Kainoa’s to bring a little aloha to Idaho

Contributed Photo: Kainoa’s Hawaiian Grill is hoping to open its first franchise in Rexburg, Idaho by the end of November.

By Jon Johnson


THATCHER – Kainoa’s Hawaiian Grill, everyone’s favorite Hawaiian/mainland fusion restaurant, will bring its delectable menu to customers in Idaho as its first franchise is hoping to open in Rexburg by the end of November.

Founder/owner/operator Eric Blair said it has always been his dream to franchise his restaurant and that he designed it to do so. He said while Rexburg will be the first, it won’t be the last and he is eyeing possible new spots – including a space up in Morenci – for future franchises.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Founder/owner/operator Eric Blair said it has been his dream from the start to eventually franchise his restaurant.

Call it kismet, but this franchise opportunity fell from the sky into Blair’s lap after a former local pilot and EMT Jeremy Claridge moved to Rexburg to take up crop dusting. With only a short season crop dusting, Claridge was looking for something else to do and was interested in opening a restaurant when he heard from a former manager of Kainoa’s who gave him the 411 on a franchise possibility.

“After meeting with him, I saw that he was the right fit,” Blair said.

Contributed Photo: Kainoa’s offers a Hawaiian/mainland fusion of foods, such as this Teriyaki Chicken Bowl.

“I was so impressed with him when I met with him that I knew he was the right personality and person to have a franchise.”

Blair also said he is ecstatic about the reaction that his recent announcement of the franchise location has created in Rexburg. Just days after the announcement, local media in Idaho was already calling Blair for an interview.

“It’s been crazy how much buzz is up there and we’re not even there yet,” Blair said. 

Kainoa’s opened its Thatcher location in May 2010 and offers a variety of Hawaiian/mainland fusion dishes, such as Kalua Pork, Teriyaki and Misoy Chicken, Mongolian Beef, Chicken Katsu, rice with house sauce and more. Those dishes form the main Hawaiian staple entrees, while other popular dishes include a variety of wraps, tacos, and salads. The entrees are then partnered with specialty drinks, traditional fountain drinks, or Kainoa’s fabulous smoothies. 

Contributed Photo: Kainoa’s Misoy Chicken is one of its many popular dishes.

“I’ve taken those (Hawaiian) staples and branched them out into salads and some other things just to hit a broader palate over here on the mainland,” Blair said. “We’re constantly growing.”

The restaurant also offers catering and will soon have three of its unique sauces for sale in local stores as well. The sauces are ready to go, but Blair said his priority is to get the franchise location up and running first before turning his attention back to his sauces.

Contributed Photo: The restaurant also has a variety of salads, such as this Island Avocado.

To help his franchise be successful, Blair said he is beginning with a tiered percentage system of their gross sales and will only take 3 percent the first six months, 4 percent the next 12 months and then 5 percent for the remainder of the 10-year contract.

“I’m going to do that with all my franchises,” Blair said. “I want them to be able to keep as much money in-house to be successful so that they can get themselves established.”

Contributed Photo: The garlic chicken with rice and house sauce is a must-try entree.

The Rexburg location is more of a drive-through type of restaurant and doesn’t have as much floor space as the Thatcher location. That means not as many can relax and enjoy the atmosphere like in Thatcher, but Blair said he is going to maximize the space as best as they can. 

Contributed Photo: Kainoa’s also offers catering as well.

While Blair wants to have multiple franchises, he wants to be sure to take his time and do it sensibly.

“I don’t want to grow too quickly,” he said. “I want to see how this one goes. This is kind of our guinea pig one. Based on how well this one goes, will depend on how quickly we’re ready for the next one so that we can get things in place after we’ve learned on this one.”

“It’s exciting,” Blair said. “It’s what I dreamed of when I first opened, and it’s finally coming to fruition.” 

If anyone is interested in a franchising opportunity, contact Blair at eric@kainoasgrill.com.