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Hawkers’ menu is based on Asian street food, serving items like dim sum, noodles and rice dishes, wings, and skewers alongside specialty cocktails.

Hawkers Asian Street Food brews success with unique menu

The 15-unit, Orlando, Fla.-based dim sum, rice, and noodles spot grew its sales at more than double the rate of its unit count

Sometimes all it takes to stand out from the crowd of emerging concepts is a creative menu and singular vision. Hawkers Asian Street Food is an Orlando-based emerging casual-dining chain that is a completely unique concept within the Technomic Top 500. Whereas other top Asian chains are focused on hot pot, sushi, and ramen, Hawkers’ menu is based on Asian street food, serving items like dim sum, noodles and rice dishes, wings, and skewers alongside specialty cocktails.

In 2023, although Hawkers opened only one new location, its sales growth was 18.5% — more than double the brand’s unit growth percentage of 7.7%.

Hawkers was started by four cofounders — CEO Kaleb Harrell, brand chef Allen Lo, Wayne Yung, and Kin Ho — who were friends growing up and later traveled to Asia together. During their travels, they were most impressed by food sold by hawkers at hawker stalls, most commonly seen in places like Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore. They wanted to bring these flavors and style of dining back to their hometown Orlando area, and in 2011, the first Hawkers location was born. The company has been growing steadily ever since.   

“I think that we're seeing a shift from legacy brands to emerging brands, and I think Hawkers is benefiting from that shift,” Harrell said. “It’s something we’re super proud of. … We have a 4.8-star guest review score across review platforms, and that’s pretty unheard of for a multi-unit restaurant. We feel like that's driving a ton of our repeat visits, which ultimately culminates in sales and traffic.”

One of Hawkers’ most recent store openings was actually a re-opened location in Atlanta, which had closed during the pandemic due to facility issues. Some more key highlights of the past year include same-store sales growth of 26%, positive traffic momentum (which has been a challenge for the rest of the restaurant industry as of late), and sales figures approaching $100 million.

The secret sauce? Making sure to keep up the same independent restaurant vibe, even as the brand continues to grow.

“Internally, we really don't use the term ‘chain’ to describe what we are, because of the stigma that comes with that term,” Harrell said. “We’ve really tried to grow in a way that's thoughtful and methodical and have kept the neighborhood vibe of all of our locations. I would say 90% of our patrons have no idea there are other Hawkers.”

The Hawkers team will continue expanding in a methodical way that doesn’t compromise quality. Stores in the pipeline include a third Washington, D.C., location, a second Charlotte location, and more expansion plans for the Texas market. Then, 2025 will be about infilling current markets while the company will look to expand to new cities in 2026 and beyond.

Contact Joanna Fantozzi at [email protected]

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