By sharing the savory taste of traditional Hawaiian foods and creating a welcoming place to enjoy meals, Hawaiian Bros is spreading the aloha spirit to the San Marcos community with its recent location near Aquarena Springs.
Before opening the restaurant's first location in 2018, founders Cameron and Tyler McNie soared out to Hawaii where they learned local recipes and traditional island cooking techniques.
“The flavors are different,” says Hawaiian Bros President Scott Ford. “They’re uniquely Hawaiian; They date back to the 1850s, the concept of the Hawaiian plate lunch. The workers on the pineapple [and] sugar plantations would come together and have lunch, and they would share from the different cultures, and it melted together to create this cuisine.”
Hawaiian Bros' menu consists of staple Hawaiian food, with protein options ranging from its signature Huli Huli Chicken to the sweet and spicy Kilauea Chicken. Side dishes include white rice, pineapple and macaroni salad. For a post-lunch treat, customers can indulge in a tropical Dole Soft Serve.
With various restaurant locations across the nation, Hawaiian Bros continues to grow its name while introducing traditional Hawaiian meals and customs to Texas communities. For the past month, Ford says the franchise established new locations every week in cities along I-35.
“We found a number of really quality sites in both the Dallas and Fort Worth area and then the south of Austin,” Ford says. “And now Kyle and San Marcos, with us being in Austin and making plans to go to San Antonio, it made perfect sense. We also have a site planned in Waco, so we’re just covering that I-35 corridor, down through [Dallas-Fort Worth] to Austin and San Antonio.”
Ford says San Marcos was the perfect town for a new location. Since the location's grand opening last month, Ford says the Texas State community has taken a great liking to the Hawaiian-style restaurant.
“We really like San Marcos. With the university there and the response that we have in our other university locations, consumers respond well with our brand,” Ford says. “They like the concept, they like the food, they like the portions and the price value. So we were excited to be that close to the university, and the highway access was just another benefit.”
The grand opening in June attracted hundreds of local customers who wanted to take a shot at a chance to receive free food. Since then, although the large crowds are gone, the dining room and drive-thru have stayed busy.
Jayson Dudley, general manager at Hawaiian Bros San Marcos, says he has enjoyed working with everyone and is glad to see the community's support.
"We've been having a lot of people come through, still," Dudley, a finance junior, says. "It's slowed down a little bit after, like, whenever we're giving away free food, obviously. But it's been really cool. It seems like the community likes it a lot, and I'm glad to be here."
Just as each Hawaiian Bros employee should feel welcome, Ford says he hopes customers can feel the same way when they visit the restaurant. He says the restaurant hopes to win over the hearts of San Marcos and Texas State with its ohana-oriented values, values that are centered on community, connection and food.
“Nothing is more important than doing what is right for our families,” Ford says. “Our number one priority is to make sure our employees are in the best possible position to provide for their loved ones and achieve the proper work-life balance, it’s something we take very seriously.”
For employee Josh Emmanuel, a psychology sophomore, the ohana value plays a big role in his relationship with his co-workers and their determination to get work done.
“The ohana part is real,” Emmanuel says. “You know, we're all like a little family back there. You know, everybody's cool. There's not really friction between anybody, we all pretty much talk to each other and communicate with each other. So, the environment, as I said, is great.”
Along with sharing the Hawaiian spirit through its food and friendly nature, Hawaiian Bros radiates the relaxed, tropical aura of the islands throughout the building.
“You get a pretty good island vibe when you come in,” Ford says. “We’re laid back in how we are uniformed, and how we allow our employees to relax and dress comfortably. We play the standard island music throughout the restaurant, and [there are] fun colors [throughout] the building. The style is both modern and sleek but also has a relaxed vibe to it. On the side of the building, we have a little representative map that’s illuminated of all the islands. We just want to continue to let people explore and learn a little more about the brand.”
Dudley says the laid-back ambiance of Hawaiian Bros is his favorite part of the job.
“I love the food, and I just really like the Hawaiian vibe that they give,” Dudley says. “I love how they have pineapple paintings on the walls and [are] always playing Hawaiian music. They give us a few Hawaiian shirts that are cool, and it's just super relaxed. Management is really chill, and they just kind of let everybody do their own thing.”
With the San Marcos location operating for a month now, Hawaiian Bros is excited to get connected with the Bobcat community and looks forward to attending football games this fall.
“We certainly want to continue to grow and engage in San Marcos,” Ford says. “We are excited for when the students come back to school and to see everyone’s return to the first football game, and how everyone comes out to the stadium. All of that is very exciting, because of our location and the proximity to the university and stadium.”
Hawaiian Bros' San Marcos location is located at 1439 N Interstate 35. To learn more about Hawaiian Bros and its menu, visit its website.
Sarah Hernandez contributed to this story.