Despite the challenges facing the food and beverage industry as a result of COVID-19, The Poké Co founder, Andrew Flanagan has just opened his fourth store.
Poké Co Claremont opened at 12 Dreyer Street on the 14th August 2020. To celebrate its launch, Poké Co gave away 100 free poke bowls in just one hour – the response was incredible and the queue extended the length of the street!
His idea to open a specialised poké bar in Cape Town was first sparked while travelling in 2015. “I discovered that poké has all the flavours we love in sushi, rediscovered in a unique, spontaneous and convenient way. I realised that it was missing from the seafood scene in Cape Town and felt it was an opportunity that I couldn’t miss out on!”
Fast forward to March 2017, and Flanagan opened a delivery only kitchen in a tiny corner of his girlfriend’s jewellery studio. Based on the success of this, he took the plunge and opened his first customer facing store in January 2018 on Loop Street.
The Poké Co offers customers a fast-casual dining experience, specialising in healthy and delicious poké and smoothie bowls, within an environment that enables customers to leave feeling inspired and rejuvenated. The brand is based on a simple vision to do good: to your taste buds; your body; the community, and the environment.
Flanagan now employs a staff complement of 25 people and says, “I couldn’t be prouder of what we as a team have achieved in 3 short years. This has largely been due to the amazing support of our loving customers and loyal staff members, many who have been with me from the start. We are constantly evolving as we grow and are in a unique position to use modern technology to aid our growth.”
Commenting on the current environment, Flanagan says, “It has affected turnover across all businesses, and we are no exception; however, we have small locations with lower overheads than most restaurants, and luckily had an existing take away business prior to the pandemic. We also are fortunate to not rely on alcohol sales to support us and our core target market is predominately made up of local repeat customers.”
Flanagan also comments on the willingness to help and sense of community that has risen from COVID-19. “Speaking to other small business owners during this time has been extremely helpful, whether it is to do with UIF applications, tax relief, landlord negotiations or alternative revenue streams. Everyone has been very forth coming and it seems people are not holding their cards as close to their chests.”
The Poké Co also came up with a few innovative ways to pivot during lockdown, including vouchers which can be redeemed at a later stage and DIY poke kits in collaboration with Cape Fish Retail Store. They have recently launched a delivery and loyalty app too, which allows customers to order ahead for either delivery or pick-up and earn loyalty points at the same time. It’s available on both Android and Apple.
Poké Co signed the lease for the new store in Claremont just before COVID became a reality in South Africa and have decided to continue as planned. Flanagan is quietly optimistic about the new store, as it will serve a take-away and delivery market: “it’s well positioned to service the corporate lunch trade in the area. It’s the perfect, quick grab and go meal that lends itself well to customers current behaviours, in the light of the social distancing measures and precautions in place.”