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L&L Hawaiian Barbeque opens first international franchise

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, (Samoa News, June 23, 2008) - The local franchise of L&L Hawaiian Barbecue held a two-day grand opening on Friday and Saturday but without any of the usual fanfare of ribbon cutting and guest speakers.

Instead the restaurant chain opted for a low-key event giving out free t-shirts to the first 100 customers on both days with live radio broadcasts by KSBS-FM on Friday and 93KHJ on Saturday.

"It has been a great experience for us and we are happy with the turnout since we opened last month," said Christopher Rogers, president of Dahrma Enterprise, owner of the local franchise. "In other words, things are going great for us."

"When the restaurant first opened, it was extremely busy, but things have leveled out to a normal flow of customers," said Rogers in an interview on Saturday. He said the company has a local workforce of 23, which includes managers and supervisors.

Local residents who have lived or visited Hawai΄i are familiar with L&L’s menu and one of their fantastic food items on the menu is the chicken katsu plate with rice and/or macaroni salad.

“A majority of our customers says our chicken katsu really does taste the same as the ones in Hawai΄i,” said Rogers. "Customers are also happy with the food portions in our plate menu, saying the food portions fit perfect with our prices."

Late last month L&L’s corporate office in Hawai’i launched the ‘matai plate,’ or chiefly plate, which is a three pound lunch plate to celebrate the opening of its first international locale, American Samoa. It was served not only here but also at L&L’s 52 locations in Hawai΄i.

The matai plate lunch consists of three scoops of rice, two scoops of macaroni salad and a choice of barbecued beef, chicken or chicken katsu.

The supersized lunch plate is quite popular and "fits well for a Samoan appetite," said Rogers, who also noted that another lunch plate introduced along with the matai plate, is the "manini plate" fit for customers such as children, light eaters or people who want to satisfy that urge for Hawaiian- style katsu.

Because alot of rice is used by the restaurant for its menu, one wonders how the rice shortage affected operations and customers. Michelle Tagovailoa, the restaurant on-duty manager on Saturday, told Samoa News that rice was substituted with bananas.

"We have since received our shipment of rice but we have customers who prefer a scoop of rice and banana, instead of just rice. And we cater to our customer’s wishes," she said as customers starting coming in. "We will continue to use bananas as a choice by customers."

She also gave Samoa News a peek at a ‘matai plate’ ordered by a customer, who kept saying that food portions in the plate are "huge." If you have a chiefly appetite, the matai plate will certainly fill your royal hunger.

Besides walk in customers, L&L was also busy on Saturday with a new service -- "phone in" orders. Tagovailoa said this is very popular for customers who are company employees that do not want to stand in line and wait for their orders. Instead the orders are phoned in ahead of time for pickup later.

The restaurant is open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and plans to very soon serve breakfast.

L&L is part of a chain of nearly 200 restaurants in Hawai΄i, the U.S. mainland (including New York) and now American Samoa. Their next international location is set for later this year in New Zealand.

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