Hawaiian cuisine has drawn a lot of fanfare in the past decade as Americans seek new flavor experiences. And one of the most authentic fast-casual brands in the Hawaiian category, Mo’Bettahs, is ready to meet that demand as it ramps up expansion efforts across the country with a new president and locations in three new markets.
Mo’Bettahs announced the addition of restaurant industry veteran Rob Ertmann as president, rounding out a leadership team guided by cofounders and brothers Kalani and Kimo Mack, who built the brand around their experience growing up in Hawaii.
“Rob Ertmann joins us at such a crucial time in our business as we continue to grow into new markets,” Kalani Mack says. “His experience and multi-unit growth pedigree are the perfect fit to help Mo’Bettahs spread our authentic brand of Aloha to those customers looking for that true island taste.”
Ertmann’s hire comes as Mo’Bettahs prepares for massive expansion. The brand plans to open 26 new locations by the end of 2022, doubling the size of the enterprise, including its first stores in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas City this year. Mo’Bettahs currently has 22 locations in Utah and Idaho.
Mo’Bettahs was acquired by Savory Fund in 2017, a management group that infuses exciting startup brands with capital and pairs them with its team of 65 industry veterans, who have experience in everything from real estate, development and construction, store operations, technology, recruiting, training and finance.
“After reviewing and meeting with several dozen impressive leaders within the food and beverage industry, Rob Ertmann really stood out because of his genuine personality, his humility, and his willingness to be a servant leader,” said Andrew K. Smith, managing partner of Savory Fund. “To talk about how, in his first 100 days in a position, he would be in the trenches with the team learning the business, and that nothing was beneath him, was a match for each of us when picking the right person to lead this incredible brand. It is how everyone at Savory operates as well; in the trenches with each brand, every day.”
Ertmann has more than 25 years of experience in the restaurant and retail industries. He most recently served as chief operating officer at Philz Coffee, a fast-growing specialty coffee company based in San Francisco, where he and his team improved store-level EBITDA by 10% and grew average unit volumes by $200,000. He also held leadership roles at Einstein Noah Restaurant Group, where he was responsible for more than 200 company-owned locations and revenue in excess of $170 million, and Peet’s Coffee, where he oversaw 250 company-owned locations and revenue in excess of $269 million.
“We were so impressed with his background of multi-unit growth,” Smith adds. “He’s worked for some impressive firms, and we’re excited to see him implement a lot of his multi-unit experience as we grow Mo’Bettahs into multiple new geographies and new states in the coming years.”
“I am thrilled to join this incredible brand, shaped by Kimo and Kalani to serve incredible food inspired by their growing up in Hawaii,” Ertmann says. “It is an exciting time to be a part of this journey as we grow the number of communities that get to share this delicious island food, both in Utah and into new markets that have yet to experience Mo’Bettahs. I have no doubt that customers in these new communities will love and appreciate the opportunity to enjoy our Aloha spirit as we provide them with an authentic Hawaiian experience and delicious food without having to step on a boat or an airplane to get it.”
Mo’Bettah’s first opened in Bountiful, Utah, in 2008, and has spent the last 13 years serving loyal customers the adventurous flavors of the Hawaiian Islands that the Mack brothers grew up eating. The menu offers an array of boldly flavored proteins — Teriyaki Chicken or Steak, Kalua Pig, Pulehu Chicken, Katsu Chicken, and Shrimp Tempura — served with white rice and macaroni salad, along with a range of delicious sauces.
"I am very excited to share our unique brand of Hawaiian-style food, developed in our own kitchen and backyard in Kāne’ohe, Hawaii, on the island of Oahu,” Kalani Mack says. “These are the recipes that we and our children grew up on. We can’t wait to share that with the folks in Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma.
“Opening in new markets is really exciting for us. For two inexperienced island boys to come as far as we have has been a dream come true,” Kimo Mack adds. “To think we will make it all the way to the Midwest and have a partner like Savory Fund help us get to over 50 units and beyond is crazy. That’s a long way from Oahu.”