Maureen Woodman’s talks about daily specials at Woodman’s, how they incorporated them into the summer menu for the first time this past year, and about some of the new specials that really took off, as well as the future of daily specials on the Woodman’s menu.

John Maher: I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Maureen Woodman from Woodman’s of Essex, a restaurant and catering company in Essex, Massachusetts. Today we’re talking about restaurant daily specials. Welcome, Maureen.

Maureen Woodman: Hi, John. Thanks for having me.

History of Daily Specials at Woodman’s

John: Sure. So Maureen, the daily special at a restaurant has been kind of a concept that’s been around for a long time. How long has Woodman’s been doing daily specials?

Maureen: We’ve been doing the daily specials now for approximately five years. We started them in the winter time and then this year was the first summer that we actually ran them in season and it worked out tremendously for us.

John: So what prompted that decision to continue to do daily specials throughout the summer, which is your typical busy season as opposed to just doing it during the winter when you have less traffic coming into the restaurant?

Maureen: I think that when Groupon came along and people were offering some kind of special, again, we chose to not necessarily go along with the trend, but make our own trend there. And we decided, okay, what’s the difference of giving 20% off? Why don’t we just pick something every day that we could be in control of? We knew what our favorites were for the customer, and let’s just do that 20% off basically and have it once a week, once a day each week and see what happens. See if we could really draw in other people other than the tourists. Maybe the locals would come in. So we started it in the winter and then we turned it into the summer, which is more of our seasonal tourist community, and people were really favorable to it.

What’s On The Daily Specials Menu?

John: What are some of the things that are on your daily specials menu?

Maureen: We have the lobster rolls, the clam rolls. We have the fish sandwich. We have the homemade fish chowder, which we don’t even have on the menu. And then on Thursdays we have burger day, which really brings in the local workers because it’s really so inexpensive. It’s $4.99. You get everything with it. It’s quick. They can come in if they’re working on the causeway or anywhere close to us. We have plenty of parking, so if they have big trucks, it’s good for the construction workers, and I don’t know, they just love it, and then it just went forward and took off.

John: Yeah, you found that it really worked well this summer in terms of bringing in some of those local people?

Maureen: It did. It also gave us something to really play with on social media, so we had a lot of fun shooting pictures of the daily special in locations around the property, so it was helpful to have some kind of a posting on Instagram and Facebook that people really seem to follow. They paid attention to it. It also worked in marketing, gave us a tool to use, so we had something to pump out there. Something that we were always trying to sell.

John: Right. When I see a plate with a fish sandwich on it, I’m there.

Maureen: Yeah, exactly. It makes you want it.

How Is Woodman’s Changing Its Menu?

John: What other types of things is Woodman’s doing to kind of change up the menu and maybe offer some different types of fresh seafood to their customers?

Maureen: So right now we just started… we brought the fish taco in three or four weeks ago in November and it has had a tremendous, much more than we ever imagined. We have a really good recipe of a different kind of coleslaw that we’re using. It’s going on a very unique shell. And then one of the Woodman children is making all of the salsas with the recipes right from Mexico. So we have three different sauces that are going on and we’ve started with the fish taco.

Now we’re probably going to introduce the shrimp taco in January. We’re going back and forth right now, whether it’s going to be fried or grilled. It’s a lot of work for us to do the grilled shrimp in season. But I think in the off season we could offer the grilled shrimp taco and then the fried fish taco, so that we would have that option. And again, I can’t even tell you how good they are. I recommend anybody goes down and tries one, but it’s really the salsas that are making them so extra special.

Future Plans for The Woodman’s Daily Specials

John: That sounds great. Any kind of longer term plans on things to do with your restaurant daily specials or those new menu offerings?

Maureen: I think right now that’s where we’re going to stay. We also do kids eat free all winter long, which starts somewhere around October and goes around almost till school vacation in April. We’re still constantly working on our gluten and our celiac and trying to get better and better on that. We have such a huge following with that, as well. We did add the salads this year. We ran that probably 10 months and they really didn’t take off. It’s funny. We added three or four things trying to see if non-seafood items would go, and they didn’t. So I think people really come to Woodman’s for Woodman’s.

John: Right.

Maureen: We’re still debating if we should have a clam taco. When we went back and forth with this, we were laughing because wasn’t a clam roll really a clam taco when you think about it? Somebody put tartar sauce on a hot dog roll and threw some clams in it, and the next thing you knew you had a clam roll.

John: Right. And it’s just a different type of bread to make a taco, right?

Maureen: I think that was really the original fish taco. So we’re trying to come up with a clam taco to go along, obviously with the history of Woodman’s, and see if we can maybe put a little bit of a Mexican spin on our tartar sauce by adding a couple of different ingredients to the Woodman’s tartar sauce. And then we’ll put that on with the coleslaw and put that in the taco shell, which I think is going to be kind of fun. I don’t really know anybody who has a clam taco.

John: No, I don’t either. That sounds like a great idea. Yeah.

Maureen: Yeah. So we’re working on that, but like I said, we’re shocked at the amount of fish tacos we’ve already sold. I don’t think any of us thought it was going to go over quite as big. And of course, Tuesday is always taco day, and then we went with Wednesday because there’s two other restaurants on the street doing them. We put it up against our fish chowder, just to see if that day how people would sell it. We actually did a networking event for a chamber this last week, and we offered the fish tacos just to show people that we’re having it on the North Shore and they all came back Wednesday to have them.

John: That’s great. That’s great. All right, well that’s really great information about the daily specials, Maureen. Thanks again for speaking with me today.

Maureen: Thanks, John. Thanks for having me.

John: And for more information about Woodman’s restaurant, visit the Woodman’s website at or call 978-768-6057.

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