Ala Moana Romano's will be fine, owner says
DALLAS-BASED Brinker International Inc. announced last week it was looking to sell its Romano's Macaroni Grill brand, which the Dallas Morning News called "troubled."
Brinker has received inquiries from the corporate equivalent of a number of gentleman callers since the announcement.
Hawaii's Romano's Macaroni Grill, at Ala Moana Center, is owned by Randy Schoch, former Hawaii resident and regular returnee. In fact, Schoch returned to his Arizona home base last week after more than seven weeks in the islands.
A sale would likely have no impact on his operation, he said.
His 8,300 square-foot, 322-seat Romano's is "the No. 1 restaurant in the company, in sales."
That is also true for many national chains' Hawaii locations and word gets around, hence the desire of other chains to expand here.
While Schoch did not disclose annual revenue at the Ala Moana Romano's, he told the Star-Bulletin in 2005 that the chain's top-revenue generator was in Puerto Rico, with $7.2 million in annual sales. The average Romano's, or Mac Grill, as Brinker calls it for short, earned $4 million at the time. Of the 241 Romano's, 217 are Brinker-owned.
"We've got a long, 30-year franchise agreement," with a commitment to build four more Romano's in Hawaii.
He is in no rush, as his Desert Island Restaurants Inc. has opened two new Ruth's Chris Steakhouse locations in 18 months and he would like to "let the paint dry" before jumping into another Hawaii build-out. Nevertheless, he is monitoring the construction and real estate sectors here for the right opportunities and timing.
WHILE Schoch has brought mainland restaurant concepts to Hawaii, he also has developed Hawaii-inspired restaurants for the mainland.
Thaifoon, a sort of mainland-ified Asian concept, is one. The newer one, Ling & Louie's, was also spurred by Schoch's younger days in Hawaii. He describes it as a combination of Hee Hing, Keo's, Roy's, Alan Wong's and maybe P.F. Chang's, which is here now, but it wasn't when he was a 19-year old busboy at the old Bistro on Kapiolani Boulevard.
Ling & Louie's is an "$8 to $10 on the plate deal," meaning dishes aren't served family style but include rice and veggies.
Ling & Louie's is Schoch's entrée into becoming a franchiser.
The second company-owned store will open in Scottsdale, Ariz., in November, but he has signed franchisees in Denver, Dallas and Florida.
You might get a kick out of the name of one of its menu items, but first you have to understand that on the mainland, ahi is called ahi tuna. Not to be confused with another type of ahi, perhaps. It "bugs" Schoch, but whaddayagonnado?
Ling & Louie's seared ahi is called "Black Orchid Ahi Tuna," named after the hot restaurant and nightspot at Restaurant Row Schoch and a partner opened in 1988.
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4747, 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: email@example.com