A new advertising campaign from Legal Sea Foods doesn't show delicious fish, satiated diners, or any of the countless attributes that have made the Boston-based restaurant famous. Instead, the campaign focuses on something that Legal Sea Foods is saying it is not: a chain restaurant.
Legal Sea Foods president and CEO Roger Berkowitz takes umbrage at his restaurant group being called a chain, so he stars in a series of humorous commercials that explain why that five-letter word is actually a "four-letter-word around here."
Berkowitz's father, George, founded Legal Sea Foods in 1950 as a fish market in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Eighteen years later, he opened up the first Legal Sea Foods restaurant nearby. Within a few short years, the restaurant achieved cult status and eventually became a popular dining destination in Boston. Equating chain restaurants with cookie-cutter designs, soulless and unimaginative offerings and a less than stellar attitude toward seafood quality, Berkowitz is adamant that his family-owned and -operated restaurant group is anything but a chain.
In one spot, he says, "You can call me stupid, an egomaniac, even an (expletive deleted). Just don't call me a chain." In another, he states that he turns away more fish than he serves and inspects fish more than any other restaurateur, as the camera pulls back to reveal him, à la Don Corleone, stroking a pet lobster. He concludes by saying, "No one loves seafood more than I do."
In several of the spots, Berkowitz goes on the offensive against those who have dared used the word "chain" to describe Legal Sea Foods. In one commercial, he is hooked up to a polygraph machine and is asked if Legal Sea Foods is a chain. There is little movement from the needles recording his answers when he replies "No." When asked, "Is the person who called Legal Sea Foods a chain a complete moron?" Berkowitz again replies "No." But this time, the needles reveal that Berkowitz is not being truthful.
"We are the antithesis of a chain restaurant; look at the fanaticism we have for the freshness and quality of our seafood, or the care and detail we put into the design, menu, and service at every single Legal Sea Foods location," Berkowitz says. "I truly feel that 'chain' is a denigrating and completely inaccurate term for our restaurant group, and it's time we set the record straight."
The ad campaign begins airing throughout New England this week, and will also be seen in Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; New York and New Jersey; and Philadelphia beginning in September. The campaign was created by Legal Sea Foods' long time ad agency, DeVito/Verdi.