Tuna poke bowl in a white bowl

In Brief:

      • Poké bowls are one of the most popular food items, and people are asking…why? The reasons are: 1) they taste great!, 2) they are customizable, and 3) they look great!
      • They are a fresh, light, healthy meal, full of delicious ingredients.
      • The trend continues to grow. They are so popular, poké bowl restaurants are opening everywhere.
      • So now, entrepreneurs want to get in on the hot trend and open their own poke bowl restaurant.
      • Entrepreneurs and sushi lovers are passionate about poké bowl opportunities.

It is a sushi enthusiast’s dream: your favorite fresh raw fish — tuna, salmon, shrimp, and many other options — mixed with fresh vegetables like edamame, mango, sweet onion, whatever you prefer, placed on top of healthy rice. Now add to it flavor and toppings such as avocado, ginger, wasabi, and more…you have the ultimate sushi lover’s meal. It’s no wonder poké bowls are a popular food trend!

Salmon poke bowl with avocado, onion, and other toppings with chopstick and sauce on the side.
Photo by Marco Verch via Flickr/CreativeCommons

What is a poké bowl? 🐟

It is Hawaiian street food and it is pronounced “POK-KAY.” Poké means “to slice or cut into pieces” and the dish was invented by pre-colonial Polynesian fishermen. Today, the dish is popular throughout Hawaii and it’s even made fresh in most convenience stores. So, imagine a dish like this for sale at your local deli!

Poké bowls are made with several key ingredients: fish, seasonings, dressing, fresh vegetables, all on top of rice. Some poké places offer other options instead of white rice, such as quinoa, kale noodle, or brown rice. The fish — normally ahi tuna, yellowtail, salmon, or snapper — is sliced into cubes, marinated, and finished off with a mix of savory and sweet toppings.

Why are poké bowls so popular? 🐟

Poké bowls are popular for these reasons:

1) They taste great!

2) They are customizable

3) They look great!

Restauranteurs love the poké bowl trend because it’s an easy business to start. There is no need for ovens, stoves, or big equipment. People who decide to open a poké bowl business only need high-quality refrigeration and rice cookers.  Poké bowl places also use the assembly-line method, like Chipotle or Subway. Poké bowls are an easy, grab-and-go meal.

Entrepreneurs are “hooked” on this hot trend…how can I open my own poké bowl franchise? 🐟

Many poké bowl restaurants started in 2016 and they are still a trend. One of the reasons the business remains successful is because of the franchise model. Entrepreneurs decide to go down the franchise path because they can benefit from an established brand, a strong corporate support system, and a proven business model that works. The poké bowl industry a hot trend right now and entrepreneurs continue to jump on opportunities in this industry.

Listed below are some of the popular poké bowl franchises you can open today.

What are the top 5 poké bowl franchises I can open? 🐟

1) LemonShark Poké

LemonShark's poke bowl station and three signature poke bowls.
Photo: LemonShark Poke Facebook page (@lemonsharkpoke)

LemonShark Poké started as a collaboration between two friends with a passion for Hawaiian culture. For 40 years, Tobi Miller and Richard Gottlieb immersed themselves in the island state after multiple trips throughout their childhood and adulthood. Since they were 11 years old, the duo believed the food of Hawaii was something special. As they grew older, they both pursued different career ventures.

Fun Fact: Tobi Miller was one of the original members of the famous rock group, The Wallflowers! After international recognition and a couple of Grammy Awards under his belt, Miller decided to earn his MBA in Business Economics, join the real estate industry and look into how to start his own business.

Meanwhile, Richard Gottlieb earned a degree in economics and rose to fame as the driver of The Big Red—one the fastest Camaros ever created that broke records and earned national acclaim. Hot rods are cool, but after a long run on the racetrack, Gottlieb decided to go down the entrepreneurial path of success. He and Miller circled back to their true passion: Hawaiian culture.

In 2016, they opened LemonShark Poké, a poké restaurant that is both sit-down and fast-casual dining. The food spot serves a variety of signature poké bowls, as well as “pokéritto,” which is essentially a sushi burrito. Their menu features traditional, Hawaiian appetizers, beverages, and brews as well. For more information on this poké bowl franchise, visit their listing page!

2) Pokéworks

Pokeworks poke bowl and signature "pokeritto."
Photo: Pokeworks Facebook page (@pokeworksco)

Consider this: it’s 2015, a guy and his buddies take a trip to Hawaii, fall in love with the food, culture, and the entire island, which leads to a few more trips. They try all the local specialties, which include the delectable poké bowl. They start to wonder, how has this not caught on in other parts of the country? And then, the lightbulb goes off. Why not just open their own poké bowl restaurant! This is the story of how Peter Yang founded Pokéworks.

Pokéworks has a list of prepared, signature bowls, as well as the option for a customer to build their own bowl. The restaurant is best known for its Poké Burrito, which was widely shared on social media and is their most popular dish.

3) The PokéSpot

The Poke Spot logo is a blue circle and otter holding a poke bowl.
Photo: The PokeSpot Facebook page (@thepokespotco)

The PokéSpot opened in 2016 during the peak of the sushi bowl trend. Their most popular location is in the heart of Union Square in New York City, in a revamped, old Subway station. They serve a variety of poké bowls, as well as an “Avocado Boat,” which is a half of an avocado with raw fish, toppings, and sauce on the inside. The franchise has two other locations in Philadelphia and Atlanta, and they are looking to expand.

4) Poké Bar

Two poke bowls in cardboard containers from the Poke Bar franchise.
Photo: Poké Bar Facebook page (@pokebar)

The Poké Bar originally was not the poké bowl franchise it is today. The journey started in 1989 when the founders ran a sushi restaurant called Yanagi Sushi in California. Over time, the restaurant began to merge its traditional, Japanese menu with Hawaiian delicacies, and so, the Poké Bar was born. Today, they have 69 locations across 13 states and two international restaurants in New Zealand and Canada.

5) Poké Bros.

Four poke bowls from Poke Bros. franchise
Photo: Poke Bros. Pike Creek Facebook page (@eatpokebrospikecreek)

Do you want some poké, bro? Then go to Poké Bros! The founders of this poké restaurant brought the Hawaiian delicacy to Midwest, and the business grew from a single location in Ohio to multiple locations across the country.

Today, there are many poké bowl franchise opportunities to choose from! 🐟

So next time you are looking for a quick, grab-and-go meal, you might want to stop at one of these five poké bowl restaurants for a fresh, light meal that is full of delicious ingredients and healthy at the same time! Poké bowls continue to be popular and the trend will not slow down any time soon. Now is the ideal time to “fish” for poké bowl franchise opportunities.

Callens Capital