For our latest edition of “Looking Local,” we spoke to Richard Fray, co-founder of Dat Jerk Caribbean Chargrill, a fast casual restaurant serving authentic Caribbean cuisine, located in Waldorf.
Founded by Richard Fray and his wife, Angela Melton Fray, Dat Jerk is the first fast casual restaurant in Maryland to rotisserie its Jerk Chicken. A healthier alternative to traditional fast casual restaurants, Dat Jerk serves a range of chicken, pork, beef and shrimp dishes, while also making its own sauces in-house, from curry powder to its signature Jerk Sauce. Food is prepared daily in small batches to ensure the freshest product is delivered to customers.
Opened in 2016, Dat Jerk now employs 22 full-time employees.
Charles County Department of Economic Development (EDD): Why did you choose Charles County for your business?
Richard Fray (RF): We chose Charles County because of the real estate, diversity and density of the population. Prior to starting this new concept, we owned franchises for 10 years in the Southern California market. Over the years we’ve developed a 10-point criteria sheet when seeking out restaurant locations, and Charles County touched on over 80 percent of the points.
EDD: What are the main advantages of doing business in Charles County?
RF: A few advantages of doing business in Charles County include the affordability of the real estate and the visibility the traffic on Route 301 provides for our restaurant. Since opening our business in Charles County, we have had the opportunity to also take advantage of the opportunities Charles County provides for small businesses. The resources available are similar to those offered in other counties, but the difference is in the willingness and welcoming attitude the Charles County EDD staff provides to make it easy to do business.
EDD: What would you tell someone considering relocating their business to Charles County?
RF: We would advise them to do their research on the programs in place for new businesses. This will help them to navigate through the system more efficiently, which in turn can give them a less stressful startup. We would also advise that they understand it’s not just about your business and taking advantage of the growing population, it’s also about finding ways to get involved with the community to give a little something back to help others grow. When the community grows, so do the businesses that support them.
EDD: What advice would you give to someone considering starting their own business?
RF: Do your homework! Know what your concept is, know how you want to deliver it to the market, know who your audience is, and most of all take pride in what you are offering. Make sure that pride translates to every employee and through to your customers.
Great food, strong operations and excellent customer service equals a recipe for success!
EDD: Does Dat Jerk have any future plans that you would like to share?
RF: Dat Jerk Caribbean Chargrill is in the process of looking for new locations for expansion. We have a solid year in testing a new concept and the successful results show all positive signs for the need to expand. We are also looking to bottle our proprietary sauces for local market distribution.