Bubba's Seafood House on beach road in Orange Beach, Alabama.
By John Mullen
May 3, 2018 - Orange Beach, AL (OBA®) - Jay Schenck has been serving up scrumptious seafood platters in Bubba’s Seafood House on beach road since 1998. And while he wants the seafood to draw ‘em in, he wants them to have fun during their visit.
“We wanted it to be just a good ol’ place to go,” Schenck said. “Everybody knows a Bubba.”
But the veteran restaurateur knows it’s more than food bringing people in the door and keeps ‘em coming back. He has been running restaurants in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach for the better part of 30 years and has owned or been a partner in a dozen or more. Today he’s pared it down to Bubba’s.
“There are four or five things in the restaurant business you have to do to be good,” he said. “Your food has got to be good, but the food is the third or fourth thing. The first thing is the presentation and environment of the building outside.”
Bubba's SeafoodNext up is a greeting from a smiling face.
“I always tell my employees when somebody pulls in that driveway and walks in that door, he’s giving us the opportunity to make him happy,” Schenck said. “And please him and I’m glad he’s here. We need to try and go about our best to make that happen.”
 “I think it’s important that you develop that friendliness and I think you develop it at the front door with your hostess, you develop it at your bar where your servers are at and it carries over to your staff on the floor “
Making a stop at Bubba’s fun is also a goal. Schenck does that with eclectic décor.
“We have lots of stuff for the customers to look at,” he said. “I’ve seen them stop and take pictures of some of the displays. The quirkiness and atmosphere of the décor are unique.
“It’s not a Jay Schenck thing, it’s a Bubba’s thing,” he says with a grin.
And, when it comes to food, Bubba’s thing is a variety of heaping seafood platters.
“Seafood platters, we probably do about 15 different combinations,” Schenck said. “It’ll be a combination of fried, grilled, steamed. One of our biggest platters is grilled fish, grilled shrimp and crab legs. I think the variety is what the people look for. So, we have certain platters designed with certain names so you’ll remember that one. We also have a create your own platter with several choices for that.”
Bubba's Crab LegsBubba’s also offers a 12-ounce prime rib eye and two tasty chicken dinners. Classic appetizer choices include gumbo, homemade onion rings, fried pickles, crab claws or boiled shrimp.
Schenck says Bubba’s variety of dining areas can accommodate cozy dinners or large families or groups for football watching in the recently remodeled back dining room.
“If a couple wanted to come in and have a nice dinner with a glass of wine, then I have items for you to order,” he said. “If you want to bring your family in and have different items to eat, you can do that, too. We have a big kid’s menu. During the summertime, we can serve as many as 200-300 kids a day.”
Schenck is brainstorming to find new summer promotions for the busy season when visitors are more transitional.
“We’ve got a lot of good things going on,” he said. “Of course, in the summer you get so busy. I try to be creative.”
But in snowbird season he’s got it down pat with frozen turkey bowling, Mardi Gras parties and viewing parties for the football-crazy northern visitors, among other activities.
“We’ve created over here what I call a very good snowbird following,” Schenck said. “It’s a different kind of customer. They come in for happy hour, we know a lot of them. They come back year to year to year. We tied in the winter specials, we created a value card for them where if they come in and eat five times you get one free. We have music for them 4:30-6:30 p.m.
“We crown a Snowbird King and Queen for the Krewe De Bubba Mardi Gras with the parades that go by here. You grant them royalty for the week. They get a spot in the front, a crown and some gift cards. We let the people pick them with a secret ballot.”
He’s also developing a couple of new Bubba’s characters to increase the restaurant’s appeal with a new branding and marketing effort for all of the guests to his restaurant.
“I’m trying to create more of a Bubba entity,” Schenck said. “We have a little story on the menu about Bubba. Basically, he’s a fisherman, he caught grouper, brought the grouper back home, his mama cooked it and they invited all their friends over. He decided to open up a restaurant and cook his own food because it was so good.”
And nowadays, Schenck says, Bubba’s got to get more technologically savvy.
“Social media, the marketing Instagram, Twitter, those things I want to do,” he said. “You’ve got to operate social media. We’re bringing Bubba into the 21st century.”
A second character is Dr. Bubba and brings a special flair to the food coming out of the kitchen.
“Dr. Bubba’s the guy who’s in charge of spices,” Schenck said. “I’ve got blackening seasoning, Cajun seasoning, the Dr. Bubba’s Sauce and the Dr. Bubba’s Hot Sauce. It’s sweet but has a bit of bite on the back end. And, it’s good on steak, chicken, shrimp and fish.”