And then there’s the Kona Steakhouse Roll that features a soy- and sake-marinated prime filet mignon inside a sushi roll that also includes yamagobo, a Japanese pickled burdock root.
“That attention to detail in each of the recipes makes each of these items so unique and desirable,” Kuhn says.
The beverage menu, too, has received a reboot. The team’s goal here was to create a menu with contemporary flavors, combining unique recipes and presentations. The Herbalist, for instance, has five fresh herbs, gin, and St-Germain, shaken over ice. While, The Rum Drink is a top seller and patio-favorite meant for easy drinking.
And then there are the five sake cocktails, the Tokyo Mule, Grapefruit Sake-Tini, Sake Sangria, Yuzu-Rita and Zen Collins. “Most bars and restaurants don’t carry sake, so it’s exciting that we were able to integrate that unique element into several of our cocktails and have the ability to utilize that as an unexpected ingredient,” Kuhn says. Sparkling sake is also a special new add.
“We hope that diners find something that they love, crave, and want again,” Kuhn says. “We also hope they see something on the menu that they want to come back and try. One of the best compliments I’ve received from guests is that it’s hard for them to choose what they want to eat because there are so many things on the menu that sound good. If we can get guests to come back again and again and try new things, that’s a big win.”
Something incentivising guests to come back again is Kona’s happy hour, which has always been a strong aspect of its business. About 30 dishes are on offer starting at $7. Ten specialty drinks are available, as well as reduced priced beer and wine. The brand has also recently introduced its first ever rewards program, called Konavore Rewards.
While the goal is to have customers come into the restaurant, get waited on, and enjoy the atmosphere—preferably with a drink in hand—the team at Kona realizes there is a demand more and more for off-premises dining. The brand offers online ordering, works with many delivery services, and has chosen take-out packaging that helps maintain the integrity of its food through transportation. But this section of the business is more of a future goal. “Down the line, off-premises dining will be more of a focus for us,” Kuhn says.
Overall, Kuhn is hopeful for the future. The brand has a new website with a mobile-first approach and better capability to receive, manage, and respond to guest feedback. Expect more international franchising as well as domestic, he said. And the team is working to develop a smaller prototype—5,000 square feet versus the current 8,000 square foot model—as something they will implement moving forward to hone in on the in-restaurant dining experience.