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Purveyors of Food and Fun

Dining at Huggo’s been a tradition since 1969

Carrying on the legacy established by his parents, the late Hugo and Shirley von Platen Luder – a spirited, adventurous and charismatic couple – their son Eric von Platen Luder honors that original Huggo’s mantra: “Good Food and Good Fun” in an amazing location.

Hawai’i native, Hugo, and his wife Shirley, built Huggo’s from the ground up in arguably the most exquisite waterfront location in Kailua-Kona. Having worked in the construction industry for a number of years prior – along with numerous additional successful career experiences in the oil industry, sales and high-end retail – Hugo was more than well-equipped for the challenge. First building the restaurant and then quickly becoming a respected restaurateur extraordinaire along with the equally entrepreneurial Shirley. From the beginning, they set out to create a casual, neighborhood place for people to gather and enjoy a cocktail, a great steak or morning-caught fish while enjoying the open air, oceanfront ambiance. 

“The goal at Huggo’s has been and continues to be ‘to provide a memorable evening and dining experience rather than simply a meal,’” Eric says.

Ready to pursue more of their many interests and just enjoy life, the couple handed over the reins at Huggo’s to Eric in 1982. “I was at university in Texas working towards an MBA degree when my parents invited me to join them on a fishing trip in the Bahamas. That’s when they told me they were selling the restaurant and looking for a buyer. I slept on it and the next morning asked them to sell it to me,” Eric says. “I was 23 at the time and we worked out a great deal – this amazing opportunity was made possible by my parents, who remained a huge presence at the restaurant up until their passing in 2021. They were always available to provide sage advice throughout the years.”

In 1998, Eric found himself with another fantastic opportunity. “That year, the long-vacant lot adjacent to Huggo’s became available for purchase. My partner Scott Dodd and I jumped at the opportunity to create a more casual, toes-in-the-sand restaurant and bar featuring the most talented musicians on the island. We imagined it as a much more casual, less sophisticated experience that we have always enjoyed at the Halekulani on O’ahu,” he says. 

Evenings at the new Huggo’s On the Rocks (now simply On the Rocks) begin with sunset pupu and cocktails while enjoying great Hawaiian music and a beautiful dancer performing hula. Then, later in the evening, contemporary dance music rocks the rocks, Eric says. 

Always open to the possibility of new restaurant locations, the duo developed one must-have- factor on deciding to move ahead or not: it must be a place where they want to go to work, a place they would love to be, a place with an extraordinary location. 

Over the years they have remained focused on that, opening three additional restaurants in amazing oceanfront locations. Lava Lava Beach Club opened at Waikoloa Beach Resort in 2012; Lava Lava Beach Club Kaua’i opened on the beach in Kapa’a in 2016; and most recently, Kai Eats + Drinks opened on the waterfront in Kailua-Kona in 2021. These restaurants as well as Huggo’s and On the Rocks are all operated under the umbrella of Luana Hospitality Group, LLC, where both Eric and Scott serve as principals. 

And, while Eric says they’re always looking for new locations, there’s nothing on the horizon at the moment. “We’re busy now fine-tuning the menus, improving service with ongoing staff training at our existing restaurants, and creating programs that give back to our community. Those currently include the ‘Aloha Pass it On’ initiative, in which one charity is chosen each month from suggestions made by staff to receive a percentage of sales from select menu items and specific retail items at each restaurant.” 

With $7,000 to $10,000 generated each month, Eric says a portion also goes to funding scholarships for local school children monthly. Both Eric and Scott, despite busy work lives, have always made the time to serve on various boards and committees for the good of Hawai’i Island communities. Over the years, these groups have included the Hawai’i Island Humane Society, Family Support Services Hawai’i, the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce and the Kailua Village Business Improvement District, among others.

From bussing tables at Huggo’s at age 11 to becoming president and principal of a multi-operation restaurant group, Eric has some tea to spill! 

“As a kid, I seated actor Tom Cruise at Huggo’s and had no idea who he was. Later I was more savvy at recognizing celebrity guests – Jack Lord, the star of the original Hawai’i 5-0 series and more, including pro tennis player Jan-Michael Gambill, now a long-time island resident and good friend,” Eric says. 

Not about to name names, Eric says a few waiters – now pillars of Kona society – used to make him and fellow bussers take care of their tables while they went out to smoke pakalolo (marijuana). Oh, if only those walls could talk! 

For more details on the restaurants, log on to LuanaHospitalityGroup.com.

“Giving back to our community has always been important to us – we are proud of the work we have done as individuals and as a business to support local non-profit organizations and charities.”

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