Island Vibes: The Story Behind Island Fin Poke’s Success

In this episode of the QSR Experience podcast, host Bobby Marhamat welcomes Mark Setterington from Island Fin Poke. Mark shares his journey in the restaurant industry, the inception of Island Fin Poke, its growth into a successful franchise, and valuable advice for listeners looking to succeed in the food business.

Key Topics Discussed:

  1. Mark’s background and journey in the restaurant industry.
  2. The creation of Island Fin Poke with partner Paul, focusing on quality food and exceptional service.
  3. The expansion from a single restaurant to a franchise with 26 locations across the United States.
  4. Signing with branding agency Innovation to help grow the franchise and rebuild the website.
  5. The role of rebranding and digital marketing in Island Fin Poke’s success.
  6. Low cost of entry and the appeal of being one’s own boss as factors driving the franchise’s growth.
  7. Unique in-store experience, including the Island Fin Poke music channel, surf videos, and customer-focused service.
  8. Ensuring consistency in customer experience through mystery shopping and a hospitality-focused approach.

Join Bobby Marhamat and Mark Sutherington as they delve into the story behind Island Fin Poke and explore valuable insights for aspiring restaurateurs in the QSR Experience podcast brought to you by Raydiant.

Guest Quotes: 

“You come in, you get a great experience, we build a relationship with you, and you leave. So we encourage our team members to not behind the counter, right? We want them if there’s nobody in line, we want you in the dining room. We want you out there speaking to the guests and building that relationship, because that’s what’s going to encourage people to come back. There’s got to be a point of differentiation, and it’s our experience that does it. Our food is incredible. Our food is delicious. I’ll put it up against anybody, but the secret sauce are the kids that work for us, the team members that work for us.” 

“We’ll open twelve restaurants this year, so by the end of this year, we’ll be close to 40, and we’re looking at a bunch of things. I’m going to speak in San Diego at the largest Indian gaming conference in the country the end of March, and it’s all about trying to get Indian casinos to want to have island and pokey in their casinos, which would put us in front of a ton of people.

“We’re appealing to people that want to have their own business, but don’t necessarily want a restaurant because we’re not really a restaurant. I mean, we don’t have equipment, we don’t have hoods, we don’t have fire suppression. We’re really a retail space. And instead of selling T-shirts, we sell poke bowls. So no matter how busy you are. It’s two to three people on a shift, so it’s super simple. A small team, people you can count on. Execution is easy, so it’s low cost of entry with the build out, et cetera. So it’s kind of broadly appealing to someone that wants to be their own boss.” 

“Every restaurant has TVs playing surf videos. We’re playing the curated island finn pokey Music Channel. So it doesn’t matter if you’re in Worcester, Massachusetts, or Las Vegas, Nevada. You walk in and you feel like you’re somewhere else, right? You get a warm welcome greeting from the team. Welcome to Island Fin. And you go down the line just like Chipotle. But that’s where it ends, right? When you get to the end of the line and you pay for your food, and my team members run your food to your table. “ 

“Every restaurant has a four foot sign that hangs on the wall that says, no friends, just family. Ohana, and those can’t be just words. You have to treat your vendors that way. You have to treat your team members. We don’t call them employees. They’re team members. Right. We don’t call the people that come in the front door customers, their guests. And if you don’t treat these people like that, like, ohana, you’re not going to be successful as a franchisee. It’s not going to happen.” 

Get in touch with Mark Setterington:  


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