On the Big Island of Hawaii, there is a local food called huli huli chicken (pronounced hoolee hoolee). The guys who make and sell this chicken (to my knowledge, just two or three sellers on the east side of the island) do almost nothing right compared to “regular” retailers. And yet people line up to buy it.
Here’s how it works.
First of all, they don’t have a store or a restaurant, or even sell to a store or restaurant. Instead, they set up along the side of the road with their truck and a big grill pulled behind it on a trailer. As if that weren’t bad enough, you never even know when or where you’ll be able to buy it. It’s completely random!
They might set up on a Tuesday along the road to Kamuela, or on Saturday on the way to Hilo. It might be morning, or it might be afternoon or evening. It’s whenever the guy wants to do it. The price may change. There is no signage—no display or visual merchandising whatsoever. It’s just a grill behind a truck.
But people know that when you see that truck selling huli huli chicken, you must stop and buy it, whether you want chicken just then or not. It’s too wonderful a product to pass up. You have to have it. I have personally seen long lines of people waiting for the chance to buy a chicken, and the seller always sells out in a matter of hours. This is a high-quality, high-value, always-in-fashion product that is truly wonderful—and to the enthusiastic buyers, nothing else matters!
High quality, high value: These particular chickens are home-grown and raised on a diet of coconut and avocado, so they’re fat and happy before they make their way to the grill. Then they are marinated in a sauce that no seller of huli huli chicken will ever divulge (but it’s a fairly intense blend of herbs, honey, and salt) and then slowly roasted over hardwood coals. You can smell it a half mile away and it is to die for. It can’t be replicated, nor can it be passed up on any account. It is authentically good chicken.
Always in fashion: There is a sense of discovery and being “in the know” about it that makes it fashionable. There’s an unspoken but palpable sense of community among the people who discover this chicken, know how great it really is, and enjoy the way it is delivered.
This is a short excerpt from my book,, The Five Laws of Retail, available for pre-order at Amazon.