Aloha Spirit And Burgers: A Recipe For Success At Seven Brothers With Seek Hannemann (Ep 198)

publication date: Sep 7, 2023
author/source: Jaime Oikle with Seek Hannemann



In this episode of the podcast, Jaime Oikle of welcomes Seek Hannemann, the owner of Seven Brothers Burgers. Seek shares the story of how his family started the business in Hawaii and discusses their emphasis on the concept of aloha and creating a family-like atmosphere for customers.


The two hit on various topics and shared a number of insights and lessons, including


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Aloha Spirit And Burgers: A Recipe For Success At Seven Brothers With Seek Hannemann

I have a great guest and a great episode for you. Seek Hannemann, who is the owner of Seven Brothers Burgers. This is going to be fun. Seek, we're going to talk about the business. I want to dig in. You guys have a great backstory, a big family story in Hawaii. Tell us about it. What have you got?

We started the business about fourteen years ago. My mom and dad had bought the original restaurant. It's a hole in the wall back in Kahuku. If anyone has been to Kahuku, they'd know it's a smaller Hawaii countryside town. I had no business doing any restaurant. We had no experience at all. My mom and dad jumped in full head forward. One by one, each of us brothers jumped in, seeing the excitement around it and what my mom and dad were building. It brought us here today where we have seven locations. Currently, we launched the franchising thing about a year ago. Now, we're pushing full steam ahead with the growth.

Where do you fit in the order of brothers?

I’m number five. I'm on the younger side of the seven.

We talked a couple of minutes before we started recording, I asked him how big the family is. You have to lay the numbers on people because it's amazing how big your family is.

My dad comes from 14 brothers and sisters. We all get together. It comes in about somewhere between 160 and 170 people. It's massive.

Aloha Spirit

We were talking about how you're starting to have kids. I'm sure your brothers have kids and there are so many people. It’s great to have a big family. I'm sure the Hawaii or the Aloha spirit is a big part of what you do. Talk about that culture and that feeling that you guys bring.

When my dad first started the stores, he wanted to emphasize the concept of having a feeling that when the customers come in, they feel something different, from the food to the customer service. He would always say that we want to make sure the customers are leaving better than when they came in. A big piece of our business model and what we wanted to come or get across to the people coming through was Aloha.

Aloha in Hawaii can mean hello or goodbye, but there's also a feeling attached to that. They call it the Aloha spirit. We try to make sure that when everyone comes in, it feels like family, feels that Aloha spirit, and feels different. Especially today, with the restaurant world going to where it's going, everything can be faster and more convenient. We try to slow down a tiny bit on that piece of it and try to take the time to when people are sitting down. They feel they're being noticed and appreciated. That's been a large part of our success. It is making sure people are feeling what they're seeing.


Once restaurant customers sit down, they must feel they are being noticed and appreciated.


I grabbed a quote somewhere on your site and I think it echoes that. Maybe you could speak a little bit more to it, but it says, “We're not in the burger business. We're in the business of changing lives.” I don't know if that goes to the customer side or the franchising side, but maybe you could talk a little bit more about it. What do you think?

It goes to both sides. Growing up, we were Christian-based. We believe in Jesus Christ, and that has always been the centerpiece of our business, making sure that we care for people. I’m going to get a little bit deeper into what I was saying about the restaurant business and where it's going in the world. We try to emphasize people's time and make sure that when they are dining with us, they feel that this is a different experience. These people feel different. The culture feels different.

Within hiring people and training people, we make an emphasis on making sure they feel they're a part of the family, they're a part of this bigger picture. Every customer that comes in, every person is coming in with a story. We don't know what that story is, but it's our job to take that opportunity to find out what that story is and how we can make a difference in their life. We attacked that full force ahead of wanting to make sure we're changing lives here. We want to make sure that we're taking the opportunity that these people are seen and that they're not numbers on the board.

In-Store Experience

Especially in the restaurant business, that can be, one of the telltale callouts that people say, “I'm here. They don't believe in me. I'm a temporary person.” There's a lot of opportunity to move past that. To your point, see the real person, develop them, and find out who they are. We'll probably hit on hiring and training in a little bit but something popped into my head. Talk about the experience of the store. Is it quick services, sit-down, or a combination? What does the in-store experience look like?

It's quick service. Typically at each of the stores you order at the counter. Something that separates us a tiny bit from quick service is that we take the food out to them. We bust their tables. We have this thing called the Mahalo card that seals the deal for the experience of the person sitting down. A Mahalo card is a handwritten note expressing our appreciation that you guys chose us and not somebody else today, this afternoon, or this evening.

It's very much any quick service restaurant, but those are the two kinds of service pieces that people are a little more taken aback by because they feel like our last touch with them is when they take the order, then we're checking in on them. We are busting their tables and giving them a little bit more of a connection than just, “See you later.”

What are other opportunities on that handwritten note? Is it ever pre-printed and maybe the stuff gets added to it based on the actual location or the experience or what other opportunities are there or that touch point? It's something that gets missed in a lot of places. Saying thank you missed first of all. We dine out so much lately, especially with the kids running around. I hardly ever get a thank you. I appreciate that as an aspect of it, but if you go an extra step and show caring, it can be a big deal. Anything you guys do that adds to that touch?

From that touch and all that, the Mahalo card too, we have our socials attached to it. What we've tried to do is become a little bit more engaged in the social piece of the business. It allows them to go to our socials, and get a tiny bit more of an insight scoop on what we're all about. That's where we want to not only make that connection but also continue that connection through our social media. How the Mahalo cards came about is my dad felt something was missing as far as that last piece of connection when people were leaving.

He wanted everybody leaving the restaurant with that connected feeling of, “These guys hand-wrote me a note saying thank you I came here.” You're right, nobody does it. I feel it was something that was done in restaurants quite a bit back in the day but it's gotten lost. Now you get the general manager's handwritten note on his card with his number and his email. I think it's been lost through the weeds of getting food out faster. That's the main demand right now. How fast can I get this stuff out? As I said before, that Mahalo card seals the deal as far as that connection with us between the customer coming through.


I like it. I wasn't aware of that. I can appreciate that. I swear, we walk out, and a lot of times, you don't even get the “Thanks for coming in” message from the hosts who are standing there watching you leave. It's crazy. Many missed opportunities. Let's stay with socials for a second. What do you guys find most active for you? What platforms do you use? Maybe you can name a few that you like. What do you think?

We're new to the whole social piece of it. We've had Instagram for a while but never utilized it. Instagram is one where we've tried growing over the years. We're on Instagram and Facebook. We launched a YouTube channel about seven months ago, where we produce 1 or 2 pieces of content a month. Our goal on social media, as I said before, it's another way for us to stay connected to the people who are already visiting us or if they haven't visited us, and to understand and hear a little bit more of our purpose, the whole purpose of trying to change lives and create connections.

For a brand like you guys that has a lot of fun aspects to it, you could play with social in ways that are very different from a lot of other brands. It'll be good if you'd be creative there and use the creativity of your team to come up with ideas and brainstorm. You can have a lot of fun there. I don't use it much, but I'm hearing more and more restaurants are starting to play with TikTok with the videos, doing short-form stuff. Is that something you're going to dip your toes into at all? Have you played with it yet?

A little bit. On the YouTube side, what we do is produce one piece of content, which usually runs about 5 to 10 minutes, and then we'll splice that up into 3 or 4 YouTube shorts to throw back to the main YouTube piece. We'll also use those same shorts for reels on the Instagram page. We are still learning a lot of these concepts and strategies on the social piece of this thing. The idea is that YouTube is the centerpiece of the content that's being created for the month. We use that longer piece of content for smaller pieces of content to promote everyone going back to the source, which is the original YouTube post. We do have a page, but, we haven't played TikTok too much.

I think at the end of the day, what you're what you're probably doing by slicing up the content, that same content could probably be repurposed on that platform as well. It’s the same idea. Reel shorts are all in the same bucket. That's good. You have that nice big piece of content, slice it up into a few segments, put it out, and keep it back there.


Since that social marketing, let's talk a little bit more about customers, how you get customers into your restaurants, how you bring them back, and whether it's loyalty. First time messaging, maybe you do discounting or maybe you don't. Maybe you make special offers. Talk about how you guys think about getting and keeping customers.

Going back to my dad's root of this whole thing, he's always been against promotions or any discounts. He's always felt that if the food is good enough, they're going to come. They're not going to shake a stick at how much it is. If they have a good experience, they're going to come back. We've dabbled a tiny bit in promotion things.

We've tried to stay strong to our roots of quality good food with an experience that blows their mind. The idea is for them to come back again and again. In Hawaii, it's a little bit different because we're very tourist-based. A lot of times, we get a lot of first-time customers. That's what's so cool about growing in the U.S. We have two stores in Utah and one store in Arizona.

It allows us to make sure that they could be a repeat customer if they've already visited us in Hawaii, which is cool because we do have a pretty cool audience in Utah and Arizona that you come visit us in Hawaii. As far as the marketing piece, we've stayed true to the piece of making sure that we have good food so that they're talking about it, and then making sure they have an incredible experience. Something my dad came up with is called face-to-face marketing. It's where we invite them to share their experience on social.

It’s something we train our employees on with people who are on the front of the house on the service side. We say, “If you realize people are having a good experience and they're blown away at the food, invite them to go to Yelp, Google, Instagram, Facebook, and all this stuff.” We always say, “You're not only serving the one person that's sitting down with us. You're serving their 100, 200, or 500 followers.” We always pitch this idea that at any given point that the restaurant is stacked, you're not serving that 60 people. You're serving 2,000, 3,000, 4,000, or 5,000-plus people.

You want to create that impact so you can have that face-to-face marketing experience so that they do have that motivation to say, “Dude, Seven Brothers blew me away. The food was mental, the experience was mental, and the customer service was unreal.” Going back to the Mahalo card, the Mahalo card creates such an impact that you have a ton of people sharing that on their social. We'll take a picture of their little Mahalo card and blast it out to everyone along with their experience. It's comes a full circle.

Loyalty Incentives

I'll be honest. When you talk about slicing content and we don't do enough of it, but that little piece there where you talked about that last two minutes of content where training your people to think the bigger picture that you're not just serving that one person, it's their audience, it's that amplifying effect. That's an important thing that I can guarantee you, the majority of servers out there don't think about. They're transactional, “This person, this table.” They're not thinking bigger, and when you can do that, it's a big deal. On the comeback side, I'm curious if you do loyalty stuff. Do you have the app? Do you bring people back? Are the rewards on the other side of it? Is any of that going on yet?

We do. We run our POS system through Chisp. They are also the provider of our app. There is a loyalty program on there. There's an incentive piece where if you download the app, you get free combo fry or something simple like that. We interact with the customer a tiny bit through the app. We try to send out these two messages. We do have email marketing, which a lot of times isn't promotional. It's more of updates with the restaurant, family news, and new menu items, but those are outside of the in-store marketing. Those are the little touch points that we have with the customer that we try to utilize.

I'm glad to hear you say that you have a schedule for reaching out. I've talked about it before in our shows or our webinars. If I have a choice to eat out, if you have a choice to eat out, and all your customers have a choice to eat out, a lot of times what we do is we hit Google Maps and I hit restaurants. I know the restaurants. I start seeing stuff and then the other thing kicks in, what have I been exposed to lately? Maybe it's an email. It's something I saw on social, drive by, and you see the place. How can you be in their head more often to get that one extra visit a month? You have to do a variety of things. Is that how you guys think about it, touching them, making sure they're thinking about the brand, and so forth?

As of late, we tried to be inside their feed as much as possible. We've never come to the idea of pushing this out so that they're coming to us more than once or more than twice or more than three times. It comes down to the connection. That has been our marketing foundation. If we create a connection with these people and if we are engaging with them, they're going to come. On top of it, if you have insane food, they're going to want to come.

It has always been about that deeper connection. If we could be the light in this person's day for this ten-second snippet of time then we're stoked. It has never been about how we lure these people back in. How do we make them come more than once? If there's a deeper connection and if we're sincere and genuine about it, it's not even about having them come back in. It's them wanting or having that desire to be a part of whatever we're doing. We try to dig our feet deep in the dirt as far as to make sure that we have that sincere connection with the people that are coming through. It's not this “You got to come try this right now.” It's more of “I want to be a part of that. I want to see what they're all about. I want to hang out with them”


If we can be the light in another person’s day, even for a few seconds of their time, it is a great personal achievement.



That's interesting. Capture that in the expansion phase. You guys are starting a franchise. You're looking to grow. You got 3 or 4 locations on the islands and then 3 or 4 in the US. Talk about where you're looking to grow, who is a good partner, and what you're looking for in a franchise partner. How does all that stuff play out?

We have four stores right now in Hawaii that go across the whole North Shore. We have two stores in Utah, one in Provo and one in Saratoga Springs. Our latest store that opened up is in Arizona, Queen Creek. That's our first franchisee that is open. As far as finding people to grow, a lot of it is more of how we see our employees.

We have this funny little tagline on our franchise website, “People that we bring on, we want to make sure that we can serve with them.” What that means is you don't just mesh with them but they have an understanding of who we are. They understand our values, our policies, and our standards. That alone is the biggest piece for us. Do they mesh with our family, our beliefs, and our understanding of what we feel success is?

In starting this whole franchise process, we talked to a ton of people, their do's and don'ts, some of the fears, and some of the nightmares. Our biggest thing going into this was we didn't want to deal with any of that. Let's go at a steady pace, our pace. Let's grow at what the market will give us and then make sure that we're 100% prepared and have the right people in place to do what needs to be done.

It goes down to that connection and that chemistry that we have with the people. We want to make sure that they have a full understanding of, “We're going into this with these beliefs, these policies, and these standards.” There's so much more of a deeper piece to this than the concept of flipping a burger and making money. Although that is an important piece, that connection piece is crucial for us.

What about territory? You've identified those two states. Are you looking to build on those two? What else?

Right now we're trying to grow in Utah, Arizona, and Idaho. The three states that we've got a ton of people that we're talking with and then Hawaii as well. Those are the four states that we're trying to expand and grow with the franchise model.

If I were a prospective franchisee, one of the first things that I would ask is what are the systems in place? Not to be crude about it, but how much money can we make? What do the profit margins look like? How do you talk about systems? How do you talk about the cost of goods sold? How do you talk about margins? What are some of the selling points operational that you guys bring to the table?

Honestly, before you even hit the systems, it's family-centered so we want to make sure that they understand the culture of it. I feel like I'm beating a dead horse with this, but before all of the systems come into play, they need to understand the culture, believe in the culture, and become converted to it. We push on the whole Crisp system as far as our POS, a lot of the restaurants are organized and operated through Crisp POS.

I haven't seen that.

It's a smaller POS company out of Utah. They do a good job and they're building their company and their POS around the concept of franchising. It makes the franchising process easier as people come on board. As far as profit margins and those things, we dial into those things once we get to a certain level. We push out the FDD first and foremost and make sure that they understand everything that they're getting into.

From there, we do a deeper dive. We do a discovery day and understand who they are and what they want to get out of it. It all comes down to, “I'm going to be whatever,” and then we start to realize that maybe they're not seeing the bigger picture of what we're trying to get out of this thing. Expansion to growth is what we're trying to do, but we want to make sure we do it the right way. It's not just, “Let's go.”

I appreciate that. There were a couple of things I grabbed from your website. One of them hit what you already talked about on the franchise side, “Catching The Seven Brothers Wave.” I thought it was that surfing aspect. This one was funny. It was, “Don't paddle out if you don't plan on getting some lickings.” The restaurant business is tough. You're going to get beat up and it's not going to be easy. I'm sure you're probably talking to experienced folks, but you have to explain to them that this is not going to be simple.

It's funny. We're talking to a lot of people who don't have a lot of experience. They feel that restaurants are so easy. “I'm going to flip a couple of burgers and make a little coin.” We try to dial into that whole piece of it that this is a lot of hard work. You're going to have to roll up your sleeves. Your hands are going to get dirty. You're going to be the guy that's mopping up grease on the floor. It's not all sunny and rainbows.


The restaurant business is hard work. You have to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. It is not all sunshine and rainbows.


A lot of people understand that and some of the people we're talking to are in growth mode too. “I'm looking for something different. I want to expand. I want to grow personally.” That's where a lot of the excitement comes from. Knowing what we have, the feeling that we have, and the experience they've had by coming to us and wanting to be a part of it.

I think that's part of it. There are so many brands. We eat out a lot. I see the different brands, but if I were ever to start a brand, I would want to have something that has a story to it or that has a feeling behind it, not just another bland burger or sandwich joint, something that you can get behind that's creative and you can get a vibe. I appreciate what you guys are bringing to the market.

Team Building

The last thing I want to touch on as we wrap up. I find it fascinating to talk about the people challenge, and you hinted at it earlier, but finding people in the business and keeping them can be tough. Anything you guys do that you bring into the secret sauce, maybe it's having some family members around to help out. Hiring people and finding people, any last secrets or things you think about when you're doing that recruiting piece?

Honestly, we stick to a clear code of what's pretty typical, but something I guess that sets us apart is when hiring people, the very first question we ask them is, “Defined service. What is service for you? When was the last time you served someone? Tell us a story.” In that little question alone, it allows us to see who they are, and what they are. At the end of the day, you're hiring anyone between 16 to 22 years old. A kid in middle school or high school is not thinking about service every day. A lot of them say I don't know when asked about when was the last time you served someone. A lot of them don't.

Some of them say, “I do this every single week with my family. This is what we do.” They've got this cool, polished answer about what service means to them and how important it is for their lives. We try to look at people who are super selfless and understand what other people are going through and not being so consumed by themselves.


Build a team with selfless people who understand what others are going through and are not so consumed by themselves.


I think that has given us a lot of success, especially for the feeling that we're trying to create in the stores is making sure that they're constantly after what someone else is going through. “How can I put myself in these people's shoes?” I think it's hard in this day and age too, especially the hiring pool and the age that we're hiring from. A lot of them are so consumed with their phone and the social media piece of it.

It does make that hiring and that training process a little bit harder because they are so used to, “It's my schedule, my day, and me, me, me.” Those are small little quality things that we try to dig out of people. It has made a difference a little bit in regards to their understanding and being fully converted to the brand and what we're trying to do for others.

Episode Wrap-up

As you were talking about the generation, my hand was going to my phone. I know they love these things. I can't pull them away from these devices, even me. I'm more guilty of it now too. I find myself gravitating to it. It's obnoxious. Let's close. Let's send them where you guys are, your websites, send them to any social feeds you want. Share what you got.

Our general website is If you're interested in franchising, there’s a franchise tab there where you can go directly to the franchise website, Social is Seven Brothers on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube channel where we launch one episode a month. They can look for that. Other than that, it's been an awesome experience. I appreciate it, Jaime. I appreciate the questions.

I appreciate it too. I love digging in. Seek Hannemann from the Seven Brothers Burgers. You can find them on the web at and For more great information on restaurant marketing and service, people tips, and all that stuff, check us out here at In the meantime, please hit the button, the subscribe button, give us some feedback, and give us a review. We would appreciate it. Wherever you happen to be tuning in, thanks. We will see you next time. Thanks, Seek.

Thanks, Jaime. Aloha, bro.


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