About the Entrepreneur
Back in 1971, Royal Kitchen quietly opened its doors in Chinatown Cultural Plaza with the vision of bringing baked manapua to Honolulu. At first, residents weren’t accustomed to manapua that wasn’t steamed, but these baked buns became a local favorite that endures today. There’s something for everyone with eleven different fillings ranging from cha siu and kalua pork to curry chicken and Okinawan sweet potato. Now, Royal Kitchen bakes over 2,000 manapua each day, freezing and donating any leftovers to different ministries helping to feed those in need island-wide.
Royal Kitchen serves more than just delicious manapua, but also Chinese and local takeout dishes including Chinese chicken salad, bitter melon, stuffed duck, noodles and more, in both individual and celebration-sized servings. Owner Liana Benn says that everything is a favorite, whether for a personal meal, to share with family, friends or coworkers, or even send off for special occasions.
More with Liana
What do people love about Royal Kitchen?
We are the go-to place for baked manapua. Parents would pick up their manapua to greet their returning troops, their family members, and college students would ask for it when they come back. We have a lot of clients that take it as omiyage to the neighbor islands. And we've had food tours here before Covid, and one food tour customer had it shipped for a lu‘au back in Pennsylvania. We offer plate lunches, roasted meats. Everything is a favorite. We make good food.
How has Hawaii National Bank helped your business?
After the fire in 1980, the bank helped us in the recovery process. We needed funds to rebuild and fix up. When we needed money for loans, they were right there for us.
Why is it important to have a good banker?
It's important to have a good banker because you need to have someone hold the reins for you, hold the ropes for you. They're reliable, they're responsible, and they're responsive to your needs.
What might surprise people about Royal Kitchen?
We give out a lot and it doesn't have to be the end of the day. Do you remember when the Marco Polo burned? I got a call from a friend at Salvation Army, and they said, can you feed them? And I fed them for that night, one night. I think it behooves us to serve the community. It's our responsibility, it's our kuleana to help out.
What excites you about the future?
What excites me about the future. I think we have hope. We have young people that are willing to work and their new strategies. Hopefully, they can import or bring in new methodology so that we can do a better job of serving the customers and maybe expand because we have customers that ask us to open up here, there, everywhere, like Maui or Big Island or even have another shop somewhere else.
“It's actually beyond our dreams that we are here so long and that we have expanded so much given the space that we have.”