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Hawaii Restaurant Costs

The Big Squeeze: Restaurants are paying more for everything and they know you don’t want to.


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Russel Siu, executive chef of 3660 On The Rise

Photo: Courtesy Russel Siu


What to do?

“We look for all the efficiencies we can,” says Tobin. “We aim to do volume, which helps considerably.”

“You have to shop wisely,” says Siu. “The only thing we don’t compromise on is fresh fish. People seem to know it costs more and are willing to pay.”

“You look for ways to give customers value at a reasonable cost,” says Kodama.  “You can do specials with a cut of meat or a fish that costs less, as long as it’s a really good product that day.”

“You get creative,” says Streng, who’s just opened a more casual, quick-service branch of Tangö in Ward Centre, called Tangö Market. There, he does things like set up a barbecue tent on Friday nights and allow customers to bring in wine.

“You’ve got to give customers a reason to come out,” says Stewart. He recently did a Lobster Mondays promotion, “because it’s really hard to get anyone out of the Lazy Boy on a Monday night.”

Similarly, Siu does a $29 prix fixe weeknights. “People like it, they get a complete dinner at a price that will make them come out.”

“We’re a service business. We’re going to ride it out with our local customer base still intact,” says Kodama.

“You need a sense of perspective,” says Schoch. “It’s not as bad here as it is some places on the Mainland. Believe me, it’s not as bad as it was in 1991. I know, I was here.”

Mavro also suggests perspective. “What do you want to do?” he says with a Gallic shrug. “You cannot change it. You need a sense of humor.”

 

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Honolulu Magazine February 2018
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