Romano’s to open in Waikoloa
Downturn schmownturn. Randy Schoch announced yesterday he is expanding Romano's Macaroni Grill to Waikoloa Land Co.'s
Queen's MarketPlace, where it will open in November.
The news will be welcome to Big Islanders who have endured years of torture, seeing Romano's commercials with no easy way to taste the food. Other islands and another spot on Oahu may also get that relief, but no deals are signed yet.
The restaurant will be about 7,500 square feet, with a third of the seating area for 280 guests to be on outdoor patios. Schoch plans to hire 150 employees.
After his announcement, publicist Elissa Josephsohn surprised Schoch with a proclamation from Big Island Mayor Harry Kim. It welcomed development of the restaurant and the hiring of Big Island employees -- and encouraged Schoch to plumb the depths of the local agriculture industry for purveyors.
Several of Shoch's Honolulu employees have expressed interest in relocating for the new operation, but most of the staff will be from the Big Island, he said. The new Romano's will be a neighbor to Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar in the Waikoloa Beach Resort, opened by chef-owner DK Kodama in February.
Waikoloa Land President Tom Rohr has been "trying to make a deal with (Schoch) for 30 years," and believes Romano's will be perfect for families who live on and visit the Big Island, he said.
The long-sought arrangement was brokered by Nathan Fong, vice president of Oahu-based Colliers Monroe Friedlander.
Schoch, a busboy-turned restaurateur, began his news conference by saying we should not buy in to desperation, gloom or doom because of economic news.
While restaurant corporations nationally are seeing a downturn, with some stock prices down 45 to 75 percent and comparable sales down 10 to 20 percent, "We have not experienced anything like that ... which is why you should be optimistic about Hawaii," he said.
Desert Island Restaurants LLC, Schoch's Arizona-based, multi-state, multi-concept, multi-unit restaurant business, does about $40 million in gross revenues and experienced 9.37 percent year-over-year growth.
Only the second franchisee in the history of Romano's Macaroni Grill, Schoch rakes in about $1,000 per square foot at his Ala Moana store, which is the top producer in the more than 220-store chain.
Hawaii is home to many mainland chains' top producers, which capitalize on the visitor industry. However, Schoch said the clientele at the Ala Moana Romano's is 95 percent local.
Romano's parent Brinker International Inc. plans to spin off the chain, but that will have no effect on his 30-year, 5-restaurant development agreement, he said.
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