Get ready to hustle with Island Fin Poke

Mark Setterington is the founder of Island Fin Poke Company and currently serves as its CEO and President. Further, he has over 35 years in the restaurant industry and started his restaurant career at an early age of sixteen as a dish washer.  In addition, he has had a highly decorated career with some well know organizations. Setterington founded Island Fin Poke in 2016 with his first restaurant in Winter Springs Florida.  The overwhelming acceptance of the Island Fin culture and food made him decide he wanted to share it with world.  With Island Fin’s incredible food, remarkable service and ease of execution it is no reason why. 

1. How did you enter the franchise business?

We created IFP because we wanted a life style. We were going to open a couple locations and enjoy life. When we open it really took off and we saw a need for healthy fast food so we decided to franchise.

2. Where and how did the idea of your concept come from?

Mark and Paul met in 2004 at Bahama Breeze. Mark had just relocated his family to Orlando to be the General Manager of the I Drive location and Paul was his bar manager. From the day they met it was more like brothers than friends. Days off, vacations and days on the boat, the families grew close and their kids grew up together. The boys talked and talked about starting their own restaurant.

Mark relocated to Las Vegas in 2007 and the friends stayed in touch. They could go a couple months without talking but then when they did it was as if no time passed, just picked up where they left off. Vacations still happened back to Orlando and the pair continued to talk of starting their “own” thing.

Paul continued to work his job at Bahama Breeze and raised his family in Orlando while Mark was doing his thing in Vegas. Time passed and Mark got a text message from Paul in August of 2016 “I quit my job”……. WHAT?????? Mark had a cushy life and all of the sudden Paul quit his 20 year job. What should we do?

At this point Mark had 5 restaurants in Las Vegas and 5 restaurants in LA that he over saw. Paul flew to LA and the boys spent 3 days eating. I know I know its tough work but someone had to do it. Mark took Paul to all of his favorites and some he didn’t like. When the food fest was done, the road trip back to Vegas began. The friends talked all the way back to Vegas about what the concept had to have. They came up with three things: Incredible food, remarkable service and super easy to execute.

It was a great drive and born out of the 4.5 hours was the Island Fin Poke Company!

Mark’s Las Vegas kitchen became ground zero of poke. Friends and family gathered to taste test sauces. The house was never short on visitors when there were poke tasting parties. Over the course of the next few months, the creation of the house made sauces was complete.

Fresh, delicious, and all gluten free.

Give it a try and see for yourself, you will never eat a poke bowl from another restaurant……

3. What inspired the brand name?

We wanted a feeling of the islands while still conveying what we sell.

4. What makes your brand different from your competitors?

We have several points of differentiation: Incredible food, remarkable service and ease of execution. Our food uses the best ingredients, all of our sauces are house made and all items except 3 are gluten free. Our restaurant is fast food but we give a full service experience. We run the food, we pre bus tables, refill beverages etc.

5. What are the essential qualities that you look for in a franchisee?

The biggest thing is a belief in the brand and the process. If you are committed to to process you will be successful!

6. How long does it take, on average, for your franchisee to realize their investment?

We paid off our investment on the first location in 14 months. The results vary based on how much money the franchise pockets. If marketed properly you will be positive cashflow immediately.

7. What was the major challenge you faced in your career, and how did you overcome it?

The worst I have seen is Covid. I was pretty concerned at first. Then I realized we were built for this. Healthy food, small team, easy to execute and we thrived.

8. What is your best achievement?

My best achievement is my family. My two daughters and my wife are all integral parts of the IFP concept. We have a sign in every restaurant that says: “no friends, just family, Ohana” and we mean it. Family is everything.

9. How does your business day start?

COFFEE!! Lots and lots of coffee. I check sales, check email and follow up any task left undone from the prior day.

10. Where do you see your brand in the next 5 years?

We will be at 100 location domestically and strong international presence. We want WORLD POKE DOMINATION!!!

12. Any tips you want to impart to our readers who want to be in the franchise industry?

Be ready to hustle. Everything in life that is worth it takes work.

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