Inspired by the cuisine of his wife’s native Hawaii, Southern California’s ubiquitous taquerias, and fast casual’s continued surge, Christopher Campbell launched Braddah’s Island Style in July 2013. The novel Las Vegas–based concept puts a Hawaiian spin on made-to-order burritos, bowls, tacos, and salads.
A third-generation restaurateur who previously held positions with Jamba Juice, Noodles & Company, and Chipotle, Campbell opened the first Braddah’s in a former KFC drive-thru location. The restaurant quickly earned a cult following thanks to its homemade salsas, huli huli chicken, kalua pig, and coconut bark dessert.
Campbell shares the inspired story behind Braddah’s debut and his plans for the upstart concept.
How did Braddah’s come to be?
In December 2012, I lost my job as president of Bugaboo Creek Steakhouse. I was 46 years old, had a newborn with Down syndrome, and was trapped in a Northeastern winter. As I interviewed for jobs across the country and waited for phone calls that never came, I pulled out a business plan for a quick-service Hawaiian concept I drafted about 15 years before. My wife—bless her—gave me permission to go for it. I put the business plan out to the investment community and raised the capital to get going.
How have customers responded?
It’s been everything I dreamed of and more. Guests are regularly pulling out their phones, snapping photos, and posting them to social media before they dig in. [By early June 2014], we had more than 250 reviews on Yelp, and many of our guests call us the Hawaiian Chipotle.
What kind of momentum has the first store provided?
With the first store, we gained the confidence to know that our food and service were strong and that we had the right systems and culture in place to thrive. We opened our second store in Las Vegas in April, and this fall, we’ll open a third store on the [University of Nevada at Las Vegas] campus. We’ll be right alongside some prominent fast-casual competitors there, so we’ll learn how we stack up.
What do you see in Braddah’s future?
We built the concept to grow quickly and to attract capital venture. I believe we have the vision, energy, and commitment to be a strong brand. We have letters of intent on additional units in place and strategic spots on our map. We believe Las Vegas can hold eight to nine units. Then we’d like to look to Reno, Southern California, Arizona, and Denver, the mecca of fast-casual concepts. Within five years, I want to grow to 100 units and be a regional player positioned to go national.