Erika Engle

Hawaii to get 2 more Ruth’s
Chris restaurants

Restaurateur Randy Schoch's empire is about to expand beyond the five Romano's Macaroni Grill locations he has committed to build in Hawaii.

His Ruth's Chris Steakhouse restaurant chain in Hawaii is also going to grow from three eateries to five with new locations in Waikiki and the Big Island's Shops at Mauna Lani. The latter is under construction.

He has signed a letter of intent to build a Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in Outrigger's Beach Walk expansion, which is far from signing a lease. But "I have no doubt that we'll be able to make that deal go through," he said. Plans call for a second-floor, 5,500-square-foot restaurant to seat 160 to 180 diners for dinner only and employ up to 80 people.

Schoch is also not overly concerned that a second Oahu location will cannibalize business at his Restaurant Row location, where traffic is solidly local, at 95 percent. The Waikiki location can serve visitors who don't make it to Restaurant Row, he said.

The Waikiki Ruth's also might dent traffic at Morton's steakhouse at Ala Moana Center, turning the tables on the Chicago-based upscale restaurant. Morton's arrival in 2001 was a bit of a worry for Schoch, but 3 1/2 years later he has a different perspective. "They usually impact us in other markets, but they didn't impact us at all (here). Our sales went up," he said.

The empire expansion doesn't come cheap. Schoch estimates the total cost of developing the first Macaroni Grill at Ala Moana at $4 million.


Randy Schoch: Plans on opening several more restaurants in the islands

The average Macaroni Grill generates about $4 million a year in sales but the top-producing restaurant in the chain, in Puerto Rico, rakes in $7.2 million annually. He projects that much or more revenue for the 8,300-square-foot, 322-seat store at Ala Moana in the old J.C. Penney space on the third level, near California Pizza Kitchen and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

Macaroni Grill is owned by Dallas-based Brinker International Inc. and Schoch is its second franchisee.

The training budget for Macaroni Grill is $300,000, which includes travel and accommodations for Hawaii managers' mainland trips as well as travel and accommodations for mainland-based staff trainers in Hawaii.

He expects to hire about 175 people for the Ala Moana store, though the number may level out at 150 through attrition.

The new Ruth's Chris locations will employ 75 to 80 staffers each and will cost roughly $2 million to build, though Schoch has seen his estimates rise. "It's pure supply and demand," he said.

Schoch's Arizona-based Desert Island Restaurants employs about 400 people in Hawaii, among 650 company-wide. When the Macaroni Grill and Ruth's Chris expansions are complete, he projects he will employ nearly 2,000 people. He also owns and operates several Thaifoon restaurants in Arizona, California and Utah.

It's been 29 years since Schoch's Hawaii restaurant career started with the only job he could find -- as a busser at the Bistro on Kapiolani Boulevard. He had about three years' experience in the industry in California and had been a waiter in a fine dining restaurant, but those jobs were scarce in the islands back then.

He is well aware of the low unemployment rate in Hawaii. While he is concerned about finding enough of the right employees, he is also confident the company's growth can provide the same opportunities he found when he first arrived in the islands at age 19.

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: eengle@starbulletin.com

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