2022 Fast Casual Top 100 Movers & Shakers


Pictured: CEO Steve Heeley with Fast Casual Presenters

Irvine, California-based Pokeworks, which plans to have nearly 90 locations open by year’s end, has spent the past year making strides in leadership, franchise development, menu innovation and restaurant design.

As the chain grew its corporate leadership team by hiring a CEO, COO and CDO, it welcomed 11 locations and took a chance on a new format to provide more convenient service. The Cruise-Thru Lane, for example, which opened last year in Tennessee, allows customers to skip the line and grab their orders from a window. The prototype will be used in the chain’s future
suburban locations.

The design followed upgrades to Pokeworks’ digital and in-store experiences, which included the opening of two non-traditional restaurant spaces, as well as entering the virtual kitchen space via a partnership with Epic Kitchens in Chicago and the delivery-forward arena in Redwood City, California with
DoorDash Kitchens.

With sustainability as well as providing healthy food options as core goals of the brand, Pokeworks recently introduced cauliflower rice to its menu, creating a keto-friendly option. It also added a 100% plant-based pork protein and is now working with Wildtype, a startup creating sushi-grade cultivated salmon, to test and help the company refine the cultured salmon into a premium, preferred alternative to fresh salmon.

“As the leading fast casual poke brand in the world, we’re focused on innovating, growing and delivering the highest quality seafood and poke experience,” said CEO Steve Heeley. “In the past year, Pokeworks has done just that through new menu innovations and sustainability partnerships, improving ordering possibilities and
accessibility for consumers and maximizing profitability
for our franchisees.”

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