Aloha Poke Eyes Metro Expansion through Reef Kitchens Pilot Program

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The Chicago-based Aloha Poke Co. franchise, which has 19 fast-casual restaurants in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Florida and Washington, DC, has entered into an agreement with Reef Kitchens in a bid to enter urban markets, possibly including Dallas, Miami or Atlanta.

Aloha Poke’s menu features bowls filled with sushi-grade fish such as farm-raised Atlantic salmon from Chile, and Hawaiian-style raw ingredients. As a licensed ghost kitchen, Reef’s team will prepare Aloha Poke’s protein-packed product line for direct sales and distribution via third-party delivery platforms like UberEats, Grubhub and Doordash.

Miami-based Reef Kitchens utilizes more than 4,500 parking lots to create what it calls logistics hubs. These can include modular, off-premise-only “neighborhood kitchens” for food brands. It is ranked among the most successful ghost kitchen concepts in the USA, reportedly reaching 70% of the nation’s urban population.

“Ghost kitchens are an interesting, turnkey solution to bring the Aloha Poke fast casual concept to a larger population of people in the largest urban areas of the country,” said Paul Tripodes, vice president of franchise development at Aloha Poke. “We are excited to work with Reef and feel this is a great way to introduce our brand to new, urban markets ahead of traditional brick and mortar development while strengthening our brand.”

Reef recently raised $700 million in venture capital funding, led by Mubadala Investment Company, a sovereign wealth fund based in the United Arab Emirates. Other contributors include SoftBank Vision Fund, Oaktree Capital Management, UBS Asset Management and Target Global.

“The concept of transforming infrastructure to better connect the origin of production with the destination of consumption resonated with us,” stated Adib Mattar, Mubadala’s head of private equity. “Reef is strongly positioned to serve communities where they have key infrastructure, proving essential to food delivery, package delivery, grocery delivery and healthcare.”