Plate lunchery makes greater impact in national limelight
The local restaurant business initially purchased to keep a mom busy has kicked it up a few notches -- nationally.
L&L moves up in R&I
L&L rankings among top 400 chains
Source: Restaurants & Institutions magazine
is what we call it here, but under its mainland moniker, L&L Hawaiian Barbecue's sales have moved it up to No. 263 from 275 among the Top 400 chain restaurants in Restaurants & Institutions magazine, an industry publication.
"We are very proud of our growth in the last three or four years," said L&L co-founder Eddie Flores.
All chains told, R&I reports that 2007 sales were up 5.4 percent from 2006, while 2006 sales increased 6.8 percent over 2005.
Chains still grew in 2007, but at a slower rate, down to just under 2 percent from just under 4 percent a year earlier.
The economy, higher fuel costs and soaring food costs have slathered the industry with a broad brush.
L&L has continued its growth, not just on the mainland in unexpected locations such as Texas, but has opened in American Samoa and plans openings in New Zealand and Japan, though no deals are yet signed for the latter, said Flores.
A real estate guy before he became a restaurateur, Flores does not believe the entire nation is in a recession, but he sees it happening in certain regions -- such as Northern California.
"Stockton and Sacramento are too overbuilt," he said. "In Sacramento, every three miles there's a shopping center popping up." When times get bad, "we expect to see a lot of closures."
A dozen L&Ls in the region may be too many, he said.
Citing Starbucks as one example, several franchises have closed hundreds of locations and NorCal has been hard hit, Flores said.
"When times are bad, you just tighten your belt, but we're not really doing that bad," he said.
L&L is not immune from the rising food and fuel costs that have affected the industry.
"At one time we cannot even buy rice," he said. "I've never seen anything like this before ... we've been hit by a double-whammo."
There is a silver lining, though.
"I'm very good at forecasting real estate," he said. The closures that have already occurred and those that have yet to occur will create opportunities for L&L and other chains.
"When a restaurant closes down, you can pick up a good location at very little cost." He's watching for opportunities.
Three or four years ago, it was very difficult to get into a good shopping center," but that will soon change.
Whether L&L will show growth again on next year's R&I list is "hard to say, for sure," Flores said, "but by next year we should have a better gauge on the economy."
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: firstname.lastname@example.org