Captain D’s To Open First Express Locations

The smaller-footprint, off-premise model debuts as takeout and drive-thru generate most of the brand’s sales.

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Captain D's Express is set to open in two locations by mid-year. Courtesy of Captain D's.

Captain D’s is joining the growing list of brands scaling back on square footage and leaning on drive-thru and pickup only by rolling out a new prototype, dubbed Express.

The fast-casual seafood concept announced it will be debuting the model in two locations by mid-year. Express, which doesn’t feature indoor dining, will average 960 sq. ft., down from the brand’s standard 44-seat, 1,964-sq.-ft. model, and feature drive-thru and walk-up windows.

The 540-unit brand says the model reflects guests’ desire for enhanced drive-thru and takeout options—a shift that was happening even before the pandemic.

“Long before the pandemic and subsequent social distancing mandates, we were intently listening to our guests and closely following evolving real estate trends, all which led to the development of our Express prototype. Pre-COVID-19, 70% of our sales were generated by off-premises dining—50% drive-thru and 20% takeout. And those numbers have held strong over the past several months, only reinforcing the need and viability of Express’ design,” says Phil Russo, vice president of real estate for Captain D’s, in a press release announcing the design in November 2020.

Captain D’s says it’s looking to develop Express restaurants in population-dense metropolitan areas with higher levels of foot traffic.

Other brands, like Jimmy John’s, Bellagreen and Chipotle, also recently have rolled out similar to-go-focused models as more customers turn to off-premise dining.

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