A growing restaurant franchise is rolling into Richmond.
Cousins Maine Lobster, which franchises its lobster dish-focused food trucks around the country, recently launched in the Richmond region.
Franchisees and brothers Yunus and Thameem Shahul secured the rights to cover the D.C., Maryland and Virginia markets earlier this year with plans to eventually operate six trucks across the region. The first truck has been pulling up at breweries, neighborhoods and apartment complexes around Richmond. This Saturday, for example, it’ll be at Vasen Brewing in Scott’s Addition.
Its menu includes lobster rolls, grilled cheese sandwiches, tacos, tots and more, with most dishes going for between $20 and $23.
Cousins Maine Lobster was founded in 2012 by cousins Jim Tselikis and Sabin Lomac as a food truck in Los Angeles and has grown to operate 50 food trucks in roughly 40 markets nationwide, as well as seven brick-and-mortar restaurants.
The company’s growth was spurred by an appearance on the television show “Shark Tank,” from which the founders received a $55,000 investment from Barbara Corcoran for a 17 percent stake in the business.
Annie Tselikis, Jim’s sister and the company’s director of marketing, said Corcoran remains Cousins Maine Lobster’s only investor.
“(Corcoran) was the one that led us to franchising. When we started, the food truck was our first franchise model, and the second concept was our brick-and-mortar storefront,” Annie Tselikis said.
The company also has an e-commerce operation that ships packaged goods such as lobster roll kits and live lobsters. Tselikis said that Cousins sources its products from suppliers up and down the coast of Maine, and that live lobsters must be shipped overnight.
“All of our products go over the road and we have a pretty tight supply chain and very efficient logistics,” she said.
Ahead of its launch in the Richmond region, Tselikis said Cousins Maine Lobster leased a commissary kitchen and cold storage in the area, but declined to say exactly where. The company is headquartered in Portland, Maine.
Tselikis said the Shahul brothers previously had a Cousins Maine Lobster restaurant in New York City but closed it amid the pandemic. She said the door is open for them to pursue a Richmond-area restaurant, but that decision would ultimately be in the franchisees’ hands.
“We don’t pressure our franchisees to expand. We want them to be happy,” Tselikis said. “But if they’ve built the infrastructure in terms of human capital and their logistics, and know how to build business around the food truck, we encourage them to do that.”