Wed | Jan 27, 2021

Gloria’s goes hi-tech as it expands to Ocho Rios ... to be used as template for other stores

Published:Sunday | September 1, 2019 | 12:00 AMNeville Graham - Business Reporter
Gloria’s Seafood City in Ocho Rios

Gloria’s Seafood City, a choice eatery that has its genesis in the quiet fishing village of Port Royal, east Kingston, but which attracts customers from all over the island, has expanded the business to Ocho Rios, St Ann.

The 1,300 square feet space at Turtle River Park in Jamaica’s second tourist capital is home to Gloria’s fourth location. The team that runs the fast-growing business is emphatic that the new location is not a franchise, but the familial embodiment of Gloria Prawl’s 47-year-old legacy.

“Definitely not a franchise,” was the answer from locations manager and grandson Minkah Lim Tom, who added that the company’s unique set-up sees sisters Angela Lim Tom and Tanya Prawl operate at the apex of the business and their six children playing specified roles.

“There is no share in the business as such. All the earnings are remitted to the two sisters, and everyone gets paid according to their role and function,” Minkah said as he made his way to pick up supplies, driven by cousin Dushaun Lim Tom.

For years, seafood lovers trekked to the sleepy seaside town of Port Royal to indulge in the gastronomic experience offered by Gloria’s. The location at ‘Bottom Road’ next to the wharf was all Gloria Prawl had to offer beginning in 1972 until two years later when the Foreshore Road location, also in Port Royal was added to take care of the spill-over customer traffic and accommodation for those desiring a more formal, non-roadside dining experience.

Gloria and her six children pressed on, growing the business. When she died in 2001, son Cecil Prawl stepped forward to head the team of children until he died in a motor vehicle accident in April 2017. Despite the loss, Angela and Tanya completed the upgrade of the Bottom Road location, and their children also assisted in continuing the Gloria legacy. However, those children were now introducing changes.

“My aunt and my mother were doing this for so long that they pretty much had their set way. We as children grew up in the business and we were exposed to other things so it’s only natural for us to introduce new technologies, and so on,” Minkah said.

He says that along with the Bottom Road location upgrade, a smart cooker was introduced.

“We put in a smart cooker that can cook 60 fish in 16 minutes,” Minkah said, adding that even with the capability of the new cooker, they were still not able to keep up with the demand.

Ways to improve

Wait times at Gloria’s are the stuff of legend, and Minkah says that there is a constant search for new ways to improve. He says that that is why they have introduced even more technology in the form of inventory and location management.

“Everything that they pull to cook, once it’s logged, there is a record. This is followed up automatically to the point where we need to make an order. The system gives us a list to go shopping,” Minkah said, noting that even the cooking process can be remotely monitored.

The improvement template, according to Minkah, was the basis for the expansion to the third location at the relatively recently renovated and repurposed Victoria Pier in downtown Kingston, and now, there is Ocho Rios, but the growing, business has the sisters very much in charge.

“I did downtown and Ocho Rios, and that expansion took place under their supervision,” Minkah said, putting in a big plug for technology.

“The system is set up so that we have our restaurant managers and their line staff, and we keep a tab on the operations using technology,” he said, noting that the three smart cookers at Bottom Road, Victoria Pier, and Ocho Rios cost US$35,000 each. Gloria’s spent another J$5 million on the inventory system that covers all four locations. The inventory and IT system was supplied by TechPro.

Minkah says he will continue to run the two new locations, with heavy reliance on ease of movement and technology.

“I will be partially resident in Ocho Rios and do the jumps between the two locations. Knutsford Express makes it easy, and whenever I am at one location, technology takes care of the rest,” Minkah said.

The downtown Kingston location has about 30 staff members, with the same number for Bottom Road and Foreshore Road. There is a clean-up area employing another 20+ persons, while Ocho Rios, for the time being has 10 employees. There are plans to relocate the fish processing to the Richmond Park area in St Andrew for a more centralised land-based operation.

Minkah says that with the Ocho Rios store up and running, the team at Gloria’s is already looking at further improvements, and the open plan concept now at the newest location is the template for future expansion.

“The Ochi store, in terms of look and feel, is where we want to go with the rest of the business, so very soon, we will be renovating the other three locations to look like Ocho Rios,” Minkah said, while declining to say where the next Gloria’s may right pop up.