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Filling Jobs Still Among Hawaii Restaurants' Challenges


Hawaii restaurant owners confront challenges from meeting customers’ expectations for new items to finding good help. And that’s true whether they have a single location — or many more.

PBN recently held a roundtable with the owners of restaurants ranging from small and personal, such as Jon Matsubara’s Feast, to sprawling franchises, such as L&L Hawaii. One challenge they continue to face, along with many other Hawaii employers, is filling jobs. That’s not likely to get easier for them.

According to the National Restaurant Association, Hawaii has 3,700 food and beverage establishments. Jobs in food service account for 15% of all jobs in Hawaii — that’s expected to grow by 6,000 more jobs over the next 10 years.

Cecily Ho Sargent, owner of Tucker & Bevy, has found success in attracting and retaining employees in their 40s and 50s, who show up with a terrific work ethic and loyalty, she says. Justin Yu, general manager of Stripsteak Waikiki, says his team of 40 people has been stable for a year, which he attributes to the training Stripsteak makes available, which has employees feeling invested in that specific restaurant’s success.

Part of the fun, and headache, of running a restaurant, says Matsubara is that repeat customers are looking for novelty. Feast just opened in September. By October, diners were already asking him, “What do you have on the menu that’s new?”

One new thing restaurant owners are grappling with the rapid growth of delivery services, such as BiteSquad, Uber Eats, and Door Dash. More and more diners are opting for the convenience of having dinner delivered at home and that isn’t necessarily helping the bottom line of restaurants as these services charge the restaurants a fee which they have so far been hesitant to build into their pricing. Elisia Flores says L&L has experimented on the Mainland with raising prices 10% to offset the delivery fee and so far, people have been willing to pay it.

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