Why did the chicken cross the road? To open another KFC.
That was more or less the announcement by Kazi Foods on Wednesday, the same day the franchise reopened Burger King at its old location on Palani Road in Kailua-Kona.
Kazi Foods, which owns 24 of the state’s 32 Burger King restaurants, closed the Palani Road location last fall after failing to reach a lease agreement with the property owners. The franchise planned to move across the street to the former Wendy’s site in the Kona Coast Shopping Center. Instead, Kazi now intends to use that site for a new KFC, just across the street from an existing KFC in the Lanihau Center. It is not yet clear when the new fried chicken restaurant might open or whether it will co-exist with the other location.
The shuffle aside, employees at Burger King lined up in the trademark gray and red uniforms and seemed happy to be serving up Bacon Cheeseburgers Deluxe and Whoppers around 10 a.m. Wednesday.
“It feels so good to be back,” said assistant manager Joselyn Berdon, who has worked for the company for 10 years and transferred to the Waimea restaurant during the closure.
Mandi Imholt, who stopped at Burger King on Wednesday morning with her daughter, was also enthusiastic.
“I just pulled in here and said, hey, Burger King is open. In the same spot,” said Imholt, a Kailua-Kona resident who was looking forward to a Whopper Jr.
“We’re excited,” she said. “We missed them.”
There are four other Burger King locations on the Big Island — two in Hilo and one each in Waimea and Pahoa. The restaurant was a fixture on Palani Road for almost 30 years before shutting down in October. The two dozen employees affected by the closure were offered jobs at other Burger King restaurants on the island. When the store reopened, employees were given the option to return, according to a press release.
Remember the Burger King slogan “Have It Your Way?” That 40-year-old motto is history now, along with the more recent “Taste is King.” Burger King announced in May the rollout of a new brand outlook. “Be Your Way” is meant to appeal to the customer’s sense of self-expression.
“Burger King Restaurants are, and always have been, a place where you can come as you are, eat what you want, how you want, with whom you want, and step out of this world of standardization that tells you if you do something different, people might look at you,” stated a May 20 press release from the fast-food giant.
There was a gradual uptick in business at the Kailua-Kona restaurant Wednesday with the approach of lunchtime.
“Regular customers are coming in,” said manager Aleesa Dela Cruz. “People have been waiting quite some time for it to open.”
The franchise declined to answer specific questions about the new KFC restaurant. Other questions and calls left with the company went unanswered at deadline.