Cupbop: Here's What Happened After Shark Tank

Offering Korean barbecue food in a cup, Junghun Song launched Cupbop as a single food truck in Salt Lake City in 2013, selling four main dishes with a selection of sauces ranging from sweet to "heat." Hundreds of hungry fans, keen to experience awesome Korean recipes, lined up to be entertained by the "crazy food truck guys" as they traveled across Utah.

Korean-born Dok Kwon, a hedge fund investor and one of Cupbop's first customers, who was impressed by the concept and became friends with Song, joined the team in 2020 to help the company grow. Cupbob had been in business for about eight years by the time Song and Kwon appeared on "Shark Tank" season 13, which aired in May 2022, and had already grown into a restaurant operation with 27 brick-and-mortar stores.

The pair had grand ambitions, which included overtaking Panda Express, one of America's fastest-growing Asian restaurant chains. "Did you know there's only one Asian concept in the top 50 quick-service restaurants? There's room for more, and we are next!" Kwon told the Sharks, hoping for a tasty investment.

What happened to Cupbop on Shark Tank

Junghun Song and Dok Kwon went on "Shark Tank" asking for a $1 million investment for 3% of Cupbop, giving the company a valuation of $33.3 million. It sounded like a lot, but Cupbop's figures were impressive, with sales for that year predicted to hit $18.7 million. Cupbop sold each dish for $8 to $10, at a cost of $1.80 to $2.50, giving a gross margin of about 75%. Profits continued to grow during the COVID-19 pandemic, as Cupbop pivoted to takeout and delivery services while its restaurants were closed.

The numbers impressed the Sharks, as did Cupbop's spicy Korean barbecue beef, pork, and satisfying sweet potato noodle dishes. "Chef Wonderful" Kevin O'Leary said they'd had a lot of different food concepts on "Shark Tank," but Cupbop was "one of the best" he'd ever tried.

All five Sharks made offers. O'Leary offered Cupbop $1 million as a loan, with 10% interest over three years, for 3%. Barbara Corcoran also offered $1 million but asked for 30% of the company. Robert Herjavec offered $5 million for 28%, giving the brand an $18 million valuation. Then Lori Greiner and Corcoran said they'd join forces, offering a $1 million loan for 5%. Mark Cuban offered $1 million for 7%, saying he could help Cupbop gain a national presence. After some negotiation, the brand struck a deal with Cuban, accepting the $1 million in exchange for a 5% stake in the business.

Cupbop after Shark Tank

Junghun Song and Dok Kwon said immediately after filming the show that the investment was "a huge milestone" for Cupbop and that they "honestly could not be happier." Kwon, who had previously worked at Goldman Sachs and Citadel in New York City for almost 10 years, said in an interview with QSR Magazine that he knew what the Sharks were looking for when it came to securing the deal because he'd been "sitting in their chair as an investor before joining Cupbop."

The company continued its expansion plans, and in December 2022, the team announced more franchising efforts. "Cupbop's national growth so far has been incredible," said Kwon in a press release, adding that he wanted to "build on the momentum" and bring Cupbop's Korean food to more cities across the States.

By the end of 2022, Cupbop had 42 stores throughout the states of Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and Oklahoma, as well as over 130 locations in Indonesia, with plans to open more. However, there is currently no indication of whether the deal with Cuban went through as the business is not listed on Cuban's investment portfolio.

Is Cupbop still in business?

Cupbop is still very much in business and is continuing to open new sites at an impressive pace, reaching almost 50 stores in the U.S., and 165 stores internationally by the summer of 2023. In early 2023, according to an interview with Food On Demand, the Korean "party in a cup" chain started working with the restaurant tech platform, Qu, to manage its "aggressive growth plans."

In June 2023, Cupbop opened its first store in Roy, Utah, which saw over 2,000 diners visit on opening day, delivering the highest sales ever for the brand, as well as the "best reviews ever" (via Instagram). The business also revealed plans to open in Texas as part of its expansion, as the company celebrated its 10-year anniversary.

Cupbop's sales currently stand at around $40 million, according to the company's YouTube. The company also revealed in its interview with QSR Magazine in June 2023 that it has an average unit volume of around $1.1 million.

What's next for Cupbop?

Junghun Song and Dok Kwon have made no secret of their ambitious plans for Cupbop, before, during, and after "Shark Tank." In the QSR Magazine interview, Kwon stated that "everything Korean is cool right now." And Korean food is no exception.

Cupbop is also continuing its mission to bring cultural events to the local community. In 2022, the company founded a non-profit organization, named CB Bopsim, to support projects including equal opportunity of education. In September 2023, in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Korea-US Alliance, Cupbop will host Bopsim, Utah's largest-ever Korean festival — with food, shows, games, and K-pop dancing.

"Every day is still survival, don't get me wrong," said Kwon in an interview for Cupbop's YouTube channel to mark a decade in business, but he added that the company was "very, very confident" that it would be able to survive the next 10 years. In July 2023, Cupbop posted on Instagram that it was "excited to share what's next" for the company, with some "BIG things" coming. With a company slogan of "Take Cupbop to the moon," it looks like there are no signs of slowing down anytime soon.