Elisia Flores, CEO
L&L Hawaiian Barbecue
Born and raised in Hawaii, this second-generation CEO worked as a cashier in the family business before heading to the University of Southern California, earning a bachelor’s degree in finance. This led to an 8-year career at General Electric where Flores quickly moved up the ladder in senior finance roles while pursuing an executive MBA.
In 2014, she joined L&L as chief financial officer. “I didn’t see a lot of people at GE who looked like me at the top,” says Flores, who is Asian and identifies as gay. “The opportunity to put everything I’d learned into action was far greater if I came home.”
Elisia was awed by L&L’s positive impact on franchisees, many of whom are immigrants just like her father, Eddie Flores, co-founder of L&L and 2008 NRAEF Faces of Diversity honoree. “It’s my dad’s American Dream story 100 times,” she says.
She was appointed CEO and Vice Chair in 2019. Then the pandemic hit, testing her leadership skills. “My main goal was for our franchisees to be successful.”
Her team provided one-on-one counseling, helping franchisees apply for pandemic relief assistance. They also encouraged franchisees to connect with third-party delivery services. “Prior to the pandemic, 60 percent of our business was takeout, so it was easy to ramp up to 100 percent,” she says.
With this support, only one restaurant out of 210 had to close, and 12 new restaurants were added in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Texas, and Washington.
While it wasn’t easy, she wouldn’t trade it for anything. “I can’t think of another business as rewarding or an industry with more diversity and opportunity.”