Health-conscious Germans are going wild over the latest social-media-friendly food craze, and they have Hawaiian fishermen to thank for it.
Well, them and the Hauser family. They’re serving the new superfood in bowls, just as its original inventors did. If less gastronomically gifted fishermen had started creating new dishes, we shudder to think what our Instagram feeds would look like these days. Necessity’s the mother of invention, though: the men were hungry, so they took whatever freshly caught fish they had on the ship, cut it into pieces, and marinated it. Threw in some of the seaweed they had on board, and maybe some tropical fruit. Mixed, garnished, taste-tested… Shazam! A taste sensation was born. Hawaiians call it poké.
Nowadays, the bowls blend culinary influences from Japan, Polynesia, and the American West Coast, and their popularity has spread well beyond Hawaii. Karlheinz Hauser and his son, Tom, took a tropical vacation in October 2016, and returned to Hamburg with a new business idea in tow. The result? Poké You.
A health-food concept
“Poké You is all about light, fresh, healthy eating,” Karlheinz Hauser explains. Poké You is modular dining – customers select from different categories to assemble their own bowl.
The elder Hauser’s favorite combination is warm sushi rice as the base with thinly sliced tuna as the protein, plus Maui onion marinade and wasabi sauce with tomato, avocado, and cilantro. “And then a little crunch to finish it off” – in this case, macadamia nuts, plus chia seeds and goji berries (both superfoods, incidentally). Customers can combine up to twelve ingredients of their own choosing; for that little extra something, they can garnish the bowl with things like flying fish roe or wakame. Homemade sauces are soon to come.
They opened their first location two years ago on the Inner Alster in Hamburg; “it’s doing great,” Hauser says. The experienced restaurateur spent decades making a name for himself in the high-end dining world through Süllberg and his gourmet catering, but he seems no less excited about his foray into fast food. “This was just something I felt like exploring,” Hauser says. “Poké focuses on top quality, fresh products, and healthy eating – I can identify with all of those.” Co-captain his poké boat is son Tom, who serves as CEO.
They’ve got big plans for the project – they intend to expand steadily in terms of both workforce and locations. They opened a second location of their own just this past April, in Frankfurt. but they’re hoping franchising will be their real ticket to success – their goal is to find two to three more entrepreneurs by the end of the year.
“We’re getting offers almost every day right now,” Hauser says. They’re being especially careful about choosing their applicants, because they want the franchising partnership to be both good-quality and long-lasting. “The franchisees will make or break the company.”
Once the Hausers have selected a new franchisee, they’ll put the entire concept at his or her disposal. Business model, legal legwork, financial models – it’s all been worked out. They have information on all the important details: what the place should look like, where it should be built, what equipment the kitchen will need, which suppliers to choose, and even how to select, refrigerate, and work with high-quality ingredients… the Poké You founders have thought of everything. Tom Hauser and his team are closely involved with the entire process, from the first contract negotiations through opening day and beyond. In exchange, the “mothership” gets a six percent share of the revenues. Aspiring entrepreneurs will need about €150,000 to €200,000 in start-up capital to open a store.
The Hausers have invested just under double that in their new Frankfurt location. “This place really has everything that Poké You has to offer,” Karlheinz Hauser says of the flagship project, which opened its doors in April on the new food-service floor of the MyZeil shopping center. “It’s already quite busy at lunch and dinner.”
Ambitious restaurateurs wanted
The pros make it sound easy, but in practice it’s a lot of work. The franchise concept is designed to be accessible to new entrepreneurs as well, which is why every store has strictly defined processes to ensure that food quality will always be good. The Hausers also want the concept to be something the masses can enjoy – entrees are between €10 and €14 apiece, so poké bowls aren’t an unattainable luxury.
It’s a new concept, “perfect for young people just getting started in gastronomy,” Hauser says. The most important thing is that the potential franchisee brings the necessary knowledge. How big do they expect their fleet to get? Depends on the applicants, they say: “If someone with the necessary experience comes along and says, ‘I want to open a Poké You store,’ well, why not?”