Sustainability and poke bowl concepts go hand-in-hand, especially for Chicago-based, 15-unit brand Aloha Poke. According to CEO Chris Birkinshaw, they source nearly everything at their stores sustainably, from packaging to the fish that goes into each bowl.
But for a green-focused poke chain, it has become challenging to keep sustainability at front of mind during a pandemic when supply chain and seafood-sourcing issues run rampant.
“At times, it's been a question of, ‘can we get product all?’” Birkinshaw said. “And where do we find it? So that's its own sort of challenge of, ‘we have to have something even if it's for a very short period of time, or we've experienced packaging disruption and we have to find something. So let's find the best alternative that we can to our typical packaging, both for the customers’ expectations, but also as a relates to sustainability and staying on the same track.”
The scarcity of packaging materials and even certain seafood has caused a major cost increase for the brand – a cost increase that Birkinshaw said they will soon have to pass onto the consumer.
“We're now at a point with increasing seafood and packaging costs where we’ve previously been able to absorb it,” he said. “I think most chains, especially the public ones, have already raised prices once if not twice during this period of time. We're trying to wait as long as possible to pass this on to the consumer, but the time is probably is probably here.”