Since joining forces in 2019, Spadea has played a key role in helping the beloved poké franchise expand to 26 units across the country.
In the burgeoning world of fast casual franchising, Island Fin Poké Co. stands out with a particularly colorful concept. Fusing the vibrant flavors of Hawaiian cuisine with a passion for quality and customer service, Island Fin Poké has expanded its reach significantly since its inception seven years ago. Behind this expansion is a strategic partnership with Spadea Lignana, a franchise law firm specializing in guiding businesses through the complexities of franchising.
Island Fin Poké was founded in 2016 by Mark T. Setterington, a long-time entrepreneur who has owned various restaurants across Las Vegas and Southern California.
“At that time, there was poké on every corner,” said Setterington. “I had spent some time in Hawaii and really fell in love with the culture. My business partner at the time called me up and told me that he had just quit his job of 20 years and was looking for a new investment opportunity. I knew this was the avenue we should go down.”
The flagship Island Fin Poké location opened in 2017. “We have incredible food, remarkable service and we use only the best ingredients — the fish that we use, the sauces that we make in-house. The way that we serve guests — we take their trash, run the food to the table, and make sure they have a great experience. Our approach is different from many other fast casual restaurants.”
The initial plan wasn’t to franchise Island Fin Poké, it was about enjoying life while running a couple of community staple restaurants. However, the overwhelming success of their first location in Winter Springs, FL paved the way for a different path.
“We were approached by a company who suggested franchising,” said Setterington. “We jumped right in. No looking back.”
Island Fin Poké opened its first franchisee-owned location in 2019. As the brand began to develop as a franchise, the leadership team became dissatisfied with their initial franchise development company. Island Fin Poké found a new partner in Spadea Lignana that same year. Right away, the experts at Spadea did things differently.
“They didn’t like the way our Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) was written, so they rebuilt it, and they helped us refine the franchise agreement,” said Setterington. “Those are very important parts of the franchising model.”
The Island Fin Poké franchise concept started to catch on. The brand opened 10 units in 2020 despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, that footprint stands at 26 units across the country.
Setterington says the partnership with Spadea has been instrumental in navigating the challenges and complexities of franchising. The firm offers support on everything from trademarks to international development to compliance systems to state regulations.
“If I reach out to Tom [founding partner at Spadea Lignana], he answers my call every time — that says something about who they are as partners,” he said.
That open line of communication and the firm’s proactiveness in addressing franchisee issues have been crucial for Island Fin Poké, especially during the unpredictable terrain of the pandemic.
“As we grow, this partnership really helps us keep up with the legal franchise requirements,” said Setterington. “Overall, everything has really been great. We have zero complaints. We hope we stay partners for a long time to come.”
As Island Fin Poké continues to grow and reach new markets, the role of Spadea Lignana remains integral. With Spadea Lignana’s support, Island Fin Poké Company is well-equipped to achieve its goal of reaching 100 units, spreading the unique taste of Hawaiian poké and the spirit of Aloha far and wide.