Seeing a New Future in Seafood
- By Olivia Thompson
Texas sees its very first Supreme Crab restaurant open under the management of Californians who now hope to call Denton, TX, their home.
Nina Wang, a 33-year-old woman who’s been in the restaurant industry since her childhood with parents owning a restaurant too, moved with her husband, Tommy Gao, from the San Francisco Bay area of California to flee from an increasingly dangerous environment and steadily rising prices.
“The main reason we moved is because of security and our safety,” Wang said. “There was a growing population of the homeless community, and we didn’t feel as safe in California and that’s why we moved. It was also due to housing. Overall, California is a lot more expensive compared to Texas. We thought it would be a good choice to migrate here.”
There are Supreme Crab restaurants located in San Francisco, CA and Redwood City, CA, but the new restaurant's big debut in Texas came at the hands of Wang and her husband's decision to carry the Supreme Crab name to Denton, TX and help the restaurant’s Cajun cooking go beyond the west coast.
The other owners of the California Supreme Crab restaurants hold a small percentage of the Denton seafood location, but Wang and her husband are running the restaurant together as they get a feel for Texas and what it has to offer.
“The reason this location was chosen was for business opportunities. Our friend who is also interested in seafood wanted to expand the restaurant umbrella, so they decided to do seafood as their next venture and we came in seeing it as another opportunity or a chance to see Texas. We’ll get to see if we want to stay here and build our life here together,” Wang said.
Opening a new business during inflation in the United States fronts a variety of challenges for owners. Those who would typically expect to have several resumes to inspect and customers in and out of their establishment are met with quite the contrary. Wang says hiring staff and driving business has been Supreme Crab’s biggest challenge thus far. Specifically, the “host” and “cook” positions are becoming less popular post-pandemic.
“Because of the pandemic, a lot of people were laid off, and they found other opportunities, other than just working in the kitchen and being hot. But to be a cook, you have to be passionate. You have to be able to know that you want to do this, but a lot of people that are out looking for a cook job right now are just doing so because they need a job. They don’t stick around for working long-term and that’s not what we’re looking for,” said Wang.
Fast money seems to appeal to busy, full-time college students as well and this recollection of Wang’s is what keeps the server positions in high demand and host or cook positions empty. Olivia Camberos, lead server at Supreme Crab, began as a server herself and received training prior to the soft opening on August 1, 2022. She earned her current promotion, which involves delegating tasks and preparing the restaurant for opening, by going the extra mile when it came to cleaning and staying on top of her duties. Camberos' hard work did not go unnoticed and now aids the progression of the new restaurant.
” I feel like it has improved as far as the customers and employees go because we’re all learning, so it’s been a lot of word of mouth and advertising. It was a little slow during the week, but we’re picking up a bit and we’re learning from the feedback the customers give us,” said Camberos.
Despite Supreme Crab’s proximity to the University of North Texas and Texas Woman’s University, there are struggles in hiring employees to fill unpopular positions. Wang says that Supreme Crab depends on more exposure through social platforms and word-of-mouth in the Denton community to increase the crew.
“We have a sign out on our side door that we’re hiring, and people send us their resumes, or we interview them during walk-ins. We also have our ads out through Indeed. Indeed, really helps especially for a small business like us,” Wang said.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been lingering for almost three years after the outbreak. Wang’s new restaurant has experienced product shortages from packaging items to potatoes, causing many restaurants and other businesses to raise their prices. With Supreme Crab serving seafood cuisine, they are already paying an excess of money to receive a deceased amount of product that is available.
“Our customers will often say ‘everything is priced so high,’ but our food cost is really high for being in the seafood industry. It costs us to bring each item in and that pushes us to price our items a little higher. We try to stay competitive with the neighboring seafood restaurants and try to be as price-fare as we can,” said Wang.
Despite the issues faced during Supreme Crab’s soft opening, the kinks are slowly but surely smoothing out. The forms of food service that Supreme Crab offers currently are full dine-in services and delivery through the third-party DoorDash. Furthermore, they are also launching online ordering for To-go orders. In the future, Supreme Crab customers can look forward to pre-ordering catered meals that can be picked up from the restaurant.
Plans are also underway for new additions to the inside of the establishment as well. The ribbon-cutting event for Supreme Crab’s grand opening was an opportunity for customers to interact with employees in games and enjoy an overall fun experience.
“In the future, we plan on adding some kind of entertainment to the inside of the business. We’re brainstorming on karaoke or maybe a DJ with soft music,” Camberos said.
Camberos says the ambience of the restaurant creates an environment that is family friendly and that the staff is creating different ways to connect with their customers.
“We believe it’s family oriented.” Camberos said, “We do love for our families to come down and check us out. There are sharks on the wall that they always go and take pictures of and when it’s someone’s birthday, we play a song on the radio, and we all come out with the gong and sing happy birthday with the cake and a candle that doesn’t turn off.”
Wang insists on delivering an enjoyable experience for each customer from their meal to the interactions they have within the restaurant and does not take the back seat when business runs slow or fast. Instead, she interacts with customers and employees throughout their time spent in the restaurant.
“Being a seafood restaurant, we do as best as we can to maintain everything to give quality food, flavor, and good customer service,” said Wang.
Kelly Campbell, a customer who came for lunch with her son and husband, says the decor in the restaurant creates a friendly atmosphere.
“I love it. I thought the environment was very welcoming and warm and you can just relax and be yourself and enjoy yourself. It’s a great way to unwind after a long day,” said Campbell.
Jennifer McQueen, a grandmother who dined-in with her daughter and grandson enjoyed their experience in the restaurant and with Olivia as their server. The food, however, speaks for itself.
“For the people that are allergic to seafood, they’re missing out,” said McQueen.