Friday, November 27, 2015         

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Famous Dave's grills up plans for barbecue restaurants in isles

By Erika Engle


Famous Dave's of America Inc. is bringing its barbecued and grilled fare to Hawaii through Ajay Keshap, a Denny's franchise owner in Hawaii and California. The restaurant will incorporate some Hawaii flavors in its local offerings.

A mid-December opening is planned for its first location in Lahaina, Maui, according to Aric Nissen, vice president of marketing and research and development for Famous Dave's. Keshap is scouting for other locations on Oahu and on the Kona side of the Big Island.

"We're very excited about the agreement, a multi-unit agreement for three restaurants," Nissen said. Through his BBQ Restaurants of Hawaii LLC, Keshap has purchased rights to develop restaurants on Maui, Oahu, the Big Island and Kauai, so it is likely more than three will be built.

Minnesota-based and publicly traded, Famous Dave's of America owns 53 locations and franchises 125 others in 36 states.

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Keshap and his team "evaluated several different franchise concepts and there was no question that Famous Dave's was our choice for a partner," he said.

"Famous Dave's is a barbecue pit-master, with 25 years of going around the country and finding the best-of-the-best, Texas beef brisket, to spareribs St. Louis style, and mustard sauce from Georgia," Nissen said. "We are so excited about Hawaiian barbecue."

Hawaii's culinary heritage, including imu-cooked kalua pork, and the influence of other ethnicities is intriguing to Nissen, who also works in menu development.

"We're looking at how do we influence our catering, our side dishes to the menu," he said, "and certainly we have to incorporate Spam ... we are experts at the pig," he chuckled.

Nissen observed that the best pineapple he's ever eaten has been in the Hawaiian Islands and said he may add a grilled pineapple component to some dishes. He specifically tossed out the possibility of pineapple in the dirty rice.

Subbing mahimahi for a seafood item that is popular in the Midwest is also under consideration, he said.

Nissen also mentioned Huli-Huli and was quickly informed that the brand is trademarked and the sauce is sold at retail. He described the Famous Dave's version as a Huli-Huli-style sauce with a different flavor profile than the original.

While each Famous Dave's has its own footprint, "anywhere from 4,000 to 6,000 square feet is the sweet spot," he said, or about 250 seats. "It's really based on the territory and what we can find."

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