A few weeks ago Review the Chew shared with its readers the list of the 30 best food trucks area of D.C. according to our own system based on social media (Facebook and Twitter) and Yelp statistics. In our ranking, Red Hook Lobster Pound occupies the first position. DCist, The Daily Meal, and Thrillist had also chosen this food truck as one of the best of D.C. and the U.S..
Doug Povich and his partner, Leland Morris, opened Red Hook Lobster Pound in D.C. in 2010. The idea came from a conversation with Povich’s cousin, Susan Povich, who owned a successful brick-and-mortar place in Brooklyn, N.Y with the same name. and wanted to innovate in the street food business.
Known as the “Lobster Truck”, Red Hook Lobster Pound brings daily the taste of Maine to Washingtonians. Their famous Lobster Rolls, Connecticut or Maine style, clam chowder, apple cider and Maine root soda, adapt to warm or cold weather and the noon devouring hunger of its customers.
From the day they opened their window to Washingtonians, their business has attracted thousand of customers. They have around 320 reviews in Yelp with an average rating of 4 stars. Now Povich and Morris have two trucks in the D.C. area, named Lobby 1 and Lobby 2, that park often at Metro Center Station area, the Federal District Center (SW), Farragut Square, Tysons Corner, Arlington, Alexandria and Courthouse.
We asked two questions to Leland Morris, co-owner of Red Hook Lobster Pound DC, one from the point of view of the business management and the other from the culinary perspective.
Review the Chew: What are the main elements of your business strategy?
Morris: To stay at the top of our game requires two concentrations. First, our number one priority is a happy and satisfied customer. This goes beyond the food and spills into the entire experience. We want every customer to know that they are the reason we are on the street. At best, we get about 30 seconds of a person’s time. We want that 30 seconds to be positive, fun, and always be packed with at least two “thank you’s”.
One of our crew members articulated the basis of this philosophy to me really well the other day. He looked at me and said, “Sir, you don’t pay me. The people at the window pay me so I’m going to do my best to take care of them.” That kind of gave me a warm fuzzy sensation. I was like, damn, this guy gets it!
And second, we keep what we do simple and we concentrate on doing what we do, really well. All employees taste the food every day with one question in their mind. Would I pay $15 for this? If the answer is no, we do what we need to, to fix it, including throwing the food out and starting over. We do not settle for mediocrity because our customers don’t either.
Do we have a 100 percent satisfaction rate? No. However, we strive for that and we all take it personally when a complaint does come in. And when I say all, I mean everyone from our dishwasher to our crew members to our management and ownership.
Overwhelmingly, it’s not about the money for us, it’s about doing something that makes a positive impact on someone’s day. Sometimes, all that takes is a really good sandwich.
Review the Chew: Could you describe your signature dish to Review the Chew’s readers?
Morris: Our signature dish is our classic Maine lobster roll. It’s the item that got us off the ground and I believe what people know us for. It’s super simple and not fancy at all, just the way a good lobster roll should be.
Our Maine lobster roll is a butter-grilled, top-split hot dog roll that’s filled with a very light mayo based lobster salad, topped with a dusting of sweet paprika and shaved scallions. All of the die hard Connecticut roll fans are cringing right now because they believe mayo has no place on a lobster roll. We did a ton of research on what a “classic” lobster roll is and found a pretty even split between people in the Maine and what we call our Connecticut roll camps. So, we offer both. Our Connecticut lobster roll also starts with a warm, butter-grilled, top-split hot dog roll, but is filled simply with lobster that’s been warmed up in melted butter. We top the Connecticut with paprika and scallions too.