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Shrimp gets skewered

When it came to developing a summer LTO for Little Greek, the 14-unit Tampa, Florida-based franchisor, president Nick Vojnovic thought “shrimp.” “It’s healthy, quick-cooking and few of our competitors offer shrimp,” he notes.

Skewering the deal
Vojnovic and director of project development, Bill Doolin, decided to showcase the shrimp as a platter, and skewers fit well with the Greek-focused menu. “During R&D, we brought in IQF shrimp that we skewered ourselves as well as frozen, pre-skewered shrimp, both available from our broadliner, Sysco,” says Doolin. “The IQF were lower in cost, but our franchisees preferred the labor-saving skewered product.”

Off-the-shelf spice
On a trip to the supermarket, Doolin discovered Cavender’s Greek Spice and brought a small tin back to the kitchen. “The flavor profile worked really well with the shrimp,” he reports, so he contracted with Sysco to buy it in bulk. The shrimp are coated with this blend of oregano, coriander and other seasonings before cooking.

Cooking it up
The skewers are cooked to order on the char broiler for just a couple of minutes. “We also tried the flattop, but there was fear of cross-contamination when cooking shellfish on the same surface as pita breads and other items,” Doolin points out. “The char broiler takes a little more watching from the cooks, but the presentation is nicer, too.”

Rounding it out
One 10-count shrimp skewer is plated with rice, a Greek salad topped with potato salad and sliced beets and house-made tzatziki; a second skewer can be added for $2.99. The recipes for both the potato salad and tzatziki were formulated by Little Greek’s founder, Sigrid Bratic.

Trial and error
Before discovering Cavender’s Greek Spice, Doolin tried marinating the shrimp in the restaurant’s signature Greek salad dressing, but the flavor profile wasn’t right. To get more seafood on the menu, the team also tried grouper—a Florida favorite. “We had to eventually drop it—our Texas location couldn’t get grouper at the same price and consistency,” he says. Salmon, however, remains on the menu.

Looking ahead
“This is our first LTO,” Doolin notes. “We’re waiting to see how it goes before developing another.” Customer comments and employee input will inspire future menu promotions, he adds.

But one item they are moving ahead with is Little Greek’s Grecian Garlic Hot Sauce, a retail product created in partnership with Greek Boys Choice Foods. “We wanted to market a unique hot sauce that we could also use in the restaurants,” Doolin explains. Small bottles are available right now, but Greek Boys is developing a bulk product that can go in pumps for foodservice.