Cafe Society

Colorado-based Tokyo Joe's is a fast-food chain that needs to slow down

Fast-casual Japanese food like rice bowls, udon noodles and simple sushi rolls at cheap prices, served in a compact bistro environment that encourages come-as-you-are, quick-service dine-in or even faster carry-out: That's a golden dragon of a concept. But the unfortunate reality I saw while recently having lunch at Tokyo Joe's was a mall food-court mess of noise, confusion and litter, with food that was barely at mall-food standards. The owner/operators of Tokyo Joe's need to slow down and take stock of how and why this Colorado-based chain got so popular so fast -- or risk getting unpopular just as quickly.

Tokyo Joe's was started in 1996 by former pro-skier Larry Leith, who wanted to create a healthy, fast-food alternative by offering simplified, inexpensive, nutritious Americanized Japanese items (effectively birthing the anti-McDonald's). The first two locations in the southern suburbs were so successful that today there are 24 Tokyo Joe's stores in Colorado. And that could be at least two too many.

See also: - Best Chain - 2007: Tokyo Joe's - Tokyo Joe's has Denver turning Japanese. - At at Joe's...Tokyo Joe's

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Jenn Wohletz
Contact: Jenn Wohletz