International Investors Fish For ROI In Emerging U.S. Poke Restaurants

Meanwhile, private equity firms are looking at smaller restaurant concepts, according to National Restaurant News, noting small operations on average sell for 13.x EBITDA. Several major poke shop players are currently generating between $20 million to $50 million in revenue and growing fast.

Russell Yam, CEO of New York-based four-store mini chain Poke Spot, told Mergermarket it recently turned down a private equity investment of $1 million for 25% equity.

In terms of competition, the nascent poke space is facing off with other up-and-coming healthy fast-casual concepts, such as sweetgreen and Lemonade, said Seth Cohen, CEO of LA-based Sweetfin Poke. “It’s everyone going after this $10-15 lunch and dinner crowd, with a chef-driven, healthy, fast-casual experience,” he said. Earlier this summer, Sweetfin opened its ninth store in LA and plans to open three to four new stores per year in California for the next three years. Increasing volume within one region means you get a price break from your food supplier, he noted.

While cities like Los Angeles, New York and Chicago are seeing signs of poke saturation[4], the craze is spreading into other markets.

“This is the early stage of our industry right now, there are still a lot of people who have never tried poke,” said Ju, who believes poke represents the next generation of legacy fast-food restaurants.

Dayna Fields is a senior consumer reporter for Mergermarket in Los Angeles, covering food and beverage, retail and beauty.

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