Can fast casual raw fish thrive in the suburbs? Pokeworks thinks so | Covering the Intersections of Race, Culture, Sexuality, and Fashion | 48min

Can fast casual raw fish thrive in the suburbs? Pokeworks thinks so

Can Pokeworks make a food trend palatable (and affordable) for the masses?

Raw fish isn’t exactly what Americans are used to, or an easy transition for most palettes. Will it work in Los Angeles? No problem. But how about the suburbs of El Paso, Texas and Scottsdale, Arizona? I’m not so sure. Stuffing the poke and toppings into a burrito will certainly help.

And Pokeworks has the same issues as Luke’s Lobster in terms of affordability. Seeing as poke is yellowfish tuna and yellowfish tuna is seafood, it’s going to cost several dollars more than your big Chipotle burrito. Even though it’s fast casual, poke bowls are never going to be your cheapest lunch option. And even with $5 in free credit from your best co-worker friend to entice you to try them.

But Pokeworks thinks they can sell $12 poke bowls there as the fast casual restaurant is expanding as aggressively as they can. In the next couple years, they plan on bringing 80 more restaurants in the United States, up from their current 25 storefronts. Or more. Their site says that there’s 115 franchises in contract.

No doubt that Pokeworks does a great job with their product with their busiest locations serving up a whopping 700 to 800 servings of poke bowls a day. Still, there’s the question are whether Americans are ready to switch from Chipotle, Starbucks and sandwiches to marinated raw yellowfish tuna for lunch.

Kevin Hsu, the company’s Founder thinks so.

“This isn’t some trendy bicoastal thing,” says Hsu. “People everywhere are eager for diverse foods, and they want healthier fast and fast-casual dining.”

Poking Around to See What Sticks

We believe him. To a point. We’re sure Pokéworks commissioned loads of research, looked at data and many studies were done before they signed off on their hyper-expansion plans. We’re also sure they know that not all 80 “coming soon” locations are going to be smashing successes; knowing some cities are testing grounds while others already are at “max poke“.

Pokeworks is betting on a majority of them being profitable enough to make up for the ones that don’t stick. In any case, if you don’t have a poke place near you already, keep an eye out for Pokeworks.


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