Erika Engle

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Moose’s sister Fred
is coming to Hawaii

A sister-restaurant concept of Moose McGillicuddy's, called Fred's Mexican Cafe, is Hawaii-bound.

Parent company Moose Inc. is looking in Waikiki and on Maui for a possible location, according to general partner George Watson.

Fred's differs from Moose's in that it is not a nightclub with a dance floor that also serves food.

"It's a 'Cheer's' set-up, with a central bar where food is very, very important. It's more like a pub ... a hangout place with food served til midnight," Watson said.

He calls the food "Authentic San Diego-style Mexican food," and "clean Mexican food," for lunch, dinner and late-night dining.

The Fred's in Huntington Beach, one of four in California, is frequented by body-builders intent on eating healthy types of protein such as fresh chicken, steak "and no mystery meat," Watson said. "One of our symbols is a circle around a cat and a dog (with a line through them)," he laughed.

While a bit tongue-in-cheek, Watson said the no-mystery-meat reference means the restaurant doesn't use lower-grade cuts of poultry or beef.

As much as Fred's focuses on food, a signature feature of its California locations is a selection of more than 50 types of tequila.

"When a customer has completed all 50 -- and we don't let them do it in the same night --we send them to Cabo San Lucas." The company is exploring the possibility of setting up a similar program in Hawaii.

Compadres has long prided itself on having Hawaii's largest selection of tequila. "Whatever is available on the market, I have it here," said General Manager John Langan. "I probably had 80 different labels at one point."

Because of an explosion in the popularity of tequila and the eight to 10 years required to mature the agave from which it is derived, supplies have dwindled, Langan said.

Some brands "dropped off the face of the earth," or just became unavailable in Hawaii due to distillers' or distributors' allocations, he said.

Whether it's 50 or 80 tequilas, the 20-year old Compadres has a friendly attitude toward Fred's.

"I welcome it. It opens up the market to more people sharing in the wonderful experience of drinking tequila," said Langan.

Establishing a successful restaurant in Waikiki can be an expensive challenge, according to Bill Puchert, past chairman of the Hawaii Restaurant Association.

"Obviously, because the property value in Waikiki is extremely high, you have to have a very good niche, a very good concept, and a high check average."

"For example, Spaghetti Factory looked into sites in Waikiki. The way we make money, we have to do volume, because our menu prices are so reasonable." The prices would have to increase dramatically in order to cover Waikiki real estate costs, said Puchert, who is also senior general manager of The Old Spaghetti Factory. It has been at the Ward Warehouse since 1978.

For the Fred's concept, "if they can get themselves a good lease, that would be the key. When you work out the numbers, what the check average would be, if they can make the numbers work out, then they can do it."

Moose Inc. is headquartered in both Hawaii and San Diego.

It is a debt-free private company with no shareholder pressure insisting on 10 new locations in five years.

The first Moose McGilli-cuddy's opened in Waikiki in 1980, got a sister restaurant at Puck's Alley and by 1983 another Moose's opened in Lahaina. The University area Moose's was sold seven years ago.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at:


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