Famed franchise family swimming with Slapfish
By Leslie T. Snadowsky | Photos Courtesy of CH2 Magazine
From treadmills and weights to poke bowls and lobster rolls, Zach Lomasney took the bait and is hooked on Slapfish, a modern seafood shack franchise with a mission to increase consumption of sustainable seafood. His mom, Sharon, dad, David, and brother, David Q. (D.Q.) invest heavily in franchises, and the family even earned a place in the Planet Fitness Franchisee Hall of Fame. They sold 168 gym locations in December 2019 before the COVID pandemic ravaged the economy.
Now the Lomasneys have been lured in by the largest and fastest-growing fast-casual seafood restaurant in America. Zack and D.Q. own and operate two Slapfish franchises in Pooler, Georgia, and the one on Hilton Head at 1024 William Hilton Parkway, which they opened in 2020. The location is a converted former convenience store with a walk-up ordering window to take advantage of Hilton Head’s expansive biking and walking paths frequented by tourists and locals alike.
Zach plans to open six additional locations in South Carolina and Georgia over the next five years, and one per year after that. He said they’ve also had some luck navigating HR issues unique to Hilton Head’s tricky waters.
With a new industry sector comes a new employee pool, and franchise owner Zack believes it all boils down to creating a strong team.
“When we came across Slapfish, I just loved the concept,” Zach said. “The food and the brand are all about sustainability and using fresh ingredients made to order. That’s all things that really appealed to me, and we thought it would do well in Hilton Head.”
Zach’s family joined the Planet Fitness franchise early on, and he and his brother are doing the same with Slapfish. He said Slapfish’s systems, processes and corporate teams share the same successful traits as Planet Fitness.
“We jumped in, and we bought the rights to South Carolina and Georgia, intending to develop both states,” he said. “But it starts with that first franchise, building a great foundation, spending time with your team members and growing them and continuing to train them because you can’t expand that much all on your own. It requires a good team behind you supporting you.”
Jigging for help
The Hilton Head Slapfish serves seafood from the local waters of South Carolina, North Carolina and Florida such as gag grouper, vermillion snapper, summer flounder and yellowfin tuna. According to the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce & Visitor and Convention Bureau, there are more than 250 restaurants in the Hilton Head area. Zach said he’s had to cast a wide net to bring in quality employees.
“There’s competition,” he said, “not just in the food and in restaurants but also the employees. At Planet Fitness, we wouldn’t find that so much. We would usually be the only gym or the biggest gym in the area. Hilton Head is a 12-mile island populated with restaurants, so it creates competition not only for customers but for great workers too.”
Zach said the biggest HR issue after the Covid pandemic is finding reliable workers and getting them through the door.
“We can schedule 10 to 15 interviews, and we’d be happy if just two people show up,” he said. “We use lots of different platforms and sites to advertise on, and when we do make a good hire, our focus switches to keeping them. Once you have a good team member, you really want to keep them.”
Zach said his family grew its Planet Fitness franchises from one to 168 in eight years. He said he’s looking to base his Slapfish headquarters on Hilton Head and expand next to Bluffton and Charleston.
Zach said being creative and thinking out of the box to find, keep and retain employees on Hilton Head is more than just about giving bonuses, it’s about housing. Zack tackled the problem by purchasing two condos.
“We lose employees and sometimes can’t hire employees because of the lack of affordable housing on the island,” he said. “We have one family that works for us, and they’re great workers, but they were going to have to relocate because of housing. So we found a condo, purchased it, and now we are housing them to keep them.”
Zach said it’s gratifying as a family business to help other families, and from a HR standpoint, helping with housing ensures retention.
“That’s gone a long way for us,” he said. “And I think it’s just something a little different that we had to do to overcome the HR issues that we’re having on Hilton Head.”