Phillips president Mark Sneed

Phillips president Mark Sneed on imports: "There’s just not enough [local crabmeat] available. The growth of our company--the jobs that we’ve created--are dependent on the ability to import seafood." (Photo courtesy Phillips / July 2, 2001)

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  • Age: 44

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Phillips began in the 1950s as a takeout counter in Ocean City. It now encompasses restaurants throughout the mid-Atlantic region and a string of Asian processing plants with thousands of employees. Mark Sneed, president of Phillips Foods and Phillips Seafood Restaurants, explains how they got from there to here.

Phillips began in 1956 as four-seat carryout crab shack in Ocean City. How have you grown?

We have seven restaurants, three restaurants in Ocean City, a restaurant in Baltimore, a restaurant in Washington D.C., a restaurant in Tysons Corner and a restaurant in Annapolis.

You also have a retail production side to the business. When was that launched?

Phillips Foods started processing crab meat in Asia back in 1990. We’ve been producing retail, value-added products like crab cakes and things since about 1997.

What about the number of employees or sales last year? Can you give us an idea of the economic size of Phillips?

We’re a privately held company, so the sales are kind of private to us. But we employ about 3,000 in the U.S. Overseas we employ about 15,000. So about 18,000 overall.

How many crab cakes do you sell a day?

In the restaurants we do about 450,000 crab cakes a year. So, you can get your calculator out. Then, on the retail side, we probably did close to four million. Here in Baltimore, at our manufacturing facility, we probably run about 200,000 a day now. We crank a bunch out.

Is the manufacturing facility just for the retail trade or does it also produce goods for the restaurants?

They make a limited number of items for the restaurants. We make our soups here. We make some of the basic sauces, like cocktail and tartar sauce here. Of course, we also make crab cakes for other restaurants that sell on the food service side. A lot of our business is actually to other restaurants throughout the country.

What is the bigger part of your business right now, retail or restaurants?

The Phillips Foods component is much larger. I’d say the restaurants are probably about 30 percent of our sales.

Most of your revenue then comes from retail sales.

That’s right. That’s been a tremendous growth vehicle for us. We’re not talking about dollar sales, but I can share these numbers with you: Since 1996, Phillips food sales are up about 850 percent. It’s been like a rocket ride.

What is that market, sales to restaurants and food service companies?

We have two primary channels of business. Grocery stores, we’re in about 8,600 grocery stores throughout the country now. Then, in the food service channel, we sell to big distributors like Sysco and U.S. Foodservice. We’re pretty strong now across the country. We have regional offices in New York, West Palm Beach, Fla., Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas and London. Those offices service both regional and national accounts located in their geographic areas.

Do some of your restaurants do better than others?

Harborplace is certainly still our highest volume restaurant. We did a recent remodel here in January and February, and we’re really thrilled with the results so far. But, in terms of sales growth, our restaurant in Washington, D.C. on the waterfront has doubled its sales since 1996. It’s doing close to $12 million in sales this year. That’s our star in growth, but Harborplace is probably our most recognized restaurant.