The importance of corporate culture


KUSA – Good companies do their best to retain employees and create good experiences for them. Tokyo Joe’s, a casual Asian-inspired fast casual restaurant, based in Denver – is making a concerted effort to do just that.

The company was founded in 1996, and over the years, founder and president Larry Leith has created reward and recognition programs to maintain a culture that keeps employees.

Leith stopped by 9NEWS at 7:15 a.m. and talked about why company culture is so important.

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Rewarding Employees Gets Personal


Employee recognition has long been a staple of workplace culture. Whether it’s an “employee of the month” award, a prize for making the most sales or dinner out on the company’s dime for reaching a huge goal, rewarding your workers for their efforts can go a long way to boosting team morale and job satisfaction.

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Asian fast-casual restaurant Tokyo Joe’s headed to Frisco and Richardson in 2015



In late spring 2015, Denver-based fast-casual restaurant Tokyo Joe’s plans to open its first two stores in Texas. Five years later, the company hopes 25 Tokyo Joe’s are open in D-FW alone.


Tokyo Joe’s is an Asian restaurant that serves sushi and made-to-order rice and noodle bowls. Its first two restaurants are planned for Richardson and Frisco in April or May 2015.

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Program Gives Back to Employees

According to the National Retail Federation, parents will spend an average of $90 per
child on school supplies. With more than one child in the family, that number can
quickly rise.

To help with the cost and stress of buying school supplies, employees at Tokyo Joe’s, an
Asian-inspired fast casual restaurant, received a nice boost through Marci’s Back to
School Program, which provides basic school supplies to children ages 5-18.

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The Food Hunter’s Guide to Cuisine: Tokyo Joe’s


Please join me in welcoming fresh, Asian-inspired fast casual restaurant, Tokyo Joe’s to Arizona! Tokyo Joe’s is a brand based in Denver that believes healthy eating can be a great experience every day. Founded in 1996 by Larry Leith, the brand has grown from its original location in suburban Denver to 29 system-wide units today. At their newest location in Mesa, Arizona, I had the privilege to meet long-time Tokyo Joe’s employee, Dawn Samuel who worked for Larry as a babysitter when she was 16 and has been and an integral part of Tokyo Joe’s since its inception. Dawn will oversee the 5 locations that are set to open in Arizona over the course of the next year. 

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Ones To Watch: Tokyo Joe’s


While fast-casual giant Chipotle has grown to more than 1,000 locations in the past two decades, another fast-casual chain that also started in Denver around the same time has seen quieter growth.

Like Chipotle, the 29-unit Tokyo Joe’s serves natural meats and mostly organic veggies, focusing on health and freshness for the modern consumer.

“I had the idea to do clean, healthy Asian food this way before the fast-casual sector really existed,” says Larry Leith, Tokyo Joe’s founder and chief innovation officer. “There was one Chipotle at the time, but I didn’t know about it. I did meet [Chipotle founder] Steve [Ells] early on, but our path at Tokyo Joe’s has been a bit slower.”

In 18 years, Tokyo Joe’s has limited its growth to corporate-owned locations in Colorado. The decision to partner with middle-market private equity firm Gridiron Capital LLC and name veteran restaurant executive Greg MacDonald as CEO in 2013 positioned the concept for more rapid growth. Tokyo Joe’s management team has plans to expand the concept into several states over the next decade.

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Restaurants caught between franchising trends


It’s a tale of the haves and have nots. Many restaurant brands are finding themselves caught between two prevailing franchising trends — the availability of single-unit franchisees, which can be successful, but lead to slower growth, and the difficulty in reaching mega operators currently dominating the space, who promise speedy development.

“There doesn’t seem to be a middle class of franchisee anymore,” said Jennifer Durham, vice president of franchise development for Tampa, Fla.-based Checkers Drive-In Restaurants Inc.

“It seems like it’s either the biggest [franchisee companies] or the one-to-three-unit operators,” she said. “It gets hard for brands to compete when we’re going for the same folks, so it comes down to what your differentiation is.”
To stand out, many restaurant brands have had to get creative. Some have focused inward on unit economics of company-operated systems, to best entice partners, while others go on aggressive recruitment roadshows. Some even lower expectations on snagging that large franchisee, instead working together with smaller operators to grow the brand in a sensible dynamic.

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Good Morning Arizona: Tokyo Joe’s opens in Mesa


MESA, Ariz. — While the idea for Tokyo Joe’s originated in Arizona in the late ’80s, it was about a decade before the first location opened — in Colorado.

The popular restaurant, which grew into a Colorado chain, specializes in clean eating. The ingredients are fresh and everything is grilled or steamed. There’s nothing fried and there’s no wok cooking. What’s more, everything is made to order.

When the founder of Tokyo Joe’s decided to expand beyond Colorado, Arizona, the state where the concept for the restaurant was born, seemed like a natural choice.

The first Tokyo Joe’s outside the Rocky Mountain State is now up and running in Mesa.

1935 S. Val Vista Drive
Mesa, Arizona
Val Vista Drive & Baseline Road

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