Stepping inside a Mo’ Bettahs restaurant is akin to stepping foot on the island of Oahu, where sibling founders Kimo and Kalani Mack were raised.
The centerpiece of a Mo’ Bettahs is the open flame grill, where kalua pigs are slowly roasted. The idea is to give guests an authentic, Hawaiian barbecue experience.
“We decided to do it from an angle that we know—we didn’t want to take a view that most people have seen throughout the media for generations, like tiki torches and pineapples,” Kimo Mack explains. “We wanted it to represent the Hawaii that we grew up in.”
Mo’ Bettahs is a brand focused on honoring the island of Hawaii. The fast-casual restaurant chain uses high-quality ingredients, ethically sourced from Hawaiian family farms. Additionally, surfboards and paddles used for decoration in restaurants have been in Hawaiian waters, telling the story of the Mo’ Bettahs lifestyle.
The company was founded in Utah in 2008. Since then, the brand has grown to 40 locations, most recently in Edmond, Oklahoma. Other target markets include Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, and Texas.
Mo’ Bettahs’ growth strategy is backed by strong financials, including an average-unit volume of $2.1 million as of 2022 and five years of same-store sales growth. Last year also saw an updated logo and refreshed interior designs. While these factors set up the chain for success, Rob Ertmann, CEO of Mo’ Bettahs, has been careful to stay true to the brand’s ethos.
“Being smart and disciplined in our growth has been key, but so has adapting to the way our guests are wanting to consume,” Ertmann says. “However, we’re still staying true to who we are and the menu we’re trying to offer.”
In 2023, Mo’ Bettahs expects to cross 54 locations; a spot in Las Vegas is currently in the works for later this year. The team is also working on menu innovation, infusing a new set of flavors for guests to enjoy.
“We’re focused on growth, for both the organic growth in our stores through partnerships but then also of course, adding new locations and getting into new markets,” Ertmann says. “That growth is going to be tremendous.”
As the brand approaches its 15-year anniversary, several milestones have led to its success: a partnership with Savory Restaurant Fund, a new loyalty program driven by Thanx, and the recent induction of Ertmann as CEO.
“One of the key elements of our success was surrounding ourselves with people that were smarter than us,” Kalani Mack says. “The teams have been critical to our growth. It takes an army.”
Partnering with Savory allowed Mo’ Bettahs to continue its nationwide expansion and navigate a difficult global pandemic. The synergy from this partnership gave the chain necessary resources to pull several levers—drive-thrus, catering systems, and third-party ordering. Now, over 60 percent of Mo’ Bettahs restaurants feature a drive-thru.
Additionally, the reintroduced app and loyalty program, Makana Rewards, allows for digital ordering, incentives for ordering over third-party, and an improved user experience. Ertmann says that since the February rollout of the loyalty platform, the number of active users is “on the verge of tripling.” He believes these advantageous partnerships, paired with new store growth, will provide an exciting year ahead.
“I think a lot of these technological advances have simplified our ability to execute things, which has allowed us to continue to lean further in,” Ertmann comments. “It allowed us to have the courage to say, ‘let us move faster.’”
No matter what, the team at Mo’ Bettahs is still staying true to its purpose: deliver an experience that is authentic to the culture in which Kimo and Kalani were raised. The brothers seek to spread the values of aloha (love), ‘ohana (family), and ‘aina (land). Their goal is to treat each guest to a special island experience, whether that be from a Mo’ Bettahs in Texas or a backyard barbecue in Hawaii.