Chicago's Brown Bag Seafood to Open in Atlanta This Summer

    Industry News | February 17, 2020
    Brown Bag Seafood founder and CEO Donna Lee.

    Brown Bag Seafood

    Donna Lee founded Brown Bag Seafood Co. in Chicago in 2014.

    Brown Bag Seafood Co., a fast-casual seafood brand with seven locations in Chicago, announced that it’s expanding outside the Windy City for the first time with a restaurant in Atlanta.

    The new restaurant will be located in the Colony Square development in Atlanta’s Midtown, and is set to open in the summer.

    Brown Bag founder Donna Lee says she and business partner Zach Flanzman found in their due diligence that Atlanta generally embraces seafood as a regular dining experience, but that it’s mostly through full-service seafood brands.

    “Given how sophisticated I believe the consumer is, they deserve to have great premium brands, and they’re not infiltrated like other cities are,” she says. “I love the idea of bringing more health and convenience to the lifestyle of Atlantans.”

    Lee and Flanzman have been exploring opportunities to take Brown Bag out of Chicago for some time, and while there are bigger and splashier markets than Atlanta, Lee says the city felt refreshing and comfortable to the pair.

    Flanzman adds that Atlanta makes a lot of business sense because it’s growing and there are real estate opportunities readily available. Brown Bag is targeting four locations in Atlanta in the coming years.  

    “Different cities have different inventory levels where the on-paper analysis meets the reality on the ground,” he says. “There are a lot of markets where, at the end of the day, Brown Bag would be well received, but one thing Atlanta has really going for it is there are areas we think would work that can be activated now or in the next few months or a year.”

    In addition, Atlanta is a strong market for seafood supply because its airport is the busiest in the U.S., Flanzman says. Brown Bag flies in seafood from around the world.

    Beyond large airports, Lee thinks there are other similarities between Chicago and Atlanta that make the latter the perfect decision for a second market. And culture was a big one that stood out to her.  

    “Part of that comfort was observing the environment, but part of it was knowing the culture that we’ve created within our company. Chicago is very diverse, it’s very emphatic and very warm like family,” she says. “And I feel similarly about [Atlanta] and think that we can replicate a similar culture within the four walls as well.”

    Brown Bag opened its first restaurant in Chicago’s Millennium Park in 2014. The brand dishes upscale seafood offerings in dining rooms adorned with a nautical theme. The menu boasts proteins like salmon, seared tuna, white fish, crispy or grilled shrimp, and a rotating “daily catch” served in the guest’s choice of salad, box, taco, or sandwich. Sides include tots, slaw, and clam chowder. For those looking to splurge, the concept offers lobster rolls, fish and chips, shrimp and grits, and Dinner Plates (a larger portion of one of its proteins that comes with two sides and garlic bread). Beer, wine, and cocktails are available, as are kids’ options like grilled teriyaki salmon, fish bites, and chicken strips.

    For more on Brown Bag's success, stream the recent episode of QSR's "Fast Forward" podcast above.