There was a time in the not-so-distant past when ordering lobster from a restaurant menu felt like an extravagant indulgence. Luke’s Lobster flipped this script after opening their East Village “shack” in 2009, offering (for what seemed like the first time) affordable, sustainable, and delicious lobster rolls without the pretentiousness of fine dining.

Flash forward eight years later and the tiny shop has now evolved into an expanding business with 23 stores, seafood fishing company Cape Seafood, and a commanding presence in Japan’s uber-competitive food market.

“It was an immediate hit, which was kind of a shock to us,” says co-founder Ben Conniff. “We weren’t necessarily expecting that.”

Conniff, along with fellow co-founder Luke Holden, may not have anticipated the company’s overnight success, but they’ve managed it seamlessly. At almost 500 employees, it’s the longstanding culture that Conniff credits for sales and a committed staff, along with the quality product that aligns with their values and overall mission: bringing traceable sustainable seafood to guests across the country.

“It’s been a really exciting challenge to learn what it means to oversee a business and to keep everybody interacting on the same page,” he says. “[Our goal is] to preserve the amazing culture that we had from day one and make sure that everybody feels just as important to this company as one of 500 as they did when they were one of eight.”

We sat down with Conniff to delve deeper into his unique business model, including a look at how Luke’s Lobster originated and where they stand today. Check out the video above for the words of wisdom (which doesn’t include taking sides over whether lobster tastes better with melted butter or mayonnaise. We vote for the former.).

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