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OPERATOR PROFILE


their locations and open many more.” Pichi doesn’t have a specifi c template


he follows when launching Poke House in a new market. In Spain, where there are now nine Poke House locations, and France, which saw its fi rst three restaurants open this summer, they started from scratch whereas in Portugal and the UK they teamed up with established players. However, he’s happy to admit he prefers the latter. “If we can fi nd a way to continue something magic that already happened in the country, that is our favourite way of launching,” he says. “People love Ahi Poke, they trust them,


without experience in the restaurant business but


“We started


with experience in the digital,


start-up space” 66


they know the brand and if it has already been built, we can start from there. We are not only off ering a service and food; we are off ering a full experience. It’s not easy in a country that is not yours. Sometimes it is better to be open minded and understand that there might be a local person who can help you to communicate your shared idea.”


“Nothing worse could happen” Poke House is currently valued at 100m euros. “We went from a start-up to a scale- up and now we’re in the consolidation phase,” Pichi explains. But while their growth is quite startling, given the circumstances, Pichi is keen to stress that doesn’t mean it’s been easy. “People say to me: ‘Covid must have been amazing for you guys because you do very strong food delivery’, but this is not true,” he says. “We have 50% of our business coming from online delivery, but the other


Above: An outlet in Milan. Left: The ability to customize dishes is a key part of Poke House’s popularity


50% is from people coming into our store and enjoying the experience. When you lose 50% in one second, you need to learn a lot of things very fast to put your company in a safe place.” Just over a year on, he says Poke House


has lost money – “all the potential revenue from people who would have come into our stores” – but at the same time the brand has grown stronger. “Online food obviously grew a lot and when Covid is over, we will have a much bigger online business,” Pichi says. “I hope and believe that we will have the same or even bigger out-of-home market because people are excited to come back to normality. It hasn’t been good for my mind, but maybe in one year I can tell you if this has been in some sense good for the business. We certainly feel that nothing worse could happen.”


Impossible goals Pichi strongly believes his next big competitors in the foodservice space will be ‘digital natives’, like Poke House. “We started without experience in the restaurant business but with experience in the digital, start-up space,” he says. “The next big companies will mix the art of welcoming clients with strength in off ering diff erent channels to order and eat. This has to be through technology.”


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