Leading Healthy Rice Bowl Chain to Build on Guest-Facing & Internal Enhancements in New Year

ANAHEIM HILLS, Calif. (January 30, 2024) - WaBa Grill, one of the nation’s leading healthy rice bowl chains, proudly reports an impressive 2023, driven by steady sales, new market franchise growth, strategic menu expansion and internal enrichment initiatives. Building upon record-setting results in 2022 and a 25% increase in same store sales and total system sales since 2020, AUV for the brand’s top 25% of locations reached more than $1.3 million in 2023, with the top 50% surpassing $1.15 million. WaBa Grill increased digital sales by 3% and concluded the year with a run rate of nearly 29%, thus setting the stage for the brand’s continued segment dominance in 2024 and beyond.

“We are incredibly proud of the progress we’ve made in terms of new market development, fostering franchisee relationships and exceeding internal business goals,” said Andrew Kim, President & CEO of WaBa Grill. “It’s always been our mission to go above and beyond to provide guests a space in which to enjoy delicious food at affordable prices with friends and loved ones. We know there is so much yet to execute, so we remain laser-focused on enhancing our menu offerings, operations, and guest experience because the sky is the limit for us.”

Franchise momentum and expansion helped fuel WaBa Grill’s impressive 2023, with the brand adding double-digit locations to their development pipeline in new and existing markets. The healthy bowls brand is on pace to open 10-plus locations in 2024 and is expected to surpass the 200-restaurant milestone before year’s end. Adding to the brand’s growing presence throughout the Western U.S., WaBa Grill inked a 10-unit deal in Maricopa County, Arizona in 2022, which will expand the brand’s existing presence in The Grand Canyon State. WaBa Grill is expected to make its Texas and Nevada debuts in early 2024 and increase the brand’s operations to four key Western states. Existing franchisees continue to be a driving force behind the brand’s growth, accounting for all of WaBa Grill’s franchise agreement signings in 2023. WaBa Grill also initiated significant remodeling activities in 2023 to refresh and modernize interior and exterior restaurant designs at many well-established WaBa Grill locations.

2023 was also marked by significant menu expansion and innovation. In the summer of 2023, WaBa Grill released its most successful product launch to date, Boom Boom Tacos, which expanded the brand’s entrée offerings beyond its signature bowls and plates. Nearly one million Boom Boom Tacos have been sold since the systemwide launch mid-year. Upon launch, the tacos quickly became one of WaBa’s best-selling new menu items by ranking third in sales mix, only behind WaBa’s Chicken Bowl and Chicken Veggie Bowl, which are two menu mainstays that have been permanent, popular fixtures on WaBa’s menu since day one. Due to the success and popularity of its Boom Boom Tacos, WaBa Grill began testing Boom Boom Way bowls in late 2023 to allow guests to enjoy the zesty, spicy flavors of the Boom Boom Tacos in its familiar and popular bowl format. On the beverage front, WaBa Grill partnered with the world’s number one ginseng company, Korea Ginseng Corp (KGC), to add its HSW Calm, HSW Recharge and HSW Sharp sparkling ginseng drinks to WaBa’s canned beverage lineup. The partnership also marked the first time KGC drinks were sold in an American restaurant. To promote further menu innovation and enhancements, WaBa Grill opened a test kitchen site that will serve as its main hub of short-term and rotating pilot tests.

In addition to executing guest-facing enhancements, WaBa Grill turned inward in 2023, debuting a handful of internal initiatives designed to further WaBa’s reputation as a great place to work. WaBa Grill introduced its inaugural BKE Scholarship program, named after WaBa Grill founders Brian Ham, Kyle Lee and Eric Lee, to support employees at both corporate and franchised restaurants, and their families, in their educational pursuits. In total, WaBa Grill awarded $22,000 in scholarships to 11 deserving recipients, with each honoree receiving $2,000 to be applied to college or vocational school. WaBa Grill also conducted an internal search for its top ‘grill masters,’ where more than 200 cooks competed in a multi-round, 198-point evaluation to earn the coveted Grill Master title. WaBa awarded more than $4,000 in cash prizes to nine of its most talented cooks that demonstrated exemplary understanding of WaBa Grill’s food preparation, cooking and sanitary practices.

Throughout 2023, WaBa Grill was honored with numerous prestigious industry accolades. The brand improved 17 spots on Fast Casual’s 2023 Top 100 Movers & Shakers list, appearing at #28. WaBa Grill was also recognized in Franchise Times Top 400 at #263 – an 18–spot jump from its previous ranking. Lastly, WaBa Grill general manager Stephanie Rodriguez was celebrated on Nation's Restaurant News' Power List, a definitive list of industry leaders who are setting trends today and shaping the future of the restaurant industry.

The nearly 200-unit brand is primed to continue expansion, having identified key markets throughout the western U.S., and is seeking franchise partners interested in expanding their portfolios with an established healthy fast casual brand on the rise. For more details about partnering with WaBa Grill, visit www.wabagrill.com/franchise

WaBa Grill Celebrates Impressive 2023 Results

About WaBa Grill

WaBa Grill was founded in 2006 on the principle that healthy food made with quality ingredients should be accessible to all. With a goal of serving the best possible food on the go, WaBa's famous rice bowls, plates and salads are made with fresh vegetables, healthy grains and high-quality proteins including fresh, never frozen chicken, marinated ribeye steak, wild-caught salmon, jumbo shrimp, plant-based steak, and organic tofu, all prepared to order on an open-fire grill and customized with a variety of flavorful sauces including the fan favorite WaBa Sauce. Learn more at www.WaBaGrill.com.

WaBa Grill Social Media Pages

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wabagrillofficial

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/wabagrill/

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/wabagrill

Media Contact

Selena Lane