Q&A with Troy Hooper, CEO of Pepper Lunch

Troy Hooper
Troy Hooper

Q&A with Troy Hooper, CEO of Pepper LunchHave you heard that sound of something sizzling in the industry too?! It’s the hot concept that is taking the fast-casual restaurant franchising market by surprise and exploding in the US.

Pepper Lunch restaurants, the DIY Teppanyaki brand that coined the phrase, Experiential Fast-Casual is making a lot of noise since it launched its offering just 9 months ago. Boasting a low labor, no skilled labor, no in-house prep operating model, Pepper Lunch stands out not just for its quality ingredients, unexpected bold flavors, and its crowd-pleasing sizzling hot plate experience, but it also is amazing franchising prospects with its industry-leading financial performance results.

RestaurantNews.com checks in with Troy Hooper, CEO of Pepper Lunch, about the brand’s success and future.

What’s the latest on growth at Pepper Lunch?

The brand founded in Tokyo 30 years ago this year has grown steadily throughout Asia since its launch, consistently opening 5 stores a month for years, and is now experiencing sharp growth in US through several large multi-unit franchise partnerships. Since last July, Pepper Lunch has sold 45 stores in Arizona, Hawaii, Florida, Utah, and Washington with another 30+ in the pipeline to close in the first half of this year. Each franchisee is currently in multiple lease negotiations, with two stores already in planning and permitting phase. The brand expects to open 5 units this year, including a flagship corporate store in Los Angeles, and is on a trajectory of opening 25 more in 2025, and more than 50 in 2026.

Q&A with Troy Hooper, CEO of Pepper Lunch

What’s coming up on the menu?

Pepper Lunch will launch its very first corporate LTO in May, Yakiniku Cut Steak. A sushi-grade style sliced steak that will delight guests with a supple bite and rich flavor. The brand has never launched a company led LTO in the states until now and plans to roll out three total this year.

What’s trending and exciting?

The brand has many exciting projects it is undertaking this year from installing a whole new technology stack, converting to a hospitality host model guiding guests through a kiosk ordering platform, opening its new prototype stores with an all new off-premise program, to hiring industry veterans to enact many internal process and systems expansions allowing the brand to provide world-class franchisee support.

What are your plans for the future?

Pepper Lunch has lots of room to grow in the US and will remain focused on its quality of execution and operational efficiency. It plans to begin offering franchise territories in Canada next year. They have their sites on a new country in the western hemisphere to begin being developed starting in 2026.

What makes the Pepper Lunch franchise opportunity attractive?

Pepper Lunch seeks to partner with existing or otherwise highly qualified multi-unit operators who see the incredible opportunity that owning a territory with this brand offers. Franchisees enjoy the fact that locations can serve upwards of 600+ covers per day with as few as 3-5 employees on any given shift, that those team members don’t need to have any culinary skill or kitchen experience, and further that there is no in-house prep required to execute this superior quality concept. As Asian cuisine remains the fastest growing genre in the US for the last three years, and there appears to be no sign of the adoption of Asian culture among the youth of America slowing, Pepper Lunch is poised to be the fast-casual leader in this trend for many years.

Pepper Lunch has been in North America for 7 years across three states, one territory, and Canada. It has served Western diners in Australia for more than 15 years. The brand is poised to enjoy sustained rapid growth for many years and is backed by not only one of the largest private equity firms in the world, but is led by a who’s who of industry experts in the US who are maniacally focused on the success of their franchisees businesses.

To learn more about Pepper Lunch, please visit PepperLunchRestaurants.com. For franchise information, please visit PepperLunchRestaurants.com/franchise.

Q&A with Troy Hooper, CEO of Pepper Lunch