L&L plate lunchery says aloha to Aotearoa


POSTED: Thursday, February 19, 2009

L&L Hawaiian Barbecue opens today in New Zealand, which is also known as Aotearoa.

The franchise owners are Steve Satofu-Asuega and Jeff Weinfurter, who are both based in California, though Satofu-Asuega is originally from New Zealand.




On the Net:

        » www.hawaiianbarbecue.com

Satofu-Asuega will be on-site, managing the restaurant for the time being, said Eddie Flores, L&L president and chief executive officer.

“;I was just up there about four months ago to look for locations,”; he said.

The new restaurant, “;almost double the size of a regular L&L,”; is in Otahuhu, a suburb of Auckland about half an hour's drive from the city.

It can seat up to 60 customers, Flores said.

Weinfurter “;is a venture capitalist who owns a whole bunch of businesses,”; including fishing boats in Hong Kong, “;and is very excited about this,”; Flores said.

Franchisees are required to undergo rigorous training, including chicken-chopping a la L&L. Weinfurter and Satofu-Asuega sent a crew of three to Honolulu for the schooling.

The chicken-chopping tutelage once resulted in injury for an NFL player-franchisee, but Flores gave no indication anybody wound up on the disabled list this time.

There are as many as 7 million people in New Zealand. Of those, about 4 million are Polynesian, and the demographic bodes well for the chain's success, Flores said.

Tastes in New Zealand and Hawaii differ, however, so the Otahuhu L&L will serve some locally geared dishes including barbecued lamb and corned beef dishes unlikely to be found at the more than 180 L&L's in Hawaii and on the mainland.

The L&L in American Samoa has encountered some supply chain challenges and “;even to buy chicken, sometimes they have to buy from the supermarket,”; Flores said.

He anticipates no such troubles for the New Zealand store.

It will source its food and other needs locally, spreading commerce to other local businesses that produce everything from cups to T-shirts, “;everything,”; Flores said.

Flores' first trip to New Zealand was 30 years ago and demographics have changed significantly since then, “;so that's why I feel very confident it can work.”;

The company's plans to expand to Australia hinge on success in New Zealand, where Weinfurter and Satofu-Asuega hope to build several stores.

“;But it's the first one that counts,”; Flores said. “;If it doesn't, we're done.”;

Meanwhile, the chain is preparing for its annual Hawaii corned beef musubi eating contest, which offers a grand prize of $1,000. Contestants can enter online or by calling 955-9888.


Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Reach her by e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).