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February 25, 2019

Poi Dog Philly

During episode 8 of the Small Business Saturday Philadelphia podcast, we sat down with Chris Vacca and Kiki Aranita, co-owners of Poi Dog Philly.

Chris and Kiki never imagined that they would end up in the restaurant and food cart industries. They met when were both pursuing their PhDs in classics at Bryn Mawr College. An opportunity arose for them on a path other than academia when they discovered a food cart for sale on Temple University’s campus. They purchased the food cart and gave it the name “Poi Dog,” which is Hawaiian Pidgin for “Mutt.” About a year ago, they expanded their business to a brick and mortar restaurant of the same name.

Poi Dog Philly - Food Card

Poi Dog Philly’s food cart and catering business are separate from their physical restaurant business. When they acquired the food cart, Kiki and Chris took classes at the Wharton School of Business for small business development so that they could learn the ropes of running a successful small business. Kiki stems from Hawaiian and Hong Kong roots and Chris was familiar with a few different Hawaiian dishes, so they decided to serve local Hawaiian-style dishes, plate lunches, and snacks. Poi Dogs menu started small, allowing Kiki and Chris to master the Poi Dog classics before growing their menu.

Poi Dog Philly - Restaurant

Poi Dog Philly is the only restaurant in Philadelphia that offers Hawaiian local food. There is a big difference between local Hawaiian food and Hawaiian food. Local Hawaiian food is more of a mashup of different foods from all of the cultures that migrated to Hawaii. The most common local food in Hawaii is the plate lunches, which is the majority of what Poi Dog offers. Poi Dog also serves Poke, a crowd favorite. All of the Poke at Poi Dog is unique because it is served with salt and seaweed directly from Hawaii. Kiki sources the ingredients from Hawaii herself.

Poi Dog Philly - Poke

Catering and events is also a big part of Poi Dog Philly’s business model. Poi Dog participates in a number of food cart events in and around Philadelphia such as Night Market and Clover Market. Poi Dog also offers event catering – they cater everything from weddings and school events to major corporate events like Forbes’ 30 under 30.

Kiki and Chris still involve education in their business. They teach a number of cooking classes and other free classes throughout the year. They believe strongly in giving back to their community through learning and education.

Listen to Chris, Kiki, and Poi Dog Philly’s’ full story on episode 8 of the Small Business Saturday Philadelphia Podcast. You can follow Poi Dog Philly on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Visit their website for more information on Poi Dog Philly including menus, press coverage, and more.

Poi Dog Philly - Owners

Make sure you are following us on Facebook and Instagram to stay up-to-date on the Small Business Saturday Project. Subscribe to our YouTube channel where you can find all of our past and future SBS episodes. You can listen to our podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Anchor.fm, Google Podcasts, and RadioPublic.

For more information about Poi Dog Philly, you can reach Kiki and Chris at the information below!

Restaurant Location – 100.5 South 21st Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103

Phone – (215) 279-7015

Contact – Contact Kiki and Chris using their contact page

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