Stephen Rushmore Jr.
Saw this in a Hawaii newspaper, looks like they might be on to something.
Pop-up tents and plywood carts are springing up in parking lots across O’ahu as a handful of small businesses are turning to ready-to-eat, "steak plate" meals.
Three of the most well-known, new businesses Steak Out, Blazin’ Steaks and Ono Hawaiian Steak won’t disclose their earnings but say business is so good that they’re thinking of continuing their expansion plans.
The popularity of their idea lies in its simplicity and price: A mound of freshly grilled, sliced steak slathered over two scoops of rice, accompanied by a green salad and soda all for $6.50.
"All we serve is grilled steaks," said Richard Craft, 32, who owns three Blazin’ Steak carts that he built by hand, which boast signs reading, "Steaks $6."
"It’s just one item," Craft said. "Simple. Low overhead. … Some plate-lunch wagons offer 10 items, but if it’s a slow day, they go home with nine items that didn’t sell."
Unlike plate-lunch wagons, owners like Craft said their simplified menu eliminates the long, early-morning hours needed to prepare multiple dishes at the beginning of each workday.
In a land of plate lunches overflowing with mochiko chicken, misoyaki butterfish and pork adobo, the steak plate lunch has spread quickly since first appearing on the scene three years ago.
Now they’re being sold every day from Kapolei to Kaimuki and in Foodland and Times Super Market parking lots.
Sandy Kamp stood over a row of shopping carts in the Beretania Street Foodland parking lot yesterday and dug a plastic fork into $6.50 worth of freshly grilled steak, rice and salad.
"I’ve got to have it," said Kamp, an assistant manager at a Waikiki condominium, who was craving a steak plate yesterday. "It’s good and it’s cheap."
The idea of parking-lot-grilled steaks didn’t begin as a money-maker.
Three years ago, Times Super Market officials were looking for a way to promote their Sterling Silver top-sirloin USDA choice beef when Candy Berry, who was working at the Kailua store, said, "they have to taste it."
After her daughter’s soccer match, Berry set up a tent, a grill and started passing out free samples. Berry even offered to grill steaks on the spot for customers who walked out of the store with Times’ Sterling Silver top sirloin.
"Then the customers said, ‘Where’s the plate lunch?’ " Berry said. "It just grew into this gigantic cook-out."
Times’ personnel director, Clifford Hayashi, and his friend, Jay Cabais, had been running a side business grilling chicken in various Times’ parking lots when Times tapped them to grill steak instead, Berry said.
Times officials crunched the numbers and came up with a $6.25 price for 8 ounces of steak, two scoops rice, tossed salad and a can of soda.
Hayashi and Cabais set up their operation on Saturdays in the Kane’ohe Times parking lot and on Wednesdays in the McCully Times parking lot.
"That’s when the demand started to grow," Berry said. "We would have customers coming all the way over from Kane’ohe to McCully on Wednesdays because they couldn’t get enough."
Cabais later broke off and founded Steak Out and set up tents in the parking lots of Comp USA and Ward Gateway Center, mauka of Ward Warehouse.
Two years ago, Craft was the owner of two tanning salons when he bit into his first Steak Out plate. Craft readily admits that he duplicated the formula when he set up his first steak-plate operation in the parking lot of the Blue Tropix night club, near his former Kapi’olani Boulevard tanning salon.
Now, with little more than a $5,000 investment, Craft has taken over the old Ward Gateway Center spot, oversees a second steak-plate cart operation in the ‘ewa parking lot across from the Neal Blaisdell Center and owns a third, larger cart that’s driven around Kapolei, ‘Ewa B,21,165438,0,15995,126.96.36.199
165437,165426,165426,2005-11-04 10:05:54,RE: Cheesecake Factory”