Kua’Aina has been a cult burger bar in Hawaii’s North Shore for over 40 years. After spending time in Hawaii and falling in love with the grilled sandwiches, burgers and warm ‘Aloha’ service at Kua’Aina, co-founder Ed Bardos knew there was nothing like it back home.
Having secured the license to bring Kua’Aina to Europe, Bardos and business partner, Paul De Francisci launched their first restaurant in Carnaby Street.
Mystery was originally engaged after the initial launch to adapt the Kua ’Aina brand for the UK market, further developing and defining the brand vision, identity and interiors concept.
The first store was quickly followed by a second in Goodge Street and following their incredible popularity, the UK team made the decision to take Kua ’Aina to its first site outside of London, in Belfast.
Adapting the brand for a new location
The legendary burger and sandwich restaurant once again asked Mystery to help roll out the brand’s concept to Northern Ireland.
Following discussions with the Kua ’Aina team and the proposed Belfast site in the city’s Victoria Square shopping centre, it was clear that the Belfast clientele would want more comfort than at the London sites.
While the competition in and around the mall was strong, there was a great opportunity to create a really unique, distinctive destination restaurant that recreated that upbeat, warm and entertaining Hawaiian escape as you’d imagine experiencing on the island.
Interior design – 70s Hawaiian kitsch
In an updated, yet retro reflection of the original Kua ’Aina, that launched in 1975, the interior of the Belfast restaurant is a fun, colourful and authentic take on typical 1970s Hawaii, celebrating the “kitchness” of the island in a cool, distressed and urban way.
The ceiling was inspired by classic ‘70s surf art, with depictions of sunsets using the graphics’ lines to represent the sun, sky and surf. These illustrations take you from daytime, where the sun sits above the beach hut banquettes, through to the colourful sunset above the bar, which flows down the wall to represent the cocktail party hour.
Materials are inspired by the sun-bleached, weathered clapboard found on beaches, contrasted with punchy warm neons to capture a cosy, celebratory night-time vibe.
The exterior is distressed, whitewashed timber with a reclaimed feel, while the signage is inspired by classic retro American signage with naked bulbs in open trough letters that make up the logo.
The integrated cinema light box below the main sign is flexible, so that the strapline message can be changed to target customers at different times of the year.
The new Belfast site has quickly won the hearts of its Belfast clientele. According to the Kua ’Aina team, the initial launch period over Christmas was amazing and actually beyond their great aspirations although their biggest guide is the Kua ’Aina experience and how customers feel when they’re there, not how many customers they have.
This yard stick has been very positive and the team intend to focus on steady growth to ensure the brand maintains its high standards and ethos of keeping things fun, fresh and local.
Mystery have been instrumental in the look and feel of the store. We have trusted them completely. Occasionally we have considered going off spec, but we have gone back to the design and believed in their vision and it has paid off massively. The store looks amazing and people love it even though it is very different for the area. The Mystery team should be proud and our contractors have loved creating something so different and special.
Paul Defrancisci, Chief Operations Officer, Kua ’Aina.