Legal Sea Foods

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Legal Sea Foods
FoundedCambridge, Massachusetts, fish market (1950); restaurant (1968)
FounderGeorge Berkowitz
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Number of locations
37 restaurants
Key people
Roger Berkowitz, President & CEO
Rich Vellante, Executive Chef
Sandy Block, MW, VP of Beverage
Productsseafood, restaurants
Number of employees
Footnotes / references

Legal Sea Foods is an American restaurant chain[3][4] of upscale casual-dining seafood restaurants. The company was founded by George Berkowitz who opened the Legal Cash Market grocery store in 1950 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and he opened the first restaurant next door to the market in 1968. The current company headquarters is located in Boston and as of June 2018, the group operates 37 restaurants in six states, plus the District of Columbia, with most in the Greater Boston area.[5]The restaurant serves over 7 million customers annually[6] with an average restaurant size of 6,000 square feet (560 m2).[7] Legal Sea Foods also operates an online fish market and ships fresh fish anywhere in the contiguous United States, as well as a retail products division.


In 1904, Harry Berkowitz opened the "Legal Cash Market" in the Inman Square neighborhood of Cambridge, Massachusetts and the name for the market came from the "Legal Stamps", also known as trading stamps, given to loyal customers. The store provided a good living for Harry and his family up until the late 1940s, when chain grocery stores like Stop & Shop and others entered the picture and provided stiff competition for the family business.[8]

In 1950, George Berkowitz, the son of Harry, opened a fish market adjacent to his father's grocery store and named it Legal Sea Foods. This was done to add a degree of specialty to the grocery business by offering customers a fish counter where they could get fresh fish.[8] From the early 1950s the market sold fresh fish as well as fish and chips that could only be taken to-go. In 1968, the Berkowitz family decided to open a restaurant in the adjacent space. They served mainly fish and chips, fried clams, fried shrimp, and fried scallops served on paper plates while the customers sat at picnic tables.[8]

In 1975, the restaurant expanded to a more traditional restaurant at the site of the former S.S. Pierce building in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.[9] In 1980, the original Inman Square restaurant was destroyed in a fire.[10] With the help of his two sons, Marc and Roger, they opened their flagship location in the Boston Park Plaza in the Boston Theater District of downtown Boston.


At the first inauguration of Ronald Reagan in 1981, Legal Sea Foods' clam chowder was chosen to represent the state of Massachusetts and has been served at every presidential inauguration since.[11] Also in 1981, the restaurant established one of the first quality control centers for fish processing and distribution.

In 1986, Legal Sea Foods was named "Best Seafood Restaurant in America" by NBC's Today Show.[12]


In 1990, the restaurant partnered with the United States Department of Commerce in developing a hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) program and establishing a landmark fishing industry standard for freshness and food safety.[13]

In 1992, Roger Berkowitz, the son of George, took over as CEO of the private restaurant business. Roger had worked in the family business since the age of ten, and is a graduate of the S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.[14] During this time Roger became the company spokesman, and voiced many of the Legal Sea Foods radio commercials, including the award-winning "Fresh Insights" radio campaign.[15]

In March 1994, Food Arts Magazine awarded the Silver Spoon Award to George and Roger Berkowitz for sterling performance and raising Americans' consciousness about seafood for 30 years.[16] Legal also opened their first airport restaurant at Logan International Airport's Terminal C. Later in the year, the restaurant later opened a location in the Philadelphia International Airport. Also in 1994, the restaurant invited chefs from China to fuse Asian cuisine into the menu at the restaurants. This program was called "Cusineast" and some dishes created are still on the current menu.[17]

At the Super Bowl XXXI, hungry fans in New Orleans were treated to New England clam chowder from Legal's Chowda van.[18]

In 1998, Roger Berkowitz was invited to join the Harvard School of Public Health Nutrition Roundtable,[19] a group of people with personal and professional interests in nutrition.[20] It was during 1998, when Bon Appétit magazine named Legal Sea Food one of the Top Ten Tried and True restaurants in America.[21] Rich Vellante also becomes the restaurant group's Executive Chef in 1998 and is currently still in this position.[22]

In 1999, The International Food Manufacturers Association presented Roger Berkowitz with the Silver Plate award for the best full-service, multi-unit restaurant operator in America. This award is the food industry's highest honor.[23]


In 2000, the American Institute of Food and Wine sponsored Legal Sea Food's 50th birthday with celebrity chefs, including Julia Child, in attendance.[10] The CBS news program, Eye on America, focused on Legal Sea Food restaurant's quality control program with a segment on food safety.

In 2003, Legal Sea Food restaurants became one of America's first restaurants to go trans-fat free.[24] The New Legal Sea Foods Cookbook was published that year.[25]

Legal Sea Foods Quality Control Center and corporate headquarters as seen from Boston Harbor in 2014
Legal Sea Foods Quality Control Center and corporate headquarters as seen from Boston Harbor (2014).

In 2005, a new type of restaurant, Legal Test Kitchen (LTK), opened with a menu that is 50 to 60 percent non-seafood and with lower prices than at their more traditional locations.[26] Also in 2005, Legal began to offer gluten-free options on the menu for the first time, giving patrons with celiac disease more dining options.

In 2006, the free-standing Legal Test Kitchen (LTK) opened in the newly developed South Boston Waterfront District in Boston and offers multicultural dining options.[27][28] In 2006, Legal became one of the first restaurants in the United States to allow diners to pay their bill using a table-side device to self-pay.[28]

In 2008, Legal Sea Foods was awarded "#1 Best Family Restaurant" by Parents magazine. And later in the year, Roger Berkowitz was inducted into the Nation's Restaurant News MenuMasters Hall of Fame,[29] and Legal open a new restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia.

In 2009, Legal C Bar opened in Dedham, Massachusetts, focused on serving casual seafood and custom cocktails.[30] Also that year, Cheers magazine gave Legal Sea Foods the two top awards for their outstanding beverage program.


In 2010, Legal Sea Food celebrated sixty years in business,the restaurants offering clam chowder for 60 cents a cup.

In 2011, Legal opened their new flagship restaurant, Legal Harborside on the Boston waterfront[31] and it was soon named "Best New Restaurant" by Esquire magazine. The Harborside location has a trout fishing pond in the restaurant's main lobby where children can catch and release fish from a licensed indoor fishing pond.[32]

In 2013, Legal Sea Foods announced they would be opening a restaurant in the Downtown Crossing section Boston and the name would be Legal Crossing (LX).

On February 22, 2014, a carbon monoxide leak killed the manager of the Legal Sea Foods at the Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington Station, New York and sickened 27 others. The leak was reportedly caused by a faulty flue pipe attached to a gas water heater. President & CEO of Legal Sea Foods, Roger Berkowitz, said that the company would install carbon monoxide detectors and conduct comprehensive safety audits at all locations. He also pledged to be at the forefront of legislative efforts to require the use of carbon monoxide detectors in commercial buildings.[33][34]

In the fall of 2016, the Peabody, Massachusetts location at the Northshore Mall underwent a complete remodeling.[35]

In April 2017, Legal Fish Bowl debuted in Kendall Square. It’s a fast-casual concept that features six signature poke bowls as well as the option to make your own.[36]

Legal announced they would be opening a Legal C Bar location in the Garden City section of Cranston, Rhode Island in the winter of 2018/2019. The restaurant will be the anchor of a new 30,000-square-foot building that is part of Garden City Center.[37]


The menus vary by location, season and concept, but they all include a wide variety of specialty seafood entrees, appetizers, salads, and desserts. Over 40 varieties of fresh fish and shellfish, simply prepared according to New England tradition, are featured throughout the year. Most popular items include: lobster, clam chowder, fried clams, crab cakes, shrimp cocktail, tuna burgers, baked scrod, surf and turf and grilled fish fillets. Extensive wine lists and full-service bars are also available at all locations and have garnered recognition for its philosophy of offering value at all price points. The restaurant offers separate lunch and dinner menus as well as gluten-free menu options and award-winning kids’ menu.

By buying directly from day boat fishing operations, the company markets itself as having the freshest fish. The company also made industry advances on fish handling and has worked with the federal agencies on developing Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP).[38]

In the media[edit]

Bon Appétit magazine touts a meal at Legal Sea Foods as among America's "Top Ten Tried-and-True" dining experiences.[21] Legal is also included in Patricia Schultz's popular guidebook, "1,000 Places to See Before You Die."[39] During 2008 it ran a series of humorous radio advertisements, created by its advertising agency DeVito/Verdi, capping with its aforementioned motto as well as a 'really fresh fish' ad campaign on Boston's trolleys that won industry awards.[40]

The Legal Sea Foods dining room at their restaurant in the South Boston Waterfront
The Legal Harborside first floor dining room at their restaurant in the South Boston Waterfront.

The Boston, Massachusetts Legal Sea Foods restaurant sponsored a January 2011 dinner that featured several species of fish which were listed by the advocacy organization Seafood Watch as ones to avoid for sustainability reasons.[41] Legal Sea Foods CEO, Roger Berkowitz said in a statement that much of the science around sustainable fisheries was "flawed" and "outdated."[42] While the protest was criticized by several environmental organizations, it was praised by others, including some in the media. Representatives of fishermen in Gloucester supported the choice to use locally sourced fish.[43]


Advertising and marketing[edit]

In the late summer of 2014, Legal began running print and television spots, in six states and the District of Columbia, that argue that its seafood restaurants should never be called a chain. The series of advertisements, created by the New York advertising firm DeVito/Verdi, uses the restaurant's chief executive, Roger Berkowitz to explain why his seafood restaurants should not be called a chain.[1]

In March 2015, Legal partnered with Uber on a promotion to deliver bowls of clam chowder anywhere in the city of Boston. The chowder cost $10 with $1 being donated to the Greater Boston Food Bank.[55]

In 2015, Legal once again teamed up with DeVito/Verdi to launch a multimedia advertising campaign that attempts to establish a new religion whose members will be known as "pescatarians," comparing them to Catholics and Presbyterians. CEO Berkowitz said that the campaign was the widest-reaching to date and spanned all forms of media from print, online, television, and even a gag website.[56] The humorous campaign did face some minor backlash from religious people who were offended by comparing the restaurant to Jesus and Moses.[57]

During the presidential primary of 2016, Legal launched a campaign themed parody produced by DeVito/Verdi. On Super Tuesday, Roger Berkowitz declared himself a candidate for President of the United States in a parody ad campaign of the "fishy" election. Among other things, he promised that on his first day in office he'd legalize seaweed, and he urged voters to #feeltheberk on social media.[58] The spots aired in newspapers, news radio and in print.[59]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Newman, Andrew Adam (2014-07-06). "Call It What You Like, but Not a Chain". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2014-10-29.
  2. ^ "Legal Sea Foods, Inc. Annual Report 2016" (PDF). Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Retrieved 2017-11-22.
  3. ^ "Hook & Ladder". The Improper Bostonian. Retrieved 12 August 2014.
  4. ^ 'Most Popular Boston Restaurant' - Zagat, 2012/2013. New York, NY: Zagat. 2012.
  5. ^ "Restaurants By State". Retrieved 2014-08-06.
  6. ^ Dorbian, Iris (2017-12-13). "Seacoast Capital provides debt to seafood restaurant chain Legal Sea Foods". The Pre Hub Network. Retrieved 2017-12-14.
  7. ^ Leung, Shirley (2018-08-08). "Are there too many restaurants in Boston and not enough diners?". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2018-08-08.
  8. ^ a b c Playfair, Susan R. (2005). Vanishing Species: Saving the Fish, Sacrificing the Fisherman. UPNE. ISBN 978-1584654520. Retrieved 2013-12-07.
  9. ^ "The Street Timeline: 1950 - Present". Retrieved 2013-12-07.
  10. ^ a b Arnett, Alison (2000-11-13). "MAKING IT LEGAL ON ITS 50TH ANNIVERSARY, THE BOSTON LANDMARK IS TESTING NEW WATERS". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2013-12-07.
  11. ^ DeCanio, Lisa (2012-02-20). "Legal Sea Foods' Presidential Clam Chowder & 8 Other Presidents Day Facts About the Hub". BostInno. Streetwise Media. Retrieved 2013-12-07.
  12. ^ Krumroy, Robert E. (2002). Brilliant Strategies and Fatal Blunders: How Small Businesses Survive and Thrive in an Overcrowded Market. Identity Branding Inc. ISBN 978-0967866116. Retrieved 2013-12-07.
  13. ^ Unknown (1995). Food-service East, Volumes 70-71. HSI, Incorporated. Retrieved 2013-12-07.
  14. ^ "ROGER BERKOWITZ, PRESIDENT & CEO". Retrieved 2013-12-07.
  15. ^ "Fresh Insights from Roger Berkowitz - Legal Sea Foods". Maydream, Inc. Retrieved 2013-12-30.
  16. ^ Mariani, John (March 1994). "George & Roger Berkowitz". Food Arts. Food Arts. Retrieved 2013-12-07.
  17. ^ "Legal Sea Food Cusineast". Retrieved 2013-12-07.
  18. ^ Bickelhaupt, Susan; Maureen Dezell (1997-01-25). "In New Orleans, it's not all jambalaya . .". The Boston Globe.
  19. ^ Berkowitz, Roger; Leigh Buchanan (2008-07-01). "The Way I Work: Roger Berkowitz". Inc. Retrieved 2013-12-07.
  20. ^ "Leadership Council Members Make Significant Gifts for Asthma, Obesity, Nutrition Efforts". Retrieved 2013-12-07.
  21. ^ a b Elia, Richard L. Quarterly Review of Wines. 24-25. Retrieved 2013-12-07.
  22. ^ "RICH VELLANTE, EXECUTIVE CHEF". Archived from the original on 2013-12-12. Retrieved 2013-12-07.
  23. ^ "Past Gold & Silver Plate Winners" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2013-12-08.
  24. ^ Adamy, Janet; Steven Gray (2006-09-26). "New York Trans-Fat Plan Could Spur Nationwide Oil Change". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2013-12-08.
  25. ^ Berkowitz, Roger; Doerfer, Jane (2003). The New Legal Sea Foods Cookbook. Random House LLC. ISBN 978-0767906913. Retrieved 2013-12-08.
  26. ^ "Businesses set for opening of Logan terminal". Boston Business Journal. 2005-03-05. Retrieved 2013-12-08.
  27. ^ Cutler, Kim-Mai (2006-06-16). "Waterfront Luring Eateries". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2013-12-08.
  28. ^ a b "WELCOME TO LTK". Retrieved 2013-12-08.
  29. ^ "2008 Winners". Retrieved 2013-12-08.
  30. ^ Wilder, Joan (2010-02-28). "Legals chain extends reach, casually". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2013-12-10.
  31. ^ Pratt, Mary K. (2012-03-02). "Seaport: Vision pans out in former hardscrabble neighborhood". Boston Business Journal. American City Business Journals. Retrieved 2013-12-10.
  32. ^ Baskin, Kara (2016-09-07). "The story behind Legal Harborside's indoor fishing pond". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2016-09-07.
  33. ^ Southall, Ashley (2014-02-23). "Faulty Pipe Led to Deadly Gas in Restaurant". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2014-03-03.
  34. ^ Field, Alexandra (2014-02-24). "One dead from carbon monoxide poisoning". CNN.Com. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. Retrieved 2014-03-03.
  35. ^ Forman, Ethan (2016-11-03). "Northshore Mall plans facade upgrade to allow for outdoor dining, entertainment". Gloucester Times. Retrieved 2016-11-11.
  36. ^ Baskin, Kara (2017-04-21). "Les Sablons opens, Legal Fish Bowl debuts, and Flour grows (again)". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2017-05-04.
  37. ^ Ciampa, Gail (2017-02-15). "Legal Sea Foods opening bar in Garden City". The Providence Journal. Retrieved 2017-02-16.
  38. ^ Apple, R.W., Jr., "In the Quest for Safer Seafood, One Company Follows Its Nose", The New York Times, November 29, 2000
  39. ^ Schultz, Patricia (2003). 1,000 Places to See Before You Die: A Traveler's Life List. Workman Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0761104841.
  40. ^ redOrbit, "Stirring Up Trouble, Without Even Trying ", June 24, 2008, retrieved 18 June 2009
  41. ^ First, Devra (January 22, 2011). "Fish and chippiness are on the menu". The Boston Globe. Retrieved January 27, 2011.
  42. ^ Byrne, Kerry J. (January 24, 2011). "Berkowitz vs. Bloggers in Legal Sea Foods' "blacklisted" dinner flap". Boston Herald. Retrieved January 27, 2011.
  43. ^ Gaines, Richard (January 5, 2011). "Legal 'blacklist' meal backs fishermen". Gloucester Daily Times. Retrieved January 27, 2011.
  44. ^ Staff, Writer (2017-12-20). "MarketPlace Development Announces 2017 Dulles International And Reagan National Airports Annual Concessions Excellence Award Winners". Alexandria News. Retrieved 2017-12-22.
  45. ^ Blumenthal, Rachel Leah (2017-05-01). "James Beard Awards 2017: Boston Goes Home Empty-Handed". Eater Boston. Vox Media. Retrieved 2017-05-02.
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  52. ^ "Best Clam Chowder In Boston". WBZ CBS Boston. CBS Local Media. 2012-07-03. Retrieved 2013-12-09.
  53. ^ Linskey, Annie (2017-01-12). "Legal Sea Foods chowder isn't on Trump's menu". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2017-01-22.
  54. ^ Linskey, Annie (2017-01-19). "Trump's team says chowder is back on the inaugural menu". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2017-01-22.
  55. ^ Boroyan, Nate (2015-03-15). "Uber Is Delivering Legal Sea Foods Clam Chowder Today". BostInno. Streetwise Media. Retrieved 2015-03-25.
  56. ^ Luna, Taryn (2015-07-01). "Legal Sea Foods launches 'Pescatarianism' ad campaign". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2015-09-10.
  57. ^ Burns, Will (2015-07-24). "Legal Sea Foods Risks Backlash Evangelizing Pescatarian 'Religion' In New Ad Campaign". Forbes. Retrieved 2015-09-10.
  58. ^ Reilly, Katie (2016-06-02). "These Look Like Campaign Ads. But They're Something Entirely Different". Time. Retrieved 2016-06-03.
  59. ^ Chesto, Jon (2016-03-07). "Roger Berkowitz: All politics is Legal Sea Foods". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2016-03-07.

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External links[edit]