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Chick-fil-A hatching Maui location

Kahului restaurant to employ about 120 people

Shovels hit the dirt during the groundbreaking blessing with Kurt Ebner (from left) and Brent Ryhlick of Chick-fil-A Inc., Central Maui Rep. Justin Woodson, Mike Hensley of Chick-fil-A, Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino, Danielle Jackson and Chuck Rice of Chick-fil-A, Matt Gilbertson of MGA Architecture, Jackie Jags of Chick-fil-A and Brad Espedal of Arita Poulson General Contracting on Wednesday. Chick-fil-A Inc. photos

KAHULUI — With its groundbreaking blessing ceremony Wednesday in Central Maui, Chick-fil-A officially began to hatch its first Hawaii restaurant slated to open by late spring.

The roughly $3 million Kahului restaurant — the first of five Chick-fil-A Hawaii locations planned for the next couple of years — will be built in Alexander & Baldwin’s Puunene Shopping Center at 140 Hookele St., which is anchored by Target.

Jackie Jags, a spokeswoman for Chick-fil-A Inc., said the Maui restaurant will be Hawaii’s first.

It will be followed by a location at Ala Moana Center and a drive-thru off South Beretania Street, each scheduled to open by late summer of next year. A freestanding restaurant, similar to the Maui spot, will be added in Kapolei but a timeline is not yet available. Another spot, Hawaii’s fifth, has yet to be disclosed but is in the works, she said. All construction and opening schedules are in flux due to COVID-19.

Once completed, Maui’s Chick-fil-A will have a full dining room with double drive-thru and outdoor dining patio. Construction on the undeveloped 7,500-square-foot parcel at the corner of Hookele Street and Maui Veterans Highway is anticipated to start the next month or two. A building permit filed early last year listed a project cost of $2,950,000.

A rendering shows the future Chick-fil-A at the Puunene Shopping Center in Kahului. Chick-fil-A Inc. photo

Maui’s owner/operator will be announced later this year, Jags said, and the restaurant is anticipated to create about 120 jobs.

While some competitors require a half million to a million dollars in order to operate a restaurant, Chick-fil-A operators pay $10,000 and go through a highly competitive selection process.

“We pay all the upfront costs — we build the building, we put all the equipment in and then we select an operator to come in and run the business,” Jags said. “And so that low barrier to entry is what allows us to pick from a very diverse group of people who are truly just entrepreneurs who want to give back to their community.”

Jags said the company gets more than 100,000 applications per year and 150 people are selected.

Chick-fil-A combs through applicants, searching for local leaders who want to give back to their communities.

Chick-fil-A and elected officials gather for a groundbreaking ceremony for the restaurant chain on Wednesday morning in Kahului. The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

“It’s not an investment opportunity,” Jags said. “They’re expected to be role models, leaders to their team members, invest in their team members and they’re expected to invest in their community.”

With every new restaurant opened, the company donates $25,000 to Feeding America, and the funds are then distributed to local partners around the islands. Also, Chick-fil-A’s Shared Table program will donate surplus restaurant food to Maui shelters, soup kitchens and charities, according to a news release.

“Our founder used to say, ‘We’re not in the chicken business, we’re in the people business,’ “ Jags said. “Our people is our secret sauce. Our people, from the local owner, who’s going to be here and will operate and live in the community and give back to the community, to the team members that will be smiling behind their masks — our people is what is our secret sauce.”

Known for chicken sandwiches, the Atlanta-based fast-food chain that dates back to 1967 now has thousands of restaurants in nearly all 50 states.

Chick-fil-A, a company privately owned by the family of its late founder, S. Truett Cathy, has 2,300 restaurants in 47 states and Washington, D.C., according to its website. It reported more than $9 billion in revenue in 2017.

Chick-fil-A hosted a private groundbreaking blessing ceremony led by Kahu Kalani Wong for its first Hawaii restaurant, Chick-fil-A Maui in Kahului. Chick-fil-A Inc. photo

Cathy opened his original diner, the Dwarf Grill, later called the Dwarf House, in an Atlanta suburb in 1946. After testing hundreds of recipes, he created in 1964 the recipe for the original chicken sandwich with two pickles on a toasted butter bun. Three years later, Cathy founded and opened the first Chick-fil-A in Atlanta’s Greenbriar Shopping Center.

Maui’s private groundbreaking blessing ceremony at the Kahului site was led by Kahu Kalani Wong, with several Maui and Chick-fil-A Inc. officials attending.

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kcerizo@mauinews.com.

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