Filipino Chinese Hawaiian BBQ chain turning 70
HONOLULU – The Filipino Chinese-owned L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, the country’s largest Hawaii-themed restaurant chain, has a reason to celebrate despite the two tough pandemic years. It is turning 70.
L&L’s more than 300 franchisees met in Waikiki last weekend for their annual convention. L&L restaurants are spread across Hawaii, California, Washington, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, Utah, Texas, New York, Tennessee, Guam, and Japan.
L&L founder Eddie Flores, 72, said many franchises survived the pandemic by offering delivery and takeout. “The good news is, this year, we expect to open up to 20 new restaurants all over United States,” Flores told Hawaii News Now.
Flores’ family moved to Hawaii from Hong Kong when he was a youth, the eldest of seven children. His musician Filipino father and Chinese mother had sixth-grade educations. The family moved to Hawaii where his father worked as a janitor and his mother a restaurant cashier and dishwasher.
Flores a learning disability and repeated grades four times in Hong Kong. But he was relentlessly entrepreneurial, working in a bank and doing real estate. In a few years, he became a millionaire and, in 1976, bought a diner that was founded in 1952, for his mother. It would eventually be the first L&L.
Today many L&L franchisees are first and second generation Asian American immigrants. They are facing the challenges of rising food prices and worker shortage. But Flores is optimistic, saying businesses just need to be innovative.