Island Poke wants to become the definitive poke brand in the world with its new international expansion plan, backer Chris Miller has told MCA.

Miller, whose White Rabbit Fund backs the Hawaiin-inspired brand, was speaking after Island Poke announced plans for 13 sites in France and Brussels.

The first, opening this April, will be on Rue Saint-Honoré in 1er arrondissement of Paris. Other France openings include Nice, Lyon, Montpellier, Marseille and Nantes in 2020, with Belgium and Luxembourg to follow in 2021.

Miller said the international sites would be operated under a franchise agreement with “a big player” in those territories, though declined to name the partner.

With eight restaurants across the capital in Canary Wharf, Fitzrovia, Soho, The City, Southbank, Victoria and Shoreditch, Island Poke is seeking to reach 40 sites over all in the next five years.

The management team have spent the last few months getting the brand “franchise ready”, with a ‘poke-pedia’ design and operating manual.

With the government’s immigration plans threatening to restrict labour coming into the UK, Miller said it was only right they looked at internationalizing the business, with further partnerships being sought to cover regions such as Amsterdam and the Middle East.

Miller told MCA: “This is the start of our big international expansion. We want to become the global poke brand.

“It’s very clear poke is a foodstuff that is here to stay. It’s become one of the most delivered products on Deliveroo, it’s become a very normal part of people’s working week lunch, and it’s also on that wave of healthy eating and is fully customizable.”

The franchise operators will bring local knowledge, he said, while the new territories will offer the chance to flex the bowl-based offering with local collaborations.

“It’s the joy of our offer. It’s bowl food but we can bring in new elements to suit the local territories. It allows us to see who the interesting operators in the area are and experiment with the food.”

Alongside international franchising, with places like Amsterdam also being targeted, Island Poke will continue to grow its UK estate.

Miller added: “We are the fastest growing poke brand in the UK. Our site economics are better than other operators. The business model is right. We are ready for this.”