Why Would the Owner of Legal Sea Foods Take a Lie Detector Test?

Roger Berkowitz, President and CEO of Legal Sea Foods, at Legal Crossing restaurant.
Roger Berkowitz, President and CEO of Legal Sea Foods, poses for a portrait inside the new Legal Crossing restaurant on March 6, 2014 in Boston. –Kayana Szymczak / The Boston Globe

Roger Berkowitz, owner of Legal Sea Foods, sits under the florescent lights of an empty warehouse, his arm hooked up to a lie detector test. The machine reveals that Legal Sea Foods is not (really?! remind me again), repeat NOT a chain.

What on earth is going on here? Some sinister plot to kidnap fish providers around the nation and discover whether they were promulgating the dreaded frozen fish and uninspected seafood?

Au contraire! The scene comes from a series of television spots released yesterday by Legal Seafoods, which has embarked on a mission to rebrand itself as anything but a cookiecutter chain. The advertisements are going to air for the first time Friday.


“Each of our restaurants is unique, not cookiecutter,’’ Berkowitz says during another spot. “So you can call me stupid, an egomaniac, or even an asshole—just don’t call me a chain.’’ For the record, the swearing was beeped out during the commercial.

Oh boy. He sounds serious.

Legal Seafoods has expanded from its Boston home to operate locations scattered around six more states and the District of Columbia. Boston has long been the heart of what owner Roger Berkowitz calls a “family’’ or “group’’ of restaurants, rather than a chain, according to The New York Times.

The Times suggests that chain restaurants now carry a stigma as wealthier clientele seek microbreweries and unique food offerings.

Berkowitz seems pretty darn concerned that the Legal Sea Foods brand will be lumped into that kettle of fish—so concerned that he actually agreed to stroke a large crustacean on national television.

During another spot, Berkowitz sits at a desk, talking about inspecting seafood, while he strokes the back of a massive lobster. All we can say is… Ick.

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