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Hawaii Restaurants Still Struggling Even After Dine-In Service Allowed

Noe Tanigawa
Hawai'i Public Radio

It's been just over a month since Honolulu restaurants were allowed to reopen for dine-in service. So how are they doing?


The long-awaited reopening of Honolulu restaurants to dine-in service in early June has turned out to be a non-event, as diners simply aren't showing up. For example, Yummy Restaurant Group, owner of such restaurants as Liliha Bakery, The Signature Prime Steak and Seafood and Little Joe's Steakhouse, tells PBN that revenues are "not even close to back to normal at all."

On its best days, sales are down 50%, on their worst days, 90%.

What has increased are restaurant expenses, especially labor as wait staff are pressed to become sanitation engineers, multi-channel online order takers and enforcers of social distancing rules. Tables, chairs, menus, even pens have to get wiped down after every use. Cashiers have to organize orders for take-out, delivery, and curbside pick-up. And the city expects restaurants to enforce mask-wearing and social-distancing by customers.

For some restaurants, requirements that diners be seated six feet apart have been fatal. Chef-owner Adam Gilbert had to close his Plantation Tavern in Kapolei because the narrow space it occupied meant essentially closing the bar if any diners occupied the adjacent seating.

And chef-co-owner Chris Kajioka has yet to reopen the dining room of Senia, because it's a small space with built-in furniture that is difficult to move. Restaurateurs tells PBN that even if diners were showing up in force, social distancing rules amount to cutting their capacity, and hence their revenues, in half.

A. Kam Napier is the editor-in-chief of Pacific Business News.
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