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What’s the potential of the poke category?

The CEO of the nation’s largest poke fast casual shares his thoughts on the maturity of the category.


While many thought the poke bubble had burst and that the fad had fallen away, the truth is that the explosion in poke concepts four or five years ago has matured into a category with a handful of players with plenty of white space ahead of them to expand into.

In the U.S., Pokeworks has grown to become the leader in that space, with nearly 70 locations, and the brand last year tapped Steve Heeley to lead growth as CEO. Heeley brings with him an illustrious career at other growing restaurant concepts, including Baja Fresh, Au Bon Pain, Earl of Sandwich and Veggie Grill.

Heeley joined Nation’s Restaurant News’ editor on the latest episode of Take-Away with Sam Oches, discussing the brand’s growth potential, plus what it means to be a premium leader of a category, how to capture Gen Z’s attention, and how COVID has changed expansion strategies for brands like Pokeworks.

In this conversation, you’ll find out why:

  • Younger generations don’t want their parents’ fast casual
  • You should meet Gen Z where they live and engage with them there
  • Younger customers expect a frictionless experience — and if you don’t provide, they will move on
  • Your franchise partners must understand their marketplace

Contact Sam Oches at [email protected].

TAGS: Fast Casual
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