Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine has long been a favorite of restaurant goers in the U.S. Now, find out how the company is rebranding to offer unified aloha service.
I think the majority of our readers will recognize the Hawaiian term “ohana” from the 2002 Disney movie Lilo and Stitch. The term translates to “family” in English, but it doesn’t just mean your blood relative.
The concept emphasizes that families—both family and friends that are like family—are bound together. For Roy’s Restaurants, “ohana” is apparent in every single diner experience.
The group of restaurants sees all of its employees and its customers as family.
“It’s always been our philosophy,” said Mario Cernadas, COO. “We treat each other as family members, and that reflects in how we treat our guests. Just as we welcome our family members into our homes, we welcome diners to Roy’s.
“I’ve been in this industry for over 35 years, and I’m still blown away by some of the strong relationships that exist between our customers and servers or bartenders. There’s nothing else like it out there.”
With 27 restaurants in Hawaii and on the mainland, Roy’s Restaurants are the namesake and creation of revered chef and James Beard Award winner Roy Yamaguchi. The first Roy’s Restaurant was opened in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1988.
People from all over have tried and loved the cuisine at these restaurants, though recently the company found that there was some confusion in the branding. The brand was bought from Bloomin’ Brands, Inc. by United Ohana in early 2015.
Get to Know Chef Roy
Chef Roy is best known as one of the founding members of the Hawaii Regional Cuisine movement, which brings pacific rim flavors and traditions to a wider audience.
The chef was born in Tokyo. He moved to New York to attend the Culinary Institute of America at age 19. After several years of experience on the mainland, he opened his first Roy’s Restaurants’ location in Hawaii in 1988 and hasn’t looked back since.
He was awarded the James Beard “Best Pacific Northwest Chef” Award in 1993, and has since gone on to claim the title of California Chef of the Year, a spot on the Top 50 Cuisines in America, a place in the Fine Dining Hall of Fame, and the John Heckathorn Dining Excellence Award
New Ownership, Same Service
The first thing Sunil Dharod, founder of United Ohana, did with Roy’s Restaurant was hire Plan B, Inc. to research the industry and brand and instigate consistency with the menu, ambiance, logo, and other components across all locations.
Roy’s Seafood, Steak, and Sushi is the result of that research. The new moniker clearly defines what customers can expect in the restaurant, and clears up confusion between the different locations.
“Hawaiian fusion cuisine is a descriptor of what we do, but it is not who we are.” said Cernadas. “The ‘Pacific Rim’ name didn’t quite capture it either. The new name will make it easier for guests to understand what we serve.”
While the new brand name and updated logo will bring together the restaurants under the same name, the important pillars of the brand like it’s ohana philosophy doesn’t need updating.
“We’re famous for the aloha service. The name of the company has changed, but the people, the menus, and most importantly, our service, will never change.”
Cernadas shared that the partners the company is currently working with to remodel its locations are imperative to the company’s future success.
“We’ve been in business for a long time,” he said. “It was time for our locations to get freshened up a bit. We’ve already remodeled three restaurants and are currently working on three more. We want them to remind people of a Hawaiian vacation, and I think that’s something we’re achieving with the combination of the remodel and the menu.”
Unique Fusion CuisineSpeaking of the menu: my mouth was watering during my entire conversation with Cernadas. Not only did he discuss the restaurant’s offerings with a great amount of passion, but the menu items practically sell themselves.
“Once guests experience our food, they are blown away,” he said. “There are so many fresh ingredients, so many unique flavor pairings. As consumers get more educated on the food and beverage industry through the internet and social media, they want a more unique experience. We provide that.”
Chef Roy, and indeed, the brand itself, are culinary pioneers. Although “fusion” cuisine is very on trend now, Chef Roy introduced the concept a long time ago. The menu is known for being chef driven. The core items, or signature dishes, do not change. These original, well-loved specialties were created by Chef Roy himself, and reflect the essence of the brand.
In addition to the consistent menu across the brand’s restaurants, local chef creations play a part in each regional location, with daily ‘specials’, containing the freshest local produce.
“We have an outstanding culinary team and a desire to innovate and create at every opportunity,” said Cernadas. “Chefs are able to use their skills and to really prepare and serve cuisine that is made using classic French techniques and unique cooking methods that are not part of the repertoire at other national brands.”
The Director of Chefs, Chris George, and the entire culinary team provide ideas and suggestions that translate into Roy’s Restaurants’ seasonal features, new menu items, and local chef creations. The company’s localized menu offerings allow it to be on trend locally with food trends based on guest preferences, changing palettes, and locally-sourced products and produce.
Unique sushi rolls—which make up a sushi of the month offering, only available at Roy’s—are also driven by fresh ingredients and unusual, though delicious, pairings.
Roy’s is also working on its beverage menu, determined to create new drinks to complement the Hawaiian flavors of the dishes. The brand also offers a wine dinner every other month to showcase pairings between quality wines and the restaurant’s unique flavors.
“At the end of 2016, we launched a beautiful new cocktail program offering tiki-inspired drinks, a variety of fresh inspired cocktails, and a new signature cocktail, our Paradise Found, served in a beautiful copper pineapple,” shared Cernadas.
“We also refreshed our wine program to offer a wider selection of options by the glass and also added more variety and price points across our bottle program—all while focusing on what consumers today are looking for in wines.”
The brand will also be launching an extensive sake menu to complement its fresh fish and sushi sections in the coming months.
The Aloha Experience
There are two dynamic principles at play at Roy’s Seafood, Steak, and Sushi: delicious food and warm hospitality make up the aloha spirit at the brand of restaurants.
“Chef Roy has done a fantastic job with the six restaurants in Hawaii: we’re maintaining what he started. The combination of great ingredients and great service mean that when people from the mainland experience Roy’s, they are interested in having that experience at home.
“For every amazing dish or experience people have while in Hawaii, we’re able to put that on a plate. All of the colors, flavors, and aromas reflect the culture and traditions of the island. We have a lot of pride in bringing that to our guests every day.”
European techniques, Pacific Rim cuisine, warm, from-the-heart hospitality. Together, they create the remarkable dining experience unique to Roy's Restaurant. The first Roy's was opened in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1988 by namesake Roy Yamaguchi, a James Beard Award winner. Since those early days, we've proudly spread our passion around the world—there are 20 Roy's restaurants in the continental United States, six in Hawaii, one in Japan, and one in Guam.