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Spotlight on NYC Poke Purveyor, Jonny Hausner: Redefining Fast Food on the Hudson

Gone are the days when fast food meant nothing more than mass-produced burgers, greasy fries, and pizza joints. In NYC, a place where everything moves quickly and fine cuisine is king, customers want their food fast, but they’re looking for more than junk.

Owner of a 6-brand chain of trendy fast-casual New York restaurants, Jonny Hausner has all of the ingredients for success, mixing freshly prepared cuisine with consistency and convenience and creating spots where the only thing fast about the food is the service. Creating a recipe for success in the Big Apple, founder of the Poke Bowl chain, with 8+ locations across Manhattan alone, the restaurateur is also the owner of 5 other fast-casual food brands in the city, serving everything from teriyaki to tacos.

Poke Bowl, Sakura, Black Burger, Los Tacos Hermanos, Crack Rice, and Bentobox all operate individually, but interact seamlessly online, where customers can easily jump from menu to menu, providing website visitors with a wide variety of cuisine choices without ever having to re-google.

Convenience extends to the brick-and-mortar eateries as well, with many of the restaurants strategically located in the same neighborhoods, some actually being next-door neighbors. This allows take-our customers the opportunity to pick up completely different types of cuisine in one easy trip. Whether it’s vegan, gluten-free, poke, fast–Japanese, burgers, or Mexican, Hausner’s growing chain of fast-casual food joints has it all.

“Super Bowl” Winner

From Honolulu to the Hudson, and from the Tribeca to Times Square, poke bowls are one of the most wildly popular fast-casual edibles trending on the streets of New York. A healthy mix of proteins and vibrant elements, these super bowls are portable, customizable, and, yes, Instagramable!

Hawaiian-born and Asian-inspired, there’s a poke tsunami across the nation, and the New York City food scene has been quick to ride the wave. But while there are many restaurants serving the sushi-sister dish, not all poke purveyors are the same.

Hausner’s brainchild, Poke Bowl was founded in March 2017 on New York City’s Fulton Street. With locations popping up all over the city, from Midtown to Madison, this healthy hotspot serves the busy business community fresh food fast. Combining convenience with quality, New Yorkers can get the best of both worlds, lunching on the fresh custom cuisine they crave either to-go or delivered to their desk.

All bowls and burritos are customizable, featuring proteins like sushi-grade ahi tuna, salmon, shrimp, Kani salad, chicken, and tofu; and mix-ins like mango, edamame, jalapeno, avocado, and seaweed salad, served on one of several carb and keto-friendly bases. Gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan sauce options are available as well, along with crunchy toppings like shredded nori, wasabi peas, crispy onions, and garlic chips.

Poke Bowl also offers a selection of specialty items, including the Hippie Vegan, Spicy Chicken Katsu, Miso Hungry, and Salmon Plenty Bowls.

When asked what makes Poke Bowl stand out from the crowd, Hausner offered, “We offer the freshest fish available, never frozen. We might be fast but we serve the same high-quality food that you’d find in a fine Manhattan restaurant.”

Serving a fastidious crowd, Hausner shared that knowing your audience, knowing their wants and needs, and delivering the service, ingredients, and quality is what sets this poke hotspot apart.

And though fresh raw seafood bowls are the restaurant’s most popular menu items, Hausner revealed why it’s not all “fishy.”

“We started with mostly all cold sushi ingredients,” he explained, “ but then we decided to start offering items for people who don’t eat raw fish.”

And the move proved to be a hit, with cooked items becoming one of the hottest dishes on the menu. Adding, “we generate 50% of our business from raw fish menu items and 50% from our hot menu,” Hausner reiterated his belief in getting to know your audience and delivering what they’re hungry for as the key to his success.

The chain of Poke Bowl locations keeps growing, with the first franchise locations opening soon on Broadway and Lexington.

Secrets to Success

Having gotten through one of the worst-hit times for the restaurant industry without missing a beat, Hausner admits his business suffered at first. Quick to pivot, however, he upped his delivery and take-out games, utilizing third-party platforms as well as reimagining his online menu, doing his best to deliver the same high-quality fresh food quickly and directly to his customers.

With a majority of his business coming from the bustling lunch crowd, marketing to the takeout and delivery after-work customer happens naturally. Some folks will pick up dinner on their way home, while others will order delivery from the online menu, with all of his restaurants offering free delivery to customers in a 2-mile radius. Catering is also a huge part of Hausner’s business model, serving customers throughout the city from party sizes ranging from 25 to 500.

When asked what makes his restaurants so successful, even in these challenging times, he responded, “The relationship between a restaurant and its customers is long-term,” Hausner commented, “ which is why you can’t cut corners to save a few bucks. That's the fastest way to lose customers.”

“Because we only serve fresh seafood at my restaurants, I look for quality over price.” He continued, “when you are willing to pay top dollar for your product, you shouldn’t be afraid to have multiple vendors and let them bid against one other.”

Knowing your target audience and stressing the importance of consistency and quality over quantity, Hausner continued, “when customers know they’ll get the freshest food every time, they’ll keep coming back” noting that it’s better to have a smaller menu with profitable and popular items than a large one that doesn’t deliver quality food fast.

Offering New Yorkers more of what they ask for, Hausner’s restaurant chains are rapidly expanding, with multiple Poke Bowl locations from the Upper East Side to Lower Manhattan; two Black Burger locations, featuring burgers from Impossible to the ever-popular beef burger; three Los Tacos Hermanos, offering a wide selection of Latin-inspired favorites; two Sakura locations, serving fast and freshly prepared Japanese cuisine to-go; multiple Crack Rice locations, serving crispy, tasty, and addictive sushi from Union Square to Canal Street; and Bentobox, offering delicious and freshly-prepared Asian food to-go.

By Eileen Strauss


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