James from Parts Town interviews David Frazier, Director of Operations for Kokomo’s Island Cafe (Minneapolis, MN-Mall of America)
Give us some background on Kokomo’s.
Kokomo’s has been here for over 10 years, and is the brain child of Tim and Pat Buffham. We have a unique menu with the best ingredients, created by inspired Chefs, served by knowledgeable and well-trained staff.
It’s a great inspiration of the island way of life: the food … the flavors, the laid-back atmosphere.
It’s no secret that Minnesota winters are fairly brutal. I’d imagine that Kokomo’s is a welcome concept up there.
It’s an escape; it definitely is. It’s nice to be able to walk in a atmosphere where we have fans, and the palm trees, and the lights, and different colors. The music is custom-made.
Really? Beyond eliminating ASCAP and BMI licensing fees, it’s pretty cool that you commission your own music.
It’s all custom-made, absolutely. Music is so important–the lighting, the upkeep of the place, is just as important as the food and our chefs, what we make back there. But yeah, I think there’s over 800 songs in our repertoire, so you can go there every day for a week and not hear the same song.
I’ve gotta say, that not only makes you different from other restaurants, it also makes you different from FM radio.
There you go.
Is Coconut Shrimp the signature dish?
That’s one of them.
What would you recommend?
Coconut Shrimp, without a doubt. We have a Pu Pu Platter, which is one of our signature items. It’s a combination of our Kahuna rolls, our Tiki Shrimp, and our ribs. It’s just a wonderful dish. Everything’s fresh … people love the food.
Mall of America is ginormous—how do you stand out? It seems like a daylong adventure for someone just to navigate around the place.
Boy, you hit the nail right on the head with that question … what we do is, when you walk by you can hear the music; it’s so inviting with the palm trees and the adirondack chairs, and our world class staff—our smiling, attention-to-detail staff. These are guys and gals that are professionals at what they do.
Is getting noticed your biggest challenge, or is it something else?
I think it’s getting noticed. I think that’s always the biggest challenge. Staffing? Not a challenge, because we’ve got some of the greatest people I’ll ever work with. Management’s phenomenal. The logistics of running a restaurant; yes it has its challenges, but the Mall—working at the Mall, with the Mall, is just a treat. To be working at the number one tourist attraction in the US of A, it’s an honor. I know the management team and myself feels that not only are we there to run a business, but we have a responsibility to our guests who are traveling from all over the world. They’re there at the Mall for an experience. It’s not only to our owners and managers that we’re responsible; it’s to our guests. It’s not just Kokomo’s that we speak for and we represent, but it’s the Mall of America and Minnesota.
For aspiring owners, General Managers, and other interested passersby, what’s the best advice you can share?
You’re going to hear it’s people, and I think that’s more of a catch phrase than a true belief. I believe in hiring people that want to be there. You get the right people who want to be there, and want to be doing what they are doing, and there’s no difference whatsoever in your staff. They’re the ones that make it happen.
The food is important, but people don’t leave a restaurant with a watch, or a pillow, or a pair of shoes that they can put on and use every day. It’s a memory. It’s an experience, and people make experiences.
What’s going on with the Twins?
It’s a rebuilding year … it’s kinda hard when your closing pitcher is throwing more strikeouts than all your starters combined.
Last time I was in Minneapolis, I took in a Twins/Royals game at Target Field. I thought it was a fun baseball stadium.
It is, but when you get to town, you’ve got to see TCF. It’s the best stadium I’ve ever watched ball in.
Kokomo’s Island Cafe
319 South Avenue
Bloomington, MN 55425