Diner keeps things local for 20 years
By Maria Kanai
Big City Diner celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, marking two decades of serving fresh, flavorful food to the local community. The restaurant is a Hawaii classic — you can’t imagine a family breakfast without Grandma’s Incredible Kimchee Fried Rice, a surf sesh without The Really Loco, Loco Moco or a movie night without stopping by for an Old Fashioned Chocolate Shake.
What Big City Diner has accomplished is no easy feat — maintaining a 100 percent locally run restaurant, successfully opening six locations and consistently being voted “Hawaii’s Best American Food Restaurant” by Honolulu Star-Advertiser readers every year. It’s clear that the company is doing something right.
Lane Muraoka, owner and president of Big City Diner, shared one of the restaurant’s successful business philosophies: Any employee at Big City Diner has the opportunity to grow and be promoted within the company.
“We’ve had one dishwasher be promoted to line cook and then eventually become a kitchen manager. And, one of our cooks has also become a shareholder within the company,” said Muraoka. “Anybody who works at Big City Diner has the opportunity to grow and do something new. All you need to have is a commitment to yourselves and to the company, as well as the patience and humility to learn.”
Managers are offered training seminars and workshops to learn leadership, management and organization skills, and knowledge about health control and safety in the restaurant industry.
Being 100 percent local also gives employees the opportunity to talk to Muraoka in person.
“We’re not a mainland corporation, so if they want to talk to the owner, they can make an appointment and I can sit down and talk to them,” said Muraoka. “I’m in the restaurant every day, seven days a week.”
Another key to success: Big City Diner is committed to helping guests have healthier attitudes towards food and making more mindful choices about diet. Big City Diner in Kailua and Wind-ward Mall are both certified by the Blue Zones Project, a large-scale initiative aimed at helping U.S. communities lead healthier lifestyles. Additionally, healthier menu options are found at all Big City Diner locations.
“If we have three generations of grandparents, parents and kids at the table, we offer healthy options that they can all have with good nutrition and ingredients,” said Muraoka.
When hiring, Muraoka said he looks for employees who are able to work in a team and pitch in to do the work.
“We want people who care about each other and will make the guests happy,” said Muraoka.
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COMPANY: Big City Diner
LOCATIONS: Six islandwide: Kaimuki, Ward, Pearlridge East, Windward Mall, Kailua, Waipio Shopping Center
OWNER AND PRESIDENT: Lane Muraoka
BENEFITS: Free kitchen meals, discounted family and friends’ meals, health and dental insurance, paid vacation, flexible schedule, free parking at all locations.
NOTEWORTHY: Big City Diner offers specials throughout the week, such as “Wine and Dine Wednesdays,” where guests get 50 percent off all bottles and glasses of wine with a food purchase, and “Twitter Tuesdays” where diners get 15 percent off dine-in food all day with a Twitter Tuesday password and purchase of a drink. Check out more of the restaurant’s weekday specials at bigcitydinerhawaii.com.