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Jimmy's Seafood CEO Sheds Insight On 'Crab Cakes For Life' Deal

June 14, 2017
The Baltimore Ravens signed free-agent wide receiver Jeremy Maclin June 12 for two years, $11 million and a lifetime's worth of free crab cakes. 

Baltimore restaurant Jimmy's Famous Seafood made the "crab cakes for life" offer to further entice the veteran receiver to sign with the Ravens. It's not the first time Jimmy's has attempted to influence an athlete's decision with crab cakes. In fact, Maclin now joins Orioles first baseman Chris Davis and third baseman Manny Machado among local athletes who will never have to purchase another crab cake before they die. (The "crab cakes for life" crew at Jimmy's also includes WWE superstar Roman Reigns and former North Carolina basketball star Justin Jackson -- both favorites of restaurant CEO John Minadakis.) 

But how does the offer work and why does the restaurant do it? I wandered over to Jimmy's to sit down with Minadakis and have him explain. 

PressBox: "Crab cakes for life," what does that mean? 

John Minadakis: As many as he can eat for the rest of his life.

PB: Really? What if he tries to order like 20 crab cakes?

JM: I'd have to watch him eat 20 crab cakes. But yeah, there's nothing worse than somebody that goes back on their word in the Greek culture. You got to keep your word, man, doesn't matter if it costs you $1,000 or $184,000. If you don't have your word, what do you got?

PB: How do you decide who you're going to make such an offer to? 

JM: I mean, there's got to be a story behind it. Like Chris Davis, people were worried he would leave based on the Orioles and their past.

PB: But are you just sitting there thinking, "I'm just going to throw an offer out there?"

JM: After I saw it work a time or two, yeah. I think it's part of the charm of Jimmy's now. We have five people on the list now. We've been here for 44 years, and it would be cool to come in here from like Idaho or something and be like, "There's the list everybody talks about!"

PB: Remind me why Manny Machado is on the list -- he hasn't signed a long-term deal. 

JM: Remember when everybody at first was getting on him about punching that guy (former Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura) in the face? I'm like, "No! We are not going to punish this man for sticking up for himself!" So I was like, "I tell you what buddy"-- and this was when we first launched our meal prep line, too -- "you got crab cakes and meal preps for the rest of your life dude."

PB: Do all of the athletes take you up on your offers? 

JM: Everybody's done at least five sittings, at a minimum. I remember once Chris Davis was like, "I've got [former Orioles catcher Matt] Wieters coming, can he take my crab cakes?" I'm like, "Sure dude." 

PB: Has anyone tried to take advantage of you after you've made the offer?

JM: Nobody's like egregious about it. And they always tip heavy.

PB: Does the publicity you get make it worthwhile from a business prospective?

JM: Yeah ... you don't see a direct correlation, but I think it further entrenches Jimmy's as the hometown restaurant. Like the Cheers of Boston, in my opinion, is now Jimmy's. When we need that extra oomph for our local sports teams, we're going to call on Jimmy's. You see, the Ravens, they're bringing people in here when they're hosting them, which they've never done before. They're mentioning us in their social media posts.

PB: Who is responsible for keeping track of everyone's free crab cakes?

JM: It's me, dude. I mean, it's five people. If it grows to like 60, that's a different story.

PB: Do you think you'll keep doing it? 

JM: I don't see a reason to stop. It's got to be a good story. I've already got Manny [on the list], so this is a bad example. But let's say it came down to Manny against the Yankees and Orioles vying for his services. Or let's say the Ravens are in a bidding war for an edge rusher next year. I'd do it in a heartbeat.

PB: How quickly do athletes reach out after you've offered?

JM: They send feelers to see if it's legit. [Maclin's] agent hit me up beforehand, and [Ravens safety] Tony Jefferson, too. He said, "I'm just giving you a heads up. Maclin's a big crab cake guy. So whatever you can do." I was at the gym, I'm like, "I got this; I'll take care of it right now!"

PB: Has anyone ever tried to talk you out of offering crab cakes for life?

JM: One of our best friends is also our financial advisor, too. And he's like extremely protective of us because he worked with my father (Jimmy Minadakis, who started the restaurant), so he's watched this place grow. And even he is like, "I don't agree with it financially, but it seems to be working, so keep doing it." He says, "You got to put disclaimers [on the offer]," and I'm like, "No! That defeats the purpose!"

PB: Would there be anything that would take someone off the list? 

JM: I've had people ask me, "What happens if Manny goes to New York?" No. You're not making the deal with team, you're making the deal with the man. Even if Manny goes to New York, and he's in town six times a year, I'm sure he'll want to stop by and get his crab cakes.

PB: Has Maclin taken you up on it yet?

JM: He's coming [June 13]. He's coming with Jefferson tonight.

PB: Has anyone ever turned you down on free crab cakes?

JM: Yeah, one of my best friends, [former Ravens running back] Ray Rice. He's allergic to shellfish. That's why the sushi roll named after him here is with salmon. His wife loves them. His mom loves them. But he can't eat them. 

PB: Have you really tried to figure out how this impacts you financially?(CBSSports.com estimated that if a player had five crab cakes a week it would cost Jimmy's $195,000 over the next 50 years.)

JM: If you did that dude, it would just drive you insane. You can't just be about Xs and Os in this business, black and red. You've got to have a little fun, too.