An IHOP restaurant opened Wednesday at the Ewa Town Center, replacing Hawaii’s first Applebee’s, which closed with little fanfare in May.
Applebee’s entered the Hawaii market with the opening of the Ewa location in October 2016. It closed on May 5.
“We built Ewa first because the community was craving for that,” said Vince Espino, president of Union MAK Corp., the master franchisee for Applebee’s and IHOP in the islands, who later built another restaurant at Ka Makana Alii several miles away. “After both restaurants were operating, we noticed more people were saying they preferred to go to Ka Makana Alii because of the shopping and the cinema and other things they can do. We were splitting our market.”
Ewa customers requested an IHOP instead, he said.
“That was the more popular demand for the people in Ewa,” he said. “We’re just catering to the stronger demand of the people in Ewa and the surrounding areas.”
Espino said he wanted a quiet opening to avoid the “perils of opening a restaurant” and jamming the eatery before working out all the kinks.
“On the first day without making a lot of noise the place is almost packed. We’re doing a good job,” he said. “That’s a very small town. Before long people will know everything. The secret is out in the open now.”
Besides at Ka Makana Alii, Applebee’s operates in Hawaii at Pearlridge.
Espino also has seven IHOPs: five on Oahu and two on the Big Island, in Hilo and Kona. He is working on opening two other locations on Oahu and Maui.