Utah’s Cupbop struck a deal with Mark Cuban on ‘Shark Tank.’ Here’s what happened
The Korean BBQ was too spicy for Mark Cuban’s liking — but that didn’t keep him from striking a deal with Cupbop
The Korean BBQ was too spicy for Mark Cuban’s liking — but that didn’t keep him from striking a deal with Cupbop.
Utah’s Cupbop recently went on ‘Shark Tank’
The Utah-based restaurant, which began as a food truck in 2013, recently appeared on “Shark Tank” and impressed all of the investors with its food — businessman Kevin O’Leary said the mix of sweet potato noodles, beef and spicy pork was one of the best food concepts he’d ever tried on the show.
And Cupbop owners Jung Song and Dok Kwon had the numbers to back it up.
Before the pandemic, they told the five “Shark Tank” investors, Cupbop brought in less than $10 million, according to CNBC. Most recently, over a 12-month period, Cupbop generated $18.7 million in revenue.
“And during a COVID year, when people were not going out to restaurants,” Lori Greiner said in amazement. “So how did you do that?”
Kwon, who left an investment banking career in New York to work for Cupbop, told the investors that like all restaurants, Cupbop had to shut down dining during the pandemic and rely on takeout and delivery. But through that effort, the restaurant’s same store sales went up 9% during the pandemic.
“So that worked better for you, actually?” Greiner said.
The pair then shared some of their background with the investors — Kwon was an early customer of Cupbop, when it first operated as a single food truck at Salt Lake City’s Gallivan Center.
“I would’ve never expected that I’d get involved with food,” he previously told KSL. “But this is probably the only food that I ever would’ve gotten involved with.”
And then the bidding war commenced.
Song and Kwon’s pitch: 3% of the company for $1 million.
The “Shark Tank” investors countered with a number of offers: O’Leary said he’d take the 3% equity and give Cupbop a $1 million loan with 10% interest over three years; Barbara Corcoran offered $1 million for 30% of the company; Robert Herjavec pitched $5 million for a 28% stake in the company; and Greiner offered $1 million with 8% interest and a 5% stake.
Through it all, Cuban was surprisingly quiet.
“Mark, what are you doing?” Herjavec asked after everyone else had put their offers on the table.
“I love the business. I love the product,” Cuban responded. “I love the fact that you can make it a healthy alternative. But what I’m hearing, and tell me if I’m wrong, you’ve got the operations down but you need someone to propel you in terms of marketing and PR.”
“That’s exactly right,” Kwon said.
“Just to be able to have a national presence, so when people talk about Cupbop, then people say, ‘Yeah, I know it,’ and I think I can provide that better than anybody,” continued Cuban, who owns the Dallas Mavericks. “Because I do have that national platform and I can get word out there better.”
And then Cuban made his offer: $1 million for a 7% stake in the company.
“And my commitment is, though, I can help you just scale this thing in terms of visibility and PR,” he said.
It was that last deal that appealed to Song and Kwon the most. After a little back and forth, the pair and Cuban ultimately settled on a $1 million loan with a 5% stake in the company.
“America is truly the land of opportunity,” Kwon said immediately after making the deal, according to CNBC. “It’s a huge milestone for us, so I could honestly not be happier.”
“My dream with Cupbop has always been to take it to the moon,” Song previously told KSL. “We want everyone in the universe to try Cupbop.”
What’s next for Cupbop?
Since Cupbop’s appearance last week on “Shark Tank,” the restaurant has received thousands of emails and messages, and generated attention on Divvy billboards, according to its Facebook page.
The company also recently celebrated its ninth anniversary, selling over 36,000 bowls. Following “Shark Tank,” Cupbop is now focusing on its U.S. expansion, according to KSL.
“Thank you. UTAH !!!!” the company wrote on Facebook. “This is a miracle that started with a little tiny trailer. This company, born in UT and being loved in a few other states including ID, NV, CO, AZ, and OK, doesn’t exist without you. All of your hearts raised our brand this far.”