From Our Family To Yours
So much has happened in the last year for the Luke’s family. Our little company turned ten, and what a tenth year it was! We kicked off a few big changes to our menu: the return of White Truffle Roll, a juiced up happy hour at our booze-serving locations, and an awesome kid’s menu in select shacks (now that Luke himself has not one but two of his own little bundles of joy we realized how important it is for families to have small portion bundles for picky eaters).
Our summer started with a bang, as we opened our new flagship restaurant on Portland Pier back home in Portland, ME. When we took over the pier in 2018, it was dilapidated and no longer safe for fishing. We worked with the wharf owner to rebuild and add infrastructure to the pier, reviving the previously shuttered lobster buying station. Then we converted a vacant office and condo into a two-story restaurant with gorgeous views, featuring the world’s best seafood from our local fishermen. A full kitchen allowed us to diversify our menu and showcase more of Maine’s bounty, and we were so lucky to build a team of talented chefs, managers, and teammates that made our first year a wild success. As we rolled into winter (aka “local season”) we’ve stayed open with an expanded winter menu, and kept busy with oyster shucking demos, meet-the-fishermen dinners, weekly trivia nights, and private events. It’s been such an honor to finally open a restaurant in our home town, and one that directly sustains the working waterfront by investing in improved infrastructure and upkeep.
Beyond Portland, we tackled other challenges to the fishery head on. When a working dock was at risk of being bought up by a hotel/condo developer, we raised our hand to keep the dock business operating, collaborating with the Boothbay Region Maritime Foundation. When the reduction in bait herring quota was announced, we and several of our partner fishermen went in together on a freezer facility in Warren, Maine where we used our combined buying power to keep other sources of bait affordable, and even introduce new sustainable options like invasive carp fished out of waters in the midwestern US. Our deep and strong relationship with fishermen is the key to serving perfect lobster, and a critical part of who we are and why we get up in the morning.
2019 was also our first full year selling branded Luke’s Lobster products in grocery stores. We sold our cooked lobster meat and raw lobster tail packs in Whole Foods Market nationwide, giving a percentage of sales back to the fishing Co-Ops who provided the lobster, and earning both the Purpose Driven Empowerment Award and the prestigious Global Supplier of the Year award from Whole Foods, the first time they’ve ever given that award to a seafood company. By year’s end, our lobster was also available in Union Market, Mom’s Organic Market, and online at Neiman Marcus, and we have many new products and retailers set to come on line in the new year.
While we’re on the topic of awards, it was a big one for us: we won the Innovator of the Year Award from the Maine International Trade Center, and the Maine Governor’s Award for Business Excellence. But even more exciting in this season of giving is the award we gave: the first ever Keeper Fund Award. The Keeper Fund is our non-profit initiative to fund work that finds win-wins for our coastal environment and communities, and we gave the Award to an amazing representative of this mission: the Cranberry Isles Fishermen’s Co-Op, who chose to install solar panels on their roof this year, converting to 100% renewable energy and doing their part to slow the effects of climate change on the Gulf of Maine (and the world). We’ve had great partner support for the Keeper Fund this year, from Allagash joining us in donating $1 for every Allagash White we sell; from Huckberry donating proceeds from a DIY lobster roll event in their NYC store, and from Bank Of America funding the expensive trash hauling from our coastal waterway clean up. We’ve just released a new RFP for the next round of Keeper Fund grants for coastal projects in 2020!
In October, we celebrated our 10th birthday in style, partnering with a beloved local chef in each of our cities to serve their spin on our classic lobster roll and donating $1 from each roll sold to a local charity. It was an honor to work with the likes of Jose Andres, Paul Kahan, and Melissa Kelly, and see how much they appreciated the painstaking effort we put into preparing every bite of our lobster perfectly. It was a treat for our team to exercise their culinary chops on new recipes, and we carried that momentum right into the triumphant return of lobster mac and cheese, the perfect warm and hearty accompaniment to a lobster roll on a chilly winter day.
We got so many great opportunities to tell our story and reveal the behind-the-scenes of our business and mission, culminating in an awesome episode of NPR’s How I Built This with Guy Raz that showed our humble beginnings and how far we and all our stakeholders have come.
We are so grateful to every one of you—our partners, suppliers, team members, guests, and supporters—for everything you do to keep us moving forward, growing our family, and giving back. We wish you all a wonderful the happiest holiday season and a fulfilling new year in 2020.
The Luke's Lobster Family