Erika Engle

Thursday, July 29, 2004

L&L awaits big turnout
at opening of 100th restaurant

THE 100th L&L-branded restaurant is to open next week in Union City, Calif. Waipahu High School graduate and San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Jerome Williams is a part-owner of the store, according to L&L co-founder Eddie Flores.

"He's going to be our spokesperson," Flores said.

There are plans for a personal appearance and autograph signing for opening ceremonies.

Wherever there is a large Hawaii ex-pat population the restaurants tend to do well. The draw of a professional athlete could ratchet that up, at least for the opening.

Flores didn't expect a huge turnout for the opening of its first Colorado location as the company never advertises until a new store has been open at least a week. There was uncertainty about the Denver area, because "we don't have a lot of Hawaiian transplants. We didn't do anything.

"When we opened the first day at 2 p.m. Tuesday afternoon there were about 50 to 100 (Hawaii people) waiting outside," he said. "My conclusion is that our base is getting bigger."

It is hardly L&L's first brush with professional athletes.

Denver Broncos and Hawaii ex-pats Ashley Lelie and Jason Elam -- at 6 feet 3 inches, 5 feet 11 inches, respectively, and both at 200 lbs. -- were among the first diners at the Aurora City Place L&L, run by franchisee and Punahou grad Sai Yamagata.

In Hawaii the quick-service restaurants are known as L&L Drive-Inn, but they are called L&L Hawaiian Barbecue on the mainland. The one exception is the Waikiki L&L, branded as Hawaiian Barbecue for visitors who might recognize the mainland name.

One former Hawaii resident, in an e-mail to the company, claimed to cry when seeing the L&L Hawaiian Barbecue open in Colorado.

"I can finally eat chicken katsu again!" the e-mail said, according to Josie Akana, director of marketing for L&L.

L&L No. 99 is opening today at the Windsor Park Shopping Center in Provo, Utah. The franchisees are Seattle Seahawk and Kahuku High School graduate Itula Mili, former Seahawk Dustin Johnson and former Carolina Panther Spencer Reid. The trio had previously played football for Brigham Young University.

Reid told Akana of a devotee who planned to camp out to make sure he was the first one to eat at the new L&L. The strong Hawaii-Utah connection practically assures a standing-room-only crowd.

It was thought that store No. 100 might be in New York City, but that deal's not yet ready for primetime. "That won't happen until the end of September or October," said Flores.

He had previously pledged to open 52 stores this year and with 27 openings so far, the company is on track to meet that goal.

"We should have 180 by the end of next year," Flores said.

Ho, McDonald's better watch out, eh?

"Oh, they'd eat me alive," Flores chuckled.

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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