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Aloha Plate at Brigham Young University

MenuMasters 2017: Brigham Young University's Aloha Plate

Bringing affordable Hawaiian cuisine to students

Presented by Nation's Restaurant News and sponsored by Ventura Foods, the MenuMasters Awards honor culinary excellence in menu development.

Authenticity, flavor, brand-building and price point come together in the Hawaiian plate lunch served at the Aloha Plate concept at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

Dean Wright, director of dining at BYU, ate his first plate lunch years ago, at the university’s campus on the island of Oahu. The meal is simple and satisfying, and consists of two scoops of sticky white rice, a scoop of mayo-based macaroni salad and a protein, ranging from breaded chicken to barbecued pork, to beef or Spam.

The plate lunch represents Hawaii’s culinary melting pot, which adapts influences from Japan, China, the Philippines and Portugal. It’s a dish beloved by young and old, and Wright had a hunch that it would be a hit with college students.

“The concept is that it’s a very filling and affordable lunch,” Wright said. “I had the idea several years ago, and last year I finally convinced the retail GM to give it a try.”

Maintaining the quality and authenticity of the meal was key, according to executive chef John McDonald.


Students add their choice of protein — chicken, beef, pork, shrimp or Spam — to a base of sticky rice and macaroni salad.

“The key was we wanted to make it authentic and done really well,” McDonald said. “We could’ve cut corners but we didn’t. Prebreaded chicken would be easier and hand-breading is more labor-intensive, but there’s a quality difference.”

The meals are prepared in a central kitchen, and the macaroni salad recipe is proprietary to Aloha Plate. Proteins include shoyu chicken, katsu steak, kalua pork, grilled Spam and garlic shrimp, with limited-time offers also rotating in.

Price was also a factor in the item’s success.

“At first, some said it had to be $7, but we knew the price point students want for lunch is right around $5.50,” Wright said. “This is the perfect price for students and they can get very full.”

The combination of was spot on: the Hawaiian plate lunch often outsells nationally branded concepts in BYU’s food court, and has recorded $900,000 in sales since it debuted last year.


Chili has also appeared on the Aloha Plate menu.


  • Island inspiration: Brigham Young University dining director Dean Wright got the idea for Aloha Plate in Oahu.
  • Building a template: Each Aloha Plate consists of two scoops of white rice, macaroni salad and a choice of protein.
  • Protein power: To offer plenty of variety, protein options include katsu chicken, shoyu chicken, kalua pork, kalbi steak and Aloha Spam.
  • Cost conscious: College students are the primary customers of Aloha Plate, so price is an important factor. BYU has found that the price point of $5.50 is a sweet spot.

Contact Marcella Veneziale at [email protected]

Contact Tara Fitzpatrick at [email protected]
Follow her on Twitter: @tara_fitzie

TAGS: Menu
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