Arthur Treacher’s makes it

Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips celebrated its first anniversary with a bouncy castle, SpongeBob SquarePants, lots of balloons and a hotdog-eating contest.

While the choice of food for the contest may at first seem odd, the company is under Nathan’s Famous, which made its name selling hotdogs, and these are on sale at the Cayman restaurant.

Thalia Pennington, general manager of Arthur Treacher’s here, came up with the contest idea, inspired by the annual Nathan’s event, which attracts contestants from all over the US and worldwide to its original Coney Island, New York, restaurant.

‘It’s an unofficial hotdog-eating contest,’ she explained, deferring to its world-famous counterpart.

Ambrose Whyms, area consultant for Nathan’s Famous who is based in Miami, came down for the celebrations, his first visit to Grand Cayman.

‘When I came here, I was blown away. They did a great job. They are great people, they provide a good service and have excellent employees,’ Mr. Whyms said.

Nathan’s Famous bought the franchising rights for Arthur Treacher’s three years ago.

Eleanor and Tommy Bodden, Mrs. Pennington’s parents, own the local Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips, which opened 14 July 2004.

‘This has been my mother’s dream for years. She’s always wanted a family restaurant and she loves fish and chips.

‘She is still very much involved in the business, but I handle the day-to-day stuff,’ Mrs. Pennington said.

In addition to Nathan’s hotdogs, Mrs. Bodden brought in Kenny Rogers Roasters Express as a co-brand, to add chicken to the menu.

Parents and daughter have also made sure the restaurant provided the right environment to attract families.

‘I think typically co-branded franchises are about one-third of our size. The land is ours, the building is ours, so we thought, ‘Why not?’

‘We wanted to make it comfortable for families to come and enjoy themselves in a nice, relaxing, clean atmosphere,’ Mrs. Pennington said.

The idea of family also filters through to how the owners and general manager operate.

‘We try to work as a team. I don’t make any big decisions without consulting my parents. We try to all agree before going forward,’ Mrs. Pennington said.

Mr. Whyms was impressed by the restaurant, explaining that the facilities and the size of the eating area were much different than what he was used to in the US.

The idea of a co-branded franchise is a new one here, according to the general manager.

‘We’re the first one on the island to do this. The opportunity was there because of Arthur Treacher’s connections to other franchises,’ Mrs. Pennington said.

Judging by the crowds of people on hand, the anniversary celebration was a success.

‘I was thrilled by how the day went. I was happy to see the children here and how everybody was enjoying it,’ Mrs. Pennington said.

As for the contest, Jerry Harper – better known as Coach – was crowned the champion hotdog eater, consuming six frankfurters plus buns in five minutes, two more than his closest competitors.

Proving himself a true champion, upon winning the contest, Mr. Harper asked, ‘Can I have a fish sandwich?’ and ate an additional hotdog and a piece of birthday cake as well.

And, proving himself a champion good guy, he gave his prize, an MP3 player, to the son of Debbie Samuels, one of the second-place finishers.

‘It’s not something I would use. I gave it to Debbie because she wanted to win it for her son,’ Mr. Harper said.