At American Fish & Seafood, Customer Service and Food Safety Are Top Priorities
Live lobster is a popular purchase from American Fish & Seafood; the company keeps up to 2,000 pounds in stock.
The sign on the door reads “Lobster Room,” and had the tour been through any other company’s warehouse there may have been some question as to what was inside.
But this was at American Fish & Seafood Inc., and the Lobster Room is just that—a room with holding tanks for up to 2,000 pounds of live Homarus americanus, the clawed American lobster.
Live lobsters are just one of the thousand-plus product offerings that helps American Fish lay claim to having the largest in-stock selection of fresh and frozen fish and seafood in the Midwest. Minnetonka-based American Fish is also the Midwest’s only federally inspected fish and seafood company, something President Butch Bialick says truly sets his operation apart from the competition. This inspection—certified by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—is voluntary, but American Fish insists it’s a critical extra step to display integrity in an industry with too many occurrences of fraud, such as species substitution.
“Every company has to have a HACCP [Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points] plan, but we go way beyond that,” explains Bialick. “We have someone looking over our shoulder, certifying what we do here. …We talk food safety first.”
Holding a whole salmon is American Fish employee Billy White.
The company, in its 86th year, also talks customer service. American Fish relies on its word-of-mouth reputation, a knowledgeable sales force with decades of experience and direct interaction with customers. “It’s a negative to us to have [customers] order online,” says Bialick. “We like that personal contact to cover what the customer wants and needs. Our sales team is trained to help build and develop menus. They’re there to develop relationships.”
Vice President and Sales Manager Mark Paone, himself a 37-year veteran at the company, notes customers often comment on “how refreshing it is that we don’t have voice prompts—you get a live person every time.”
And it’s those people who help chefs navigate the vast selection of fish and seafood, be it high-quality frozen products or something from American Fish’s daily fresh shipments. Oysters in particular are extremely popular as of late, says Paone, and the demand for shrimp—American Fish carries dozens of varieties and sizes—remains high.
The company is also involved in several industry groups, from the National Fisheries Institute to the sustainable seafood-focused CleanFish Alliance and locally with the Minneapolis chapter of the American Culinary Federation.
“We invest back into the industry,” says Bialick. “It’s part of what we do. And we believe in what we do.”
The company is also experienced in dealing with the many challenges inherent to the fish business, be they logistical, seasonal or otherwise. Above all, American Fish remains committed to standing by what it sells.
“We’re a foodservice-first company,” concludes Bialick. “We understand the foodservice business.”