Growing up in the South, I had LOTS of fast-food options at my fingertips (hence, it may not have been the healthiest time in my life). So, living in Hawaii, I do miss fast-food chains like Chick-Fil-A and Popeyes Chicken around every corner. Now, however, my luck is about to change: Sonic Drive-In is coming to the islands!

According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Kahuku-bred former NFL Baltimore Raven Maake Kemoeatu plans to open the first Sonic Drive-In restaurant in Hawaii in 2018 and has committed to opening seven in the islands.

Yep, you read that correctly — Sonic Drive-In’s epic burgers and frosty beverages are about to make their way to the islands. So, for those of you visiting from the mainland, you can get your Sonic “fix” even in paradise.

maake kemoeatu

Photo: Thibous

Former NFL player and Hawaii local Maake Kemoeatu will open the locations with his brother, Chris. Maake and Chris Kemoeatu made news in 2014 when they revealed that Maake had given Chris a kidney to help save his life and address one of a number of the younger brother's health problems.

The newspaper reports that Kemoeatu will open the franchises with his brother, Chris. Each brother played for the Kahuku Red Raiders, went to the University of Utah and earned Super Bowl wins during their NFL days.

“We both felt it was time, after leaving football behind, to take off our helmets and put on our business hats,” Maake Kemoeatu told the Honolulu Star Advertiser.

According to Bob Franke, Sonic Corp’s vice president of offshore development, Maake Kemoeatu is “super excited” and grateful “to be the one to bring it to Hawaii.” The process has taken 18 to 19 months, and “it’s been a journey” with Kemoeatu family members, as well as investor-partners he declined to name “doing the heavy lifting,” he said.

“We will start with seven on the islands, mostly on Oahu, then Maui,” Franke told the Honolulu Star Advertiser. While lease agreements are pending, the partners are looking at Kapolei, Kakaako and other areas for the first two Sonic Drive-In locations.

an outside shot of sonic drive-in


Sonic Drive-In serves burgers, hot dogs, chicken, breakfast items, snacks, and side orders, including their signature Tots, shakes, and other ice cream desserts.

“We are very creative with properties, and we’ve done a lot of conversions” of buildings, especially in urban areas, “which we’re looking at as well in Honolulu,” Franke told the Honolulu Star Advertiser.

What does that mean for visitors hungry for fast food in Hawaii? After a long day of sightseeing in Honolulu or participating in Oahu activities, such as stand up paddleboarding, surfing, or snorkeling, you will soon have a frosty beverage waiting for you on the other end.

The entire Sonic menu is available from opening to closing, which can range from 5:30 a.m. to past midnight depending on location. Customers drive up, push a red button and see a video screen displaying items to order. Locations typically have 16 to 30 stalls for cars to drive in and order food, with 25 to 75 seats for sit-down dining.

About 100 employees, a mix of full-time and part-time, will be hired for the first location, according to Franke.

Looks like fast food in Hawaii is about to get a new “player,” and I, for one, am excited about the addition. After all, even in paradise, a gal needs a great burger every now and again!


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