Irvine-based fast-casual poke restaurant chain Pokeworks is boosting its store count and its executive team.
The company aiming to popularize the Hawaiian seafood dish—consisting of chunks of raw fish spooned over rice and topped with any assortment of its sauces—was founded in 2015, and has quickly grown through franchising with 66 locations in the U.S. Its three locations in Orange County are in Irvine, Laguna Niguel and Ladera Ranch.
Pokeworks ranked No. 26 on the Business Journal’s latest list of locally based restaurant chains and reported $47 million in sales for 2021, up 32% from the previous year. Company-owned spots bring in more than $1 million annually, according to Pokework’s website. The average check runs over $20.
Pokeworks expects to open about 10 more spots this year, and is eyeing markets such as Austin, Texas; Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, New York; and Nashville, Tenn., it said last month.
A location opened in Denver earlier this year, its first in Colorado.
An international push is also in the cards. Restaurants in Taiwan, Mexico and Canada are coming soon, the company says.
Pokeworks has reported new additions to its leadership team—Abe van Beek as director of culinary and Michele LaMont as director of marketing.
Both new hires joined the company this year with around 15 years of experience in their respective industries.
Van Beek has previously held executive roles in menu innovation and culinary operations for Gelson’s Markets, Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop and IHOP.
Most recently, LaMont worked for 911 Restoration as the director in sales and marketing and previously had similar roles at IHOP and Mayweather Boxing + Fitness.
Pokeworks had been on LaMont’s radar for the past several years, she told the Business Journal.
“My focus will be on optimizing the digital marketing strategy to drive trial in-restaurant and provide our guests with quality food at a great value,” LaMont said. She will also be helping open new locations across the country.
A target Pokeworks turnkey investment starts at $375,000 for franchisees, and stores average about 1,800 square feet, according to the company’s website.
LaMont’s new position with Pokeworks adds to her goal of driving business for entrepreneurial franchisees.
“The marketing levers that we have provided to our franchisees offer an incredible opportunity to increase brand awareness,” Lamont said.