The 'customer is chef' at Pepper Lunch, a growing fast casual with Japanese roots

CEO Troy Hooper describes how the concept differentiates itself in the Asian space through its authentic menu, service style and design.

Pepper Lunch currently has five restaurants in the U.S., but CEO Troy Hooper is on a mission to accelerate growth into both traditional and nontraditional spaces. The fast casual was founded by a Japanese master chef more than 30 years ago, and now counts hundreds of locations around the world.

Troy Hooper

CEO Troy Hooper

The focus of the menu is a dish called Beef Pepper Rice, a favorite meal in Japan that’s usually served lazy Susan-style in family homes. Pepper Lunch pared down this family-style dish to a personal-sized iron plate that’s uniquely designed so the food can be cooked teppanyaki-style on the plate by each guest. Hooper and his team are working on packaging that will make it possible to replicate the experience for carryout and delivery customers.

Listen as he describes how Pepper Lunch got its name, how the concept differentiates itself in the Asian fast-casual space, why the U.S. menu includes French fries and onion rings served in no other countries, and how this low-labor, low-waste model meets today’s industry challenges.

Subscribe to Menu Feed on Apple Podcasts.

Subscribe on Spotify.

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content


Veggie Grill evolves the menu to keep pace with plant-based trends

Behind the Menu: Since the fast casual’s start in 2006, many new meat and dairy alternatives have come to market and consumers’ health perceptions have changed. Veggie Grill has been forced to change too.


The Subway saga takes another turn

The Bottom Line: Just when we thought the massive deal was set to go through, the feds stepped in to have their say.


Retailers are bracing for a tough few months. Restaurateurs should heed the warning

The Bottom Line: Large retailers are concerned about a softening consumer and already see evidence that is happening. But restaurant executives seem far more optimistic.


More from our partners