Much like its famous poke bowls, 2023 was filled with goodness for Pokeworks – the brand renowned for launching the worldwide poke movement. After a year rich with continued expansion, new menu items and industry awards, Pokeworks looks to maintain its status as the top poke brand and accelerate growth in 2024 across North America.
The brand opened a total of nine new locations in 2023, including the first Pokeworks in Canada. This expansion, alongside the company’s growth strategy for the coming year, further solidifies its ongoing commitment to share the greatness of poke with the world.
The year was full of menu innovations and limited-time specials, including the exclusive Luxe Lobster bowl, which provided diners with a taste of the high life without breaking the bank. Pokeworks was the first poke chain to introduce lobster to the menu. The brand also tested out plant-based, raw sushi-grade tuna, made from a combination of soy protein and seaweed and featuring a delicious, nutritious umami taste.
Pokeworks received several major industry awards this year – being recognized in Entrepreneur’s 2023 Franchise 500, and was the only poke concept named to Entrepreneur’s Best of the Best Franchises.
Looking ahead, Pokeworks plans to continue success in all of these areas in 2024 – starting with 12 more locations. Pokeworks has new franchisees signed for southern California, and there are new restaurants coming to New York and the Toronto area – with possible locations in the pipeline for Houston, Atlanta, Michigan and more. This expansion will increase the brand’s total to more than 85 restaurants by the year’s end, and within the next 30-36 months, the brand expects to have more than 120 locations.
In the Pokeworks executive suite, original co-founders Mike Chen, Peter Yang, Mike Wu and Kasper Hsu will be returning to an active, everyday role in the company’s operations moving forward, ensuring the brand’s growth is driven by the authenticity that has made the concept a nationwide success since its inception.
“We’re all excited to roll up our sleeves and dive back into the day-to-day operations of the brand we started and love so much,” says Chen. “Pokeworks was created out of a passion for sharing a love of delicious and healthy food. Our entire team has worked hard to become the #1 poke brand in the country, and in 2024, we’re going full speed ahead.”
Pokeworks recently promoted franchise industry veteran Diego Ortiz to head of operations and welcomed e-commerce expert Ha Ly as head of marketing. Between the founders’ increased involvement and its new all-star leadership team, Pokeworks is positioned for success across all facets of the business.
A valuable member of the Pokeworks team also has a unique story of professional growth that will also contribute to the brand’s expansion efforts. After starting as the first employee at the Bryant Park, NY location, Lelin Kandel has risen through the ranks to Senior Operations Manager over the years. In 2024, he will take on the role of owner – with plans to open his first Pokeworks location on Long Island.