The Main Course: Franchising 2.0 with Don Kwon

Franchising is a common part of the restaurant business, as it allows more people to access the establishment worldwide. Some restaurants stay in specific markets while others grow to become part of a landscape featuring other ubiquitous household names. But franchising is not always easy; it takes careful planning and work. What do some restaurants do to ensure a successful transition from small to widespread?


On this episode of The Main Course, host Barbara Castiglia talked with Don Kwon, CEO (and longtime fan) of Cupbop, a restaurant that started as a food truck in Salt Lake City, Utah. “The Cupbop concept, in a nutshell, would be Korean barbecue in a cup,” says Kwon. “Every cup, we have rice, cabbage, sweet potato noodles, and the protein of the customer’s choice with our special sauce ranging from spice level one to ten.” The restaurant franchise now has forty-seven stores in the USA (mainly in the Midwest and South); they have one-hundred and sixty stores in Indonesia alone.


The main topics in this episode include:

-The importance of mainstream exposure for an emerging restaurant.

-What makes Cupbop simple to the franchise.

-How to maintain quality when growing worldwide.


“We’ve grown from food truck to where we are, and I think the most unique thing is that we’ve been able to grow organically with our own cash flow, which hasn’t been easy,” says Kwon, “but I think that’s been a testament to kind of just the uniqueness and the resiliency of our brand, especially, you know, having to go through COVID in the recent years.” He also notes that getting on the hit TV show Shark Tank significantly helped the restaurant franchise get to where it is today. “I think on the exposure side; I think it has been absolutely helpful.”


Don Kwon worked for a hedge fund on Wall Street before becoming part of Cupbob, which began in 2013 as a food truck headed by Jung Song. The duo and their restaurant reached a national presence when Mark Cuban invested $1 million to help the franchise grow.

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