering business to also start a buying station and processing facility in Maine. ‘Pine Tree State.
In fact, this top-down approach is rare in Maine’s highly segmented lobster industry.
“Vertical integration is rare in this industry,” said Marianne LaCroix, executive director of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative.
The only other company with a similar business practice that LaCroix could remember is Luke’s Lobster. This company buys and processes lobster in Saco for its restaurants on the East and West coasts.
Lobster is commonly purchased from lobster boats by buyers and traders at the docks. Buyers and dealers then generally sell the shellfish to catering companies, restaurants or other distributors.
Some docks have their own on-site restaurants and can ship lobsters directly to customers. Other wharves have their own processing plants. But it’s rare for a restaurant out of state to have its own dock and processing facilities.