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Hawaii Restaurants Still Battling In the Pandemic Economy

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Hawaii's businesses are still reeling from eight months of the COVID economy — and bracing themselves fo rmore. And in the restaurant industry, that's bringing a great deal of change.


Greg Maples, chairman of the Hawaii Restaurant Association, says that the unprecedented events of 2020 have, as he told PBN, “unleashed some of the best and the brightest in owners and operators of restaurants. There are some really genius people out there doing things right now.”

Confronted with two outright closures and ongoing restrictions, restaurants have simultaneously undertaken operational changes for health and safety while reinventing their business models for take-out and delivery.

At Buzz’s Original Steakhouse, which has operated for nearly 60 years in Kailua, the owners found their regular dinner menus to be too expensive for the take-out market, so they introduced new dishes and changed portion sizes to bring prices down.

Japanese restaurant Odori-ko also revamped its menu, in this case, based on the staffing levels it can afford — items that took two people to cook have been dropped in favor of those that one person can handle. That restaurant is also installing contactless ordering systems, allowing customers to order and pay their bill from their own phone.

A big challenge, says Hiro Takei, owner of Odori-ko, is that all of these pivots to stay viable cost money. That contactless ordering system, for example, is $10,000. Disposable menus, Plexiglass barriers, cleaning supplies, all add up, while revenue is still at all-time lows for restaurants.

And they’re finding that their customers aren’t staying away out of health concerns as much as they were at the beginning of the pandemic. They are now dining out less out of their own economic anxieties

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