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Nordsee fast fish restaurants changing the face of catering.

Nordsee Fast Fish Restaurants Changing the Face of Catering

Six years before McDonald's opened its first fast-food restaurant in Munich, Nordsee launched a catering revolution with its first fast-fish outlet in Darmstadt.

That was in 1965, according to Walter Winkler, general manager of Nordsee U.K. Ltd., and while McDonald's has since overtaken Nordsee in West German units and sales, nobody has duplicated Nordsee in its fast food approach to seafood.

Nordsee currently has 116 units in West Germany, serving an average of 600 customers a day (183,000 a year), and does a volume of DM 218.5 million a year. Now the chain has established a beachhead in the United Kingdom with a distinctive menu to appeal to British tastes.

Central to the philosophy of Nordsee, Winkler told the International Seafood Conference, is letting it all hang out: food is prepared at the counter, right in front of the customer, and the kitchen equipment is all in clear sight.

The limited menu consists primarily of fish and seafood items (with rolls, potatoes, salads and other side dishes, and beverages, of course). China and cutlery are provided for in-house meals, and disposable packaging for takeaway orders (which account for about 35% of sales).

Nordsee prides itself on its unique niche, Winkler said -- "Lieber Nummer 1 in einer grossen Club!" (Loosely translated, "It's better to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big one!") But as the fast food industry evolves, the chain has set new priorities for the 1990's:

. Nordsee will accept the challenge to teach consumers to take fish more seriously.

. After years of a severely-restricted menu, there will be a new emphasis on variety.

. The whole restaurant concept will become more flexible, and more attention will be paid to sites and their surroundings.

While the chain targets primarily fish-eaters who frequent shopping districts and want good food for a good price in pleasant surroundings, Nordsee is also trying to attract the salad-eaters. But there is no attempt to appeal to a particular class or demographic group. Customers in a 1987 survey broke down as follows: 29% white-collar workers; 26% housewives; 16% blue-collar workers; 15% students/trainees; 9% pensioners; 5% self-employed.

Nordsee's target age group thus tends to be 25-50 (families) as opposed to the 15-25 year old group catered to by most fast food chains. Office workers and mothers out shopping are typical customers.

In a survey aimed at finding out the public image of the chain, consumers described Nordsee most often in terms of "cleanliness," "a good place for lunch," "tasty food," "good quality" and "appetizing presentation," Winkler said. Of all fast-food chains in West Germany, it was most often cited for serving "healthy food," yet while it was recognized for quality, it was not perceived as "upmarket" like such chains as Movenpick, or department store restaurants.

Nordsee thus appeals to the increasing interest in healthy eating, the trend towards the convenience of fast food generally, and the trend towards segmentation by menu types in the fast food market. Promotion is both national (four-color ads, TV spots) and regional (newspaper ads, radio spots), supported by in-store promotions such as a dish of the week.

In terms of the basic menu, there are different emphases in the West German and British outlets. German main courses are fried fish cakes, fried Alaskan pollock, fried coley, fried plaice and poached cod fillet; the British are fried scampi, fried Dutch mussels, and fried cod fillets, with only the fried fish cakes and plaice duplicating German items. Where German outlets offer calamares as a hot snack, British units serve a non-seafood, country chicken Kiev. Germans can get coffee, soft drinks, juice, wine and beer, but the British are also offered tea (of course!).
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Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Article Type:company profile
Date:Jan 1, 1989
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