Forbes and Amy MacPherson are the new owners of Fisherman’s Wharf Lobster Suppers, Restaurants and Gift Shop with its famous 60-foot salad bar, gift shop, and a 70-seat restaurant now called Pier 15 at Fisherman’s Wharf. The founder, Albert Dow, opened the business in 1976.
“Being long-time business owners and operators, we feel very confident going into this business venture,” says Amy. “We own Simply for Life in Charlottetown. Forbes is the UPEI hockey coach and he co-owns ProMac Hockey.”
As Forbes’ professional hockey career took them to Louisiana and Texas, they lived off-Island for about 10 years. When they had their second child, it was time to move back home. “We wanted to raise our children on PEI to be with family, so we came back seven years ago,” says Amy.
“We wanted to start another business, and a seasonal business fit our yearly schedule,” says Amy. “We spoke with MRSB, an accounting and consulting firm on PEI, to see what businesses were on the market. They told us that Fisherman’s Wharf was for sale privately.
“When we first thought of this business we said absolutely no because of the size of the operation, but within 30 minutes we were changing our minds.
We have a lot of enthusiasm and passion for business. Also, we were looking for a way to invest for the future.” The couple envisioned their son and daughter growing up in this industry and one day working together as a family.
“The ownership process started over a year and a half ago. We grew up coming to this restaurant with our family, but we had never seen the back-end. When we walked through the building, we both got excited about the possibilities.”
Amy says Allan and Danny Dow were very particular as to who was going to take over the business. “They wanted the business to keep the Islander feel and style. They wanted to pass the torch to a couple who would run the business as they did. When they met us they got a good feel that we would do right by the business.
“No one knew we were going through this business process, not even family. We kept it to ourselves until it was a done deal because we didn’t want family to worry.”
Amy says the best part of the transition was working at the restaurant from last August until it closed. “I did everything from baking rolls to sweeping the floors and bussing tables.
“The Dows knew we needed some experience in this particular industry and of course they wanted us to succeed. It was a great transition for both of us. We built a strong relationship with them and we can’t say enough about the help they gave us in the transition.”
About the staff
There are about 100 staff, and that number rises to 110 in high season. “The major contributing factor in buying the business was that most of the staff was planning to return, which is a blessing for us. They know their jobs and the nature of the work, and that was key for us in determining if this was the business we wanted to get into. We are very pleased key staff are coming back.
“Our longest standing employee will be with the business for 37 years as a waitress. All the staff are essential to making the business run smoothly. Every job contributes to making it run the way it does, and each is very important.”
Staff includes students and mature workers, who typically work full-time. They will accommodate some who request part-time hours as well. Shift work may run from 7:30 to 3 pm or 3 pm to closing. “However, we need people who can stay beyond the hours of their shift to accommodate the high demand in July and August.”
Although many staff are returning, they continue to accept resumés. They are looking for an experienced Grill Cook, Line Cook, Bartender, Bussers, Servers, Dishwashers, Hosts, Cashiers, and Gift Shop Cashiers.
They opened on May 14 on Mother’s Day, and close at the end of October, depending on cruise ship traffic. “We are also looking to increase our events and conferences in the off-season, so having the right staff and enough staff is most important.”
What are the difficult jobs to fill?
Kitchen positions can be more difficult to fill because they are in short supply. “It is a high stress position in great demand, and people have to be the right fit to work well together,” says Amy.
How do you advertise and what is the hiring process?
They have been attending Job Fairs, and using social media and job posting sites such as WorkPEI, as well as through word of mouth.
“We usually email and call any potential candidates and set up an interview. We check references before hiring.” Amy, the General Manager, the Chef, and the Kitchen Manager are involved in the hiring.
Wages range from minimum wage to a competitive wage, depending on the position. Wait staff keep the tips from their tables, and share a percentage with the bartender and bussers. “We are competitive with the kitchen staff wages,” says Amy.
Is there a need for bilingual staff?
“It is always nice to have a few servers that are bilingual to give the best customer experience possible.”
What do you look for in your staff?
Amy says they look for good people who are committed, hard working and team players. “This is a very busy place, so these traits are very important to keep things running smoothly. Be enthusiastic, be able to work in a fast paced, high demand atmosphere, and have a heart for providing the best customer service. We need people who are available and ready and willing to put in the hours that are required.”