Craving a Poke Bowl? You Can Soon Get One Inside a Walmart

The next time you’re craving a poke bowl, boba tea, or a refreshing cup of Dole Whip, you could either Google flights to any Hawaiian island or go to … your nearest Walmart.

Uncle Sharkii, a chain of fast-food-style poke bars, recently announced a partnership with the Arkansas-based retail giant. According to a press release by the poke company, that surprising collaboration will allow Uncle Sharkii to open its restaurants inside Walmarts, starting with stores in California before expanding throughout the United States. As of this writing, there are currently three Walmart-based Uncle Sharkii stores in Galt, Roseville, and Vacaville, California. Uncle Sharkii also has (non-Walmart) restaurants in Hawaii, Texas, and Utah and plans to open additional poke bars in Arizona and Nevada.

“We hope to reach America at its core and to bring the ‘Spirit of Aloha’ to everybody across this great country!” Raymond Reyes, the co-founder and COO of Uncle Sharkii, said in a statement. “Growing up in Hawaii, Walmart has always become a gathering point for locals, tourists, and families alike. There is the sense of community and a creation of nostalgia for everyone that visits its stores. I never in my wildest dreams ever thought that partnering up with Walmart would be ever possible in my lifetime, and look forward to a fruitful partnership together.”

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Reyes told QSR magazine that the partnership will “strengthen [the Uncle Sharkii] brand” and “empower aspiring entrepreneurs” who may want to open their own Uncle Sharkii franchise.

The first Uncle Sharkii opened inside a Walmart last fall, and the grand opening weekend included BOGO Poke Bowl promotions, BOGO Boba tea promos, and Uncle Sharkii merch giveaways. The first customers also scored $5 in Uncle Sharkii credit for future purchases.

“At Walmart, we are committed to providing our customers with a wide variety of products and services that they want and making those things available to them at affordable prices,” Angelica Teague, Walmart’s senior manager of retail services, told QSR. “We love partnering with local businesses across the country to offer our customers new and healthy dining options, and we are excited about this partnership with Uncle Sharkii Poke Bar.”

Walmart’s “restaurant scene” — and our tongues are basically headbutting our cheeks as we type that — has shifted in the past several years. McDonald’s once had over 1,000 locations inside Walmart Superstores, but that number had dropped to 500 by the beginning of 2020 before slipping to around 150 restaurants by mid-2021.

In the spring of 2021, Subway still had around 1,000 locations inside Walmart stores, but some franchisees also closed their restaurants due to pandemic-related changes in shopping trends. One Subway owner told the Wall Street Journal that, as an increasing number of customers opted for order pickup or delivery, sales at the restaurants decreased. (As a result, he closed four of his five in-store Subway locations.)

In addition to Uncle Sharkii, Walmart has also experimented with Charleys Philly Steaks, Domino’s, and Taco Bell. It also opened a single Wendy’s location in central Ohio; that restaurant has since closed.

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