Irvine, Calif.-based fast-casual poke brand, Pokeworks, announced the promotion of chief marketing officer Steve Heeley to CEO. He will be replacing the brand’s cofounder and former CEO, Mike Wu, who will be stepping into the role of chief of culinary.
“This announcement is a strategic part of our company's evolution,” Wu said in a statement. “There are exciting times ahead, and I know Steve is looking forward to working with everyone at Pokeworks to help write the next pivotal chapters in our story.”
Heeley joined the team in March 2021 when Pokeworks went on an executive hiring spree, adding Michael Walters as chief operating officer and Larry Sidoti as chief development officer. Prior to joining Pokeworks, Heeley was CEO of Veggie Grill, where he spearheaded digital and menu development of the fast-casual, plant-based brand. He has also previously held executive leadership roles at Earl of Sandwich, Au Bon Pain, The Coffee Bean Tea Leaf and Beja Fresh.
As CMO of Pokeworks, Heeley led the team’s revenue strategy, brand and digital strategy, product development and customer relationship management. In his new role as CEO, Heeley will be focusing on menu innovation, franchise development and expansion, as well as overseeing the rollout of the brand’s new restaurant design.
“It has been exciting and humbling to be part of the tremendous growth of this brand,” Heeley said in a statement. “Pokeworks’ founders, management team, and franchise partners have done an incredible job of growing Pokeworks into a hugely successful national brand in a short period of time. I am excited to build on this foundation and help guide Pokeworks into the future with our shared vision to become the most trusted, leading, premium fast casual poke brand in the world. Poke is no longer a trend; it has matured into a broadly accepted growth category in fast-casual.”
Pokeworks plans to double new store commitments in 2021 and 2022 in an aggressive new store expansion strategy.
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