- Luke Holden is the CEO of Luke’s Lobster, a seafood restaurant chain with 39 locations in several US cities including New York, Miami, Washington D.C., and Boston, as well as in Japan and Taiwan.
- Before he started his seafood empire in 2009, Holden worked on Wall Street as an investment banker for just under three years.
- The 35-year-old CEO lives in South Portland, Maine, wakes up at 5:00 a.m. every day for a high-intensity workout, spends his days in small group and one-on-one meetings with his team, and gets more than 250 emails each day.
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After just under three years working on Wall Street, Luke Holden cofounded Luke’s Lobster in New York City in 2009 – and in 10 years, the seafood restaurant has expanded to 39 locations across the US and in Japan and Taiwan.
The 35-year-old seafood CEO lives in South Portland, Maine, with his wife and one-year-old daughter.
He travels two to three days per week for work, but when he’s home in Maine, Holden spends his days between the Seafood Company, where live lobster comes in from the coast of Maine, Nova Scotia, and Quebec, and the new flagship restaurant in Portland.
Here’s a look at a typical day for Holden, from his 5:00 a.m. workout to meetings with his team, managing fisherman relationships, and ending the day with his family, lobster rolls, and Netflix.
Luke Holden is the CEO and cofounder of Luke’s Lobster, a seafood restaurant with 39 locations across the US and in Japan and Taiwan.
Holden, a Maine native, cofounded Luke’s Lobster in 2009 with his father, Jeff, a lobster processor, and Ben Conniff.
Luke’s Lobster operates in cities including New York, Miami, San Francisco, Washington D.C., and Boston.
Holden is typically travelling for work two or three days out of the week. But when he’s at home in South Portland, Maine, he wakes up at 5:00 a.m. to fit in a workout. “Now that I have a daughter (and another kid on the way) I start my day even earlier,” Holden told Business Insider.
“Every good early morning includes exercise and I do my best to stay disciplined around this,” he said. “Ordinarily I go to a small gym 10 minutes from my house, on the way to our Seafood Company. I love high intensity, high repetition weight lifting circuits. I am typically most clear-minded and least susceptible to stress when I can combine cardio and weight training.”
At about 6:30 a.m., Holden eats breakfast, either at home or sometimes at Becky’s Diner, which is on the way to the Seafood Company.
“I do my best to grab breakfast with others,” Holden said. “Sometimes to catch up, and sometimes to make new introductions.”
Holden’s drive to work is about 30 minutes.
In the car, he video chats with his wife, Laisee, and his daughter, Poppy.
Holden usually arrives at the Seafood Company in Saco, Maine, by about 7:30 a.m.
Holden and his partners opened Luke’s Lobster’s own seafood processing facility, the Seafood Company, in 2012 to keep up with demand.
“This is where we bring in live lobster that we buy from lobstermen at our partner docks up and down the coast of Maine and, in Canadian season, Nova Scotia and Quebec,” Holden said.
“We cook the lobster as quickly as possible when it’s at its absolute best, with a process we’ve developed over generations to achieve the closest thing to scientific perfection with every bite,” he said.
Holden usually starts the day catching up on emails and other work at his computer.
“With a team spread out all over the country we rely on email and routine weekly meetings to make sure every part of the business is aligned and working towards the same goals,” he said.
The rest of Holden’s morning is occupied by small group and one-on-one meetings with his team in Saco and throughout Maine. They discuss topics that include managing fisherman relationships, maintaining and improving their facilities, food quality, company culture, and recruiting.
“The teammates I work most directly with are overseeing finances, people, operations, marketing, sales, purchasing, and system development so truly, every day is a little different,” Holden said.
At 1:00 p.m., Holden drives up to the new flagship restaurant in Portland Pier. “This has been an ambitious project for us,” he said.
First, they rebuilt a dilapidated pier with new pilings, decking, floats for lobstermen, power, and running water, “all to make this a grade A spot for lobstermen to fish from,” Holden said.
Then they reopened the buy station where they purchase all their lobster and hold lobsters in recirculating tanks until the truck loads them up to go to Saco. The resulting two-story, two bar, full-kitchen station is “much bigger than our typical urban operations,” Holden said.
After he arrives at the Portland Pier location, Holden checks in with Denny, the wharf manager, to “take the pulse of the fishermen” and check on operations at the buy station. Then he meets with the 100-person team in the restaurant to see how the chef and general manager are dealing with the large volume of guests they have had in the early days of opening.
“These guys are super skilled and experienced and it’s fun working alongside them,” Holden said. “Of course, I also make sure to do some ‘quality control’ on the food.”
After checking in with the team, Holden finds a quiet place in the restaurant or a nearby coffee shop to take some phone calls.
“I sit on the board of several great organisations, from the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative to the Island Institute and I’m often checking in or joining board calls for groups outside the scope of my own team,” Holden said. “Or I’m checking in on an industry relationship, be it a buyer of ours, a co-packer helping us box up our retail product or one of our awesome suppliers like Green Bee Craft Beverages in Brunswick, Maine or Hurricane’s Soup in Greene, Maine.”
Then Holden gets back to emails. He receives about 250 emails per day and sends around 50, he says.
At about 6:30 p.m., Holden heads home to spend some time with his wife and daughter.
“More play time and bath time and trying to squeeze out the last of her energy so we all get a good night of sleep!” Holden said. “Poppy is a little over a year old now and she’s growing and learning new things every day so it’s always amazing to watch her and interact with her as she matures. “
By 7:30 p.m., Holden finally has some alone time with his wife, Laisee, while they prepare dinner. He often brings home the DIY lobster roll kits they sell at Luke’s Lobster locations, which are called “shacks.”
“Unsurprisingly we eat a lot of lobster rolls, but it’s not the best to get the fully made roll when I leave work and then let it sit there for two hours until Poppy’s in bed,” Holden said.
The DIY kit includes all the ingredients and only requires toasting the bun and putting the roll together.
“It still only takes five minutes and there are no conflicting feelings about enjoying play time while your dinner wastes away on the counter,” he said.
When they’re not eating the DIY kits, the Holdens always have frozen stock of the retail lobster meat and lobster tail kits as a dinner option.
“My wife’s favourite meal is lobster mac and cheese,” Holden said. “Spoiler alert, I use Annie’s Mac and Cheese.”
By 8:30 p.m., Holden is watching Netflix in bed.
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