Calling itself Hawaii’s comfort food, another growing national chain — L&L Hawaiian Barbecue — is expanding into Northeast Florida.
L&L Hawaiian Barbecue intends to open mid-April in Argyle Village Shopping Center at southwest Blanding Boulevard and Interstate 295.
North Florida franchisee Jayson Chua said Jacksonville is booming and will be the first L&L franchise on the East Coast. L&L Hawaiian Barbecue is based in Honolulu.
“Opening a new restaurant brand will entice and excite a growing market,” he said.
Its specialty Hawaiian plate lunches feature two scoops of rice, macaroni salad and what it calls an aloha-infused hot entrée.
The barbecue menu includes beef and chicken bowls, cheeseburgers, pork chops and short ribs.
Among other plates, there is the “Loco Moco” of hamburger patties over rice, topped with brown gravy and two fried eggs.
Other classics are Spam Musubi (Spam and rice wrapped in seaweed) and Spam Saimin (noodle soup).
He plans to open four locations over four years, with other possible sites in Southside, St. Augustine and Gainesville.
Each will employ a staff of eight to 10. Hours are 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Site plans at landlord Weingarten Realty’s website show L&L Hawaiian Barbecue in 1,608 square feet next to Five Below. The center is anchored by Publix Super Markets Inc.
To prepare, a $100,000 build-out is in city review for the 30-seat restaurant.
Jayson and Katrina Chua are directors of franchise holder ATOZ International Inc. in Ponte Vedra. She will manage the restaurant.
The Hawaiianbarbecue.com website says in its early years, the chain of drive-in restaurants built a reputation for serving fresh plate lunches throughout the Hawaiian Islands. It was established in 1976, according to its logo.
In late 1999, founders Johnson Kam and Eddie Flores Jr. introduced their Asian and American fusion take on the plate lunch to California.
That has expanded to almost 200 locations in 11 states, Guam and Japan.
Chua said his investment will be $220,000 to $260,000 per store depending on the size. L&L requires a minimum of 1,200 square feet for dining.
L&L Hawaiian Barbecue joins a number of new chains expected to enter the Northeast Florida market this year, such as Fogo de Chao Brazilian Steakhouse, the Chuy’s Tex-Mex restaurant; Taziki’s Mediterranean Café and Philippines-based Jollibee.
The influx of new chains doesn’t surprise Heritage Capital Group President C. Donald Wiggins.
Wiggins said Jacksonville is growing and, he suspects, reflective of the U.S. market as a whole.
“It’s an attractive market, not as exploited and not as competitive as other markets,” he said, which chains might consider a good risk.
Jacksonville-based Heritage Capital Group is an investment banking and financial advisory firm that serves middle-market and emerging growth companies.
The group works with clients to buy, sell and grow their companies, develop strategies and solve problems. From that focus, Wiggins and his team study market trends and conditions.
Wiggins said Tampa and Jacksonville both reflect the demographics of the country. “I am sure Jacksonville is somewhere in the middle, so they view it as a good test market” for a lot of different tastes and concepts, he said.