Freestyle Poké is ready to bowl over Kansas City with its expansion plans.

Founder Jeremiah Dupin has announced that he and his partners have entered into a new business arrangement with former Applebee’s CEO Dave Goebel and his family to grow the number of locations for the red-hot poke bowl concept in Kansas City.

This new business development is thanks in part to local commercial real estate agent Jordan Zenger, who introduced the two restaurateurs. He knew that Goebel was interested in talking to Dupin about his plans to grow Freestyle Poké, and that Dupin was looking for an operational partner who knew the local real estate market and could help him sustainably grow the restaurant concept in Kansas City and, possibly, beyond.

The two men met and instantly recognized that their personal and professional core values were aligned, setting the stage for a successful partnership.

“My work takes me primarily to the coasts, where I had the opportunity to eat at many poke restaurants, but none of them impressed me like Freestyle Poké,” Goebel says. “I had been thinking about investing in a casual-dining poke concept. Upon meeting Jeremiah, I could tell that he had a real passion for the health and well-being of not only his customers but the people who work for him, which translates into an exceptional service experience for the customer.”

Goebel, in addition to his corporate consulting work, is a restaurant franchisee. He and his two sons, Kerry and Kevin, have applied their individual areas of expertise to bringing franchises like Boston Market, Goodcents Deli, and, most recently, Pie Five Pizza to the Kansas City market, in addition to creating several new restaurant concepts on their own.

This partnership will marry Goebel and his team’s skills in market research, real estate development, construction, day-to-day operations and marketing with Dupin’s unique approach to service and employee development.

“My main mission is to spend time investing in my team in each restaurant, giving them the tools to improve their own physical and mental health and well-being, in addition to giving them a sense of stewardship and culture that allows them to problem solve from the ground up,” Dupin says. “That is how a legacy is built, and that sense of ownership is how my team will support us as we move forward and grow Freestyle Poké.”

The ethos of Freestyle Poké is “poke with a purpose.” For this new leadership team, that idea is represented not only in the quality of the food (sustainable fish, offered at an affordable price in eco-friendly packaging); it also extends to Dupin’s new-age leadership style.

At his current location in the River Market, you can often find Dupin offering an impromptu yoga class for his employees before the doors open, or perhaps conducting a cleansing ceremony to help his employees start their day with an open heart and clear head. To Dupin, this is part of the heartbeat and culture that he wants to create for Freestyle Poké.

Dupin says the next location of Freestyle Poké will likely be at 135th and Metcalf in Overland Park, Kansas, with a third location potentially opening in Liberty, Missouri, after that.  

“We don’t have a magic number of Freestyle Poké locations in mind for Kansas City,” Goebel says. “We will be looking at trade area density, and the demographics of the guests, and how word of mouth spreads to determine where we should be planning our next location. We want each of them to look and feel entirely unique, so there will be no standard size or shape, no specific buildout package that we will force each location into. They will all be built organically to suit the needs of each neighborhood.”

Freestyle Poké, 509 Delaware St., Kansas City, Missouri, 816.313.2121, freestylepoke.com

Jenny is Feast's contributing editor for Kansas City. She brakes for chef's coats.

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