Grind Time: Niu Valley says aloha to Jack
BY JASON GENEGABUS / firstname.lastname@example.org
There was a time in my life when I often found myself in a Jack in the Box drive through around 1 or 2 in the morning. Working late left few options for food back then, and there was a Jack in the Box open within a few blocks of my house, so it became a regular stop on the weekends.
A visit last year triggered by the chain’s new Munchie Meals turned up a more diverse menu than I remember, and the introduction of the new Buttery Jack just might get me back to making regular trips once again. If you watched the Super Bowl last weekend, there’s a good chance you saw one of the new commercials featuring the burgers, which aim to create a more upscale reputation for the chain.
“We got some feedback that we needed to take it up a notch, particularly with our hamburgers,” said Jack in the Box chairman, CEO and president Lenny Comma during an interview Thursday at Oahu’s newest restaurant in Niu Valley. “They needed to be juicy and have more flavor.
“So this product has a new bun, new beef patty, it has the herb butter that’s melted on top of the patty as it cooks, so this is extremely juicy. You’re going to taste so many interesting flavors.”
Along with the burger, Comma said he was excited about being in Hawaii for his first restaurant blessing since taking over for his predecessor, Linda Lang, a year ago. The Niu Valley location along Kalanianaole Highway is Hawaii franchisee Blue Pacific Juice LLC’s 29th restaurant in the state, and Comma praised partner Chris Scanlan for his successful growth of the brand.
“He cherishes the culture of the islands and isn’t trying to build a homogenized business,” said Comma. “He’s truly part of the community. He’s so humble. We have a lot of respect for that type of businessperson.”
There are plenty of local touches in the new restaurant, from the Niu Valley signage outside to Hawaii-themed artwork on the walls indoors. Comma also said he really enjoyed taking part in a Native Hawaiian blessing led by Kahu Clyde Kaimuloa that was not only attended by company executives and other VIPs, but the entire crew from the restaurant itself.
“It’s completely different here in Hawaii,” Comma said. “One of the things I love about the Hawaii market is that our employees, they get to be culturally correct with the openings. If we want to bless a restaurant, that’s expected. Every really celebrates in that. … On the mainland, it’s just way more politically correct. You probably wouldn’t even use the word ‘blessing.’
“It’s just much more enjoyable here. It’s a much warmer, more genuine experience. I feel a much more closer connection to the community.”
“Grind Time” is always looking for the latest places to get your grub on. Email Jason Genegabus with restaurant, bar or any other food/drink-related item at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter and Google+.