How to Support Hawai‘i Restaurants During the Coronavirus Slowdown
Local restaurateurs and food purveyors are on edge as precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus begin to take effect. What can you do to help?
Fête is one of several restaurants now offering curbside service. Scroll down for more places where you can pick up meals to go.
Photo: Catherine Toth Fox
Canceled vacations. Reduced flights. Skittish residents. It’s an unnerving time for all of us. And perhaps especially so for the restaurant industry as recent developments in the COVID-19 pandemic have left small-business owners scrambling.
A drain in visitors to the Islands has already impacted airlines, hotels and other key industries. And while times of economic distress are rarely good for restaurants, there’s reason to believe that this particular recession might be more challenging. Mayors of New York, Chicago, Seattle and Los Angeles as well as the governor of Ohio have ordered restaurants, nightclubs and bars to close up shop: Only takeout and delivery are allowed.
So far in Hawai‘i, restaurants are trying to operate business as usual as much as possible. But owners are monitoring the evolving state guidelines while bracing for the inevitable slowdown from a slump in tourism and lack of demand from cloistered residents.
SEE ALSO: Tracking Coronavirus in Hawai‘i
Lee Anne Wong, who is a chef and partner at Koko Head Café in Kaimukī as well as Lahaina’s Pioneer Inn, is worried for her colleagues because the restaurant industry operates on such slim margins—even a 3% to 5% reduction in sales can start an unfortunate chain reaction. “Any drop in sales starts with having to reduce staff size and ultimately could not only end with closure of the business but also have disastrous effects on say someone who has a bank loan on said business,” she says.
Kristian House, owner of the Hale‘iwa Bottle Shop, agrees. “I don’t think I’m alone as a small business in that I’m not exactly sitting on a huge cushion of cash reserves where I can just ride things out and poke my head out in six months when things are better,if they will be by then,” he says. “Luckily I’m a pretty shoestring operation, but I still obviously depend on a constant flow of customers to stay open. A lot of those customers have been tourists, so we’ll see how things go.”
Denise Luke, owner of 12th Ave Grill, says that the ripple effect of a slowdown—or even full stop—goes deeper than just the restaurants’ cooks and servers too. “Our restaurants, like all locally sourcing restaurants, are supporting our farmers, ranchers and fishermen too,” she says. “When the number of people who eat out plummets like this we cannot save fresh ingredients and our sudden and cumulative inability to support local agriculture and industry can be devastating.”
So what can fans do to help restaurants weather the storm in the age of social distancing? Restaurant and food business owners are in a tricky spot. Sunday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that large gatherings of over 50 people be canceled and that people keep 6 feet away from each other. Monday, the president said his team is recommending no events be held with more than 10 people, leaving many residents wondering exactly how restaurants fit into that puzzle. Here are some options:
Get it Delivered
Da Spot offers curbside takeout and delivery.
GrubHub is suspending commission fees for independent restaurants (which are sometimes as high as 30%). Find restaurants such as Cuu Long II, Serg’s Mexican Kitchen and Bangkok Chef.
Uber Eats is waiving delivery fees from independent restaurants. Find businesses including Pioneer Saloon, Arancino di Mare and 8 Fat Fat 8.
Bite Squad delivers from restaurants including Alan Wong’s, Roy’s and 3660 on the Rise.
ichiriki offers nabe to go.
photo: Steve Czerniak
Get Your Meal To-Go
Thanks to a plate lunch culture, you can get meals to-go from almost every O‘ahu restaurant so check for your favorite. But more and more restaurants are now offering curbside pickup and you can also start looking for takeout from some more unexpected places such as:
Fête is offering curbside pickup.
Ichiriki offers takeout nabe.
12th Ave Grill offers its entire menu and daily specials to go.
Koko Head Café offers its entire menu to go.
Find a more complete list from our sister publication on frolichawaii.com. If you are a restaurant now offering curbside or to-go service, email us at email@example.com or tag us @honolulumag on Instagram or Facebook.
Buy a Gift Certificate or Merchandise
If you have cash to spare, getting a gift certificate is a nice gesture to help restaurateurs immediately. (But this isn’t a cure-all measure as it doesn’t help front-of-the-house servers who rely on tips.)
Tip Your Servers (and Tip Them Again)
For servers who make their money in tips, a slow-down in foot traffic will be devastating. If you eat in or get takeout, make sure to tip what you can.
Many local food purveyors have websites. If you’re in the market for honey or chocolate or other goods for your pantry, consider checking to see if your favorite local maker can sell you goods online or over the phone.
Get a Subscription or Join the Club
If you join a monthly club or subscription, a food business will know it has guaranteed income coming in and can plan accordingly. The Bodega in Hale‘iwa, for instance, will be offering a $35 a month pot pie subscription from Hi Pie Hawai‘i. CSA subscriptions can help out your local farms. Click here to see our list of local CSAs as well as what our dining editor is stocking in her pantry.