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Ocean Basket fOcus food & agriculture

South africa’s most popular seafood restaurant chain is Ocean Basket and it has grown into an international franchise. Marketing manager Brendan Mcghee takes South africa Magazine through the secrets of its success. By ian armitage


hen we last talked to the folks at Ocean Basket, South Africa’s most popular seafood restaurant chain, it was about to celebrate its 15th birthday – a real landmark I think you’ll agree. It marked the occasion in some style, selling fish and chips at the same price it was in 1995 when Ocean Basket first opened its doors. For only R10 customers could enjoy a rather generous portion! Unsurprisingly perhaps, 77,000 consumers made use of this remarkable, once-in-a-lifetime offer (I was one). It was a roaring success. Television and newspaper ads were shown one day before the promotion to drive up interest. Twitter and other social media sites played their part too, with news spreading like wildfire (Steers, please take note). Steers jokes aside (I’m only upset because I wanted a cheap rib burger), when we last visited Ocean Basket it had 133 outlets and it was opening an average of seven new restaurants a year. Fast-forward just over 12 months, it now has 150 outlets and is expected to open more by the end of the year. Business has boomed. And Ocean Basket rode the wave (excuse the pun). Growth was driven by demand overseas and at home, marketing manager Brendan McGhee says. “We’ve expanded our footprint. We can be found across South Africa and have a presence in several other African countries, in Zimbabwe,


Ocean Basket focus food & agriculture

Zambia and Botswana for instance, as well as the Middle East and Europe. “We’ve opened a couple of new outlets in Cyprus and Dubai International airport and we’ve also opened one in Mauritius and a couple of outlets in metro areas and small towns locally.” The fact Ocean Basket continues to grow is remarkable, especially in light of the economic context of the last couple of years. McGhee says the company saw what was happening early and developed a strategy that has not only seen it through, but has seen it expand. “We planned in terms of our key value items. We have been communicating to the market 4

the value and entry-level price points of great meals, not cheap and nasty meals. We have been doing this now for the last couple of years. It has paid fantastic dividends.” Although Ocean Basket has come a long way it has never forgotten its initial promise, McGhee says. “When we first opened our doors only a privileged minority could enjoy seafood. We made seafood affordable and haven’t changed our pricing strategy since day one. The key to our success is simplicity and we aren’t overly complicated. “Our message has been consistent in terms of our offering value for money. We have invested more in communications and

We’ve expanded our footprint. We can be found across South Africa and have a presence in several other African countries, in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana for instance, as well as the Middle East and Europe

advertising to remain at the front of minds and we haven’t compromised on the quality and service. Our customers have rewarded us because we have seen growth in real terms. We have also seen an interesting phenomenon where the top end of the market have become more value driven and are shopping down. They ordinarily wouldn’t come to our stores but now they are.” Ocean Basket is continually looking at further growth throughout the world. However, it has also worked hard to drive down set up costs to make it affordable to open outlets in smaller South African towns of 60200,000 populations. That has planned its

part in the firm’s continued expansion, particularly over the last year. “This is a strategy that we have pursued and got some fantastic results from it,” says Mc Ghee. “To give you an example, we opened a restaurant in Lephalale and it is doing phenomenally, paying fantastic dividends to the franchisee.” Things are clearly going very well for Ocean Basket at the moment and more expansion is just around the corner. “We plan to open something like 22 new outlets by year-end worldwide. It’s weighted more towards South Africa, looking for more opportunities like those in Lephalale. Of course international expansion

is always appealing. It is certainly very profitable. We’re excited by the brand’s future.” Yet, no matter how big it grows, or how many outlets it opens, Ocean Basket will not forget its promise of ‘great tastes and outstanding prices’. “That we will never do - we will always commit to that promise of great tastes and great prices,” says Mc Ghee, who adds that in every Ocean Basket, no matter in the world it is, you will find the same formula for success - simplicity, value for money and quality seafood served piping hot from the pan. To learn more visit



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