founder Higa dies
'Visionary' Francis Higa,By Crystal Kua
62, and his brother Charles opened
the first Zippy's in 1966
Called a visionary in the local fast-food restaurant industry, the man who helped turn chili, chicken and Zip Pacs into island staples is dead.
Francis Higa, co-founder of Zippy's, died yesterday at the age of 62, a company official said.
"All of our people within the organization are deeply saddened by the loss of our president and chief executive officer, Francis Higa," Zippy's vice president of operations, Miles Furuta, said.
Furuta declined to release details of Higa's death, saying that Higa was always a private man, shying away from press interviews.
"He was always our inspirational leader, a visionary with great ideas, with the courage and the determination to make them come true," Furuta said.
"We have indeed been fortunate to have shared in his dreams and been a part of his life," he said. "I think those of us who knew him will miss him a lot."
Francis Higa and his brother Charles opened the first Zippy's in 1966 in McCully with a 24-hour drive-in and saimin lanai open at night, serving the typical fast-food selections.
The Higa family had been in the wholesale meat business here.
Zippy's (the name came from "Zip code") grew to five locations in 1973, seven in 1975 and 11 in 1984. Furuta said there are now 21 Zippy's locations.
Zippy's also houses Napoleon Bakeries and Osaka Okazuya.
Zippy's food, convenient locations, 24-hour service and low prices have been credited for the chain's popularity.
The company has more than 1,800 employees and more than 200 menu items.
The restaurant is best known for its chili and chicken.
The menu at Zippy's has changed with the times, even expanding during tough economic times.
In recent years the restaurant focused on healthier foods, like salads and pastas, even offering a vegetarian version of its famous chili.
Zippy's also has its own catering company, The Catering Experience, and provides banquet space and services.