About three years ago, when Michael Tomaiolo drafted plans for Atlantic Poké, he included franchise opportunities in the evolution of the business. What he hadn’t anticipated was a global pandemic.
As COVID-19 enters its third year, it has not significantly altered Atlantic Poké’s growth. After opening the original site in Shrewsbury in 2018, Tomaiolo expanded to Marlborough last year.
This year, Tomaiolo envisions even more maturation of the business as it achieves its initial franchise goals. And in fact, in some ways, going to market now may be better than expected.
“I think a lot of people with COVID are looking for different opportunities,” Tomaiolo said. “COVID has placed a huge burden on people due to the stress of the current situation and unfortunately in many work environments there has been burnout.”
The past few months have seen records in the United States in terms of employees quitting their jobs. In August, 4.3 million Americans looked for other options, while in November, 4.5 million.
While pundits are calling the millions of Americans quitting their jobs the Great Resignation, Tomaiolo thinks Atlantic Poké could provide an outlet for some looking for new career paths.
“I think people are used to looking at different business opportunities,” Tomaiolo said. “A lot of people are interested in being their own boss and running their own business.”
Tomaiolo expects Atlantic Poké to continue its move east into Massachusetts, but welcomes opportunities in all six New England states.
Each state has its own rules and regulations, Tomaiolo said.
“Massachusetts is pretty open,” Tomaiolo said. “I wouldn’t rule out anywhere, but we definitely want to make progress east.”
Poké (pronounced Poh-kay), originated in Hawaii. It includes items like raw ahi tuna, soy sauce, rice, sesame oil, chili, and onion. Atlantic Poké has evolved flavors to include raw salmon, shrimp, and chicken with rice, edamame, seaweed salad, and spicy mayo sauce.
The initial franchise fee is $35,000. Multi-unit development deals are available, such as two for $60,000 and three locations for $80,000. The initial start-up investment is between $320,597 and $499,583.
Ideally, Tomaiolo said he would prefer the first franchise to be fairly close to Shrewsbury or Marlborough.
For three years, Tomaiolo and his family have honed customer service almost to a science to produce a quick but healthy option at their two locations.
The closer the first franchise is to the original Atlantic Poké locations, the easier it is to ensure that the new additions work on all cylinders from the start.
“Once we identify the right people, it allows them to dive deep into who we are, our culture, how we do things and how we differentiate ourselves from other food establishments,” Tomaiolo said.
Tomaiolo built Atlantic Poké. His reputation lies in the work and time that he, his family and close friends put in even in the years leading up to the opening of the first site in Shrewsbury.
After its first year, the Marlborough site is turning a profit and exceeding initial expectations, said Tomaiolo.
The franchise offers new opportunities, it also opens the brand to new partners. The brand’s circle is expanding. As the brand grows, Tomaiolo has less control over its expansion. The risk of irregularities increases.
“It’s exciting, but you absolutely have to be careful. It’s exciting for us to welcome new people. We want to give everyone a fair chance, but at the same time we need to make sure we check.
For Tomaiolo, the benefits of welcoming new faces with new ideas far outweigh the risks.
“We are delighted,” said Tomaiolo. “It’s a new chapter for us.”