Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Hawaiian eaterie Kua 'Aina up for the challenge

By Rachel Martin

The owner of a Hawaiian restaurant in Belfast has said his first year in business has been "challenging" but that he still committed to quality and good customer service.

Kua 'Aina opened a year ago in Belfast's Victoria Square - and since then, has served more than 35,000 burgers and 3,000 fillets of mahi mahi fish, a tropical speciality.

The company was founded in Hawaii but has also opened franchises in Japan and London.

Owner Patrick Gray (33) left his native Northern Ireland aged three but always wanted to return to set up a business.

Now he says he hopes to open another restaurant in the region and several others in continental Europe. He said his first year in business had been a "steep learning curve" but that he believes in listening to customers and knows when it's time to adapt.

"I honestly find it heartbreaking when I get negative feedback because everything in the restaurant has been picked my myself, down to the menu, the knives and the style of service - my parents still live here and I want to be proud of the restaurant when I call in - but I do listen to feedback and have made changes.

"Everywhere else we serve the burger on a plate on its own, but in Northern Ireland that didn't go down well.

"While it's seen as okay elsewhere, customers here expect their burger to come with something, so now we serve it with pickles and coleslaw."

But there are some things he's not willing to compromise on. When he opened the restaurant Patrick made the decision to focus on quality regardless of the price and focus on good customer service. "Some people will look at our menu and say £6 is a bit steep for a burger but I wouldn't expect anyone to eat in the restaurant every day. When you do I want you to have a really good experience and to enjoy it. Marks & Spencer don't do a £1 jumper just because Primark do."

Patrick moved to Bristol as a child and while he now lives between London and Spain, he flies to Belfast every week to check on the restaurant and visit his parents.

The Belfast branch works with suppliers such as Carnbrook Meats and bakery French Village.

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