Business Matters: L&L Hawaiian Barbecue keeps success in the family

Business Matters

If you live in the islands, there’s a good chance you’ve eaten at L&L Hawaiian Barbecue.

These days, you don’t even need to live here to enjoy the restaurant’s ono local dishes.

While Eddie Flores has been the face of L&L for decades, his daughter, Elisia, is helping to lead the restaurant’s charge into the future.

At a time when so many other restaurants are closing their doors for good, L&L is not only thriving, but expanding.

Its success is thanks largely to Flores, who literally set the table for success — a fact that’s not lost on his daughter.

“He is to me the epitome of an entrepreneur. L&L started with just one store. Today, we’re up to almost 200 stores, 13 states, a couple of countries. It’s really amazing what he’s been able to do, how much energy he has for it,” said Elisia Flores.

Now, she is taking the reigns of the family business, which makes total sense since she and her sister grew up in the restaurant.

“My dad would use us as models for his print ads. I guess he didn’t want to pay for anyone,” Elisia Flores said with a laugh. “So my sister and I would be eating food for pictures and we spent a lot of time in L&L. To me, it’s like an older sibling.”

Elisia Flores spent so much time in the family business, she always assumed it would be the perfect career path.

“Then my dad sent me to the mainland for school and work. He really wanted me to work for somebody else, and there I got to see more of what the world has the offer,” she said.

It was during that period the business started to boom and, with degree in hand, Elisia Flores decided it was time.

“L&L has been in my family my whole life. It made sense to come home and made sense for me to come and contribute,” she said. “I’m so happy to be back in Hawaii and working for L&L.”

Today she’s helping to lead the charge, and as it turns out, her family’s secret to success is not much of a secret at all.

“I think for us, our secret to success is sticking to the tried and true, offering the customer that value and taste they have come to expect, and we’re just so fortunate they keep coming back to us,” she said. “Since the beginning, we’ve offered great value to the customer. The plate lunch is at least a pound or so, and it’s also just really, really great food. Our chicken katsu, barbecue chicken, just great flavors. We’re really consistent with that and I think our customers just love it and always come back to us for it.”

Today those customers are in Washington state and Texas, even as far away as Florida and Japan.

And of course, there’s Hawaii’s Ninth Island.

“Vegas is nonstop. It’s continuing to grow. I guess just like it is in Hawaii, people love their food there, so we’re very fortunate,” Elisia Flores said. “It’s so amazing that we have people who will drive three or four hours to make a grand opening, and they’ll stay there and drive home with 10 plate lunches.”

As a testament to the family success and recipes, she says L&L is still her favorite place to eat.

“I never get tired of it. I could eat chicken katsu every day,” she said.

Of the nearly 200 L&L restaurants, the Flores family now only owns two of them: the flagship store in Walmart on Keeaumoku Street and the one at the Airport Trade Center.

The rest are franchises.

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