Hawaii restauranteurs call on Gov. David Ige to act

Citing losses of up to 80 percent, and noting that switching to take-out and delivery is not enough to sustain most businesses, the chairman of the Hawaii Restaurant Association this week called on Hawaii Gov. David Ige to do more.

The “plea for help” includes suggestions for a business sustainment package of government actions that could help, and asks the governor to be “careful and considerate as possible when introducing new mandates specific to independent small businesses.”

The letter can be found here, and is reprinted below in full. Restauranteurs are invited to join as signatories to the letter via a Google Sheets spreadsheet, which already has over 340 names.

Dear Governor Ige,

As fears of COVID-19 continue, we are thankful for your compassionate and supportive leadership through these unknown times. We realize you are making difficult decisions to keep all of us and our loved ones safe. The Hawaii Restaurant Association, is writing to you as a plea for help and expedient action.

This week’s directive for all Hawaii restaurants to cease dine-in operations and close all bars and clubs, while necessary for public health and safety is having a very swift and deleterious impact on restaurant sales. All bars and clubs are immediately impacted. Many restaurants that serve hot pot, yakiniku, and buffets are not able to offer take out food and have zero income. Most other full service restaurants serving take out meals are experiencing sales decreases of up to 80%.

Our industry will not survive the upcoming weeks without significant assistance from our state government and, more directly, your personal involvement and help. We need our state government to take an active role in guiding us through these challenging next months and ensuring that a variety of financial safety nets are in place to make sure the restaurant industry can survive while and after they comply with the state directive and aid in improving the safety of our community.

Restaurants are a low margin business, buying food that is perishable. Many restaurants have accrued extensive labor costs in preparation for the hours, days, and in the case of preserved foods, even weeks in advance. Many of us do not have the infrastructure or menus to pivot and depend on takeout and delivery sales. While we are scrambling to create these new business models, time is running out every day as our cash reserves deplete. In many cases, restaurants only have a few weeks of reserve cash to rely on. Time is of the essence.

In addition, many are responsible to pay for their employees’ health insurance during this time, at a huge cost. In addition, many third-party delivery services do not have the infrastructure to support the huge influx of restaurants that will need their services.

Takeout and delivery only cannot support our immediate or future cash needs. Our costs are much higher than the income takeout and delivery can generate, and our bills are due now.

We have discussed the following ideas and believe their implementation would greatly increase the chances of our industry’s survival. Given that your office directed all restaurants in Hawaii to cease dine-in operations, the state should impose programs and policies such as the following to mitigate the adverse impact COVID-19 and the mandates are having on our business’s viability. Seriously consider any and all of the following actions to include in a business sustainment package.

  • Call for abatement of rent and mortgage payments (with incentives, if necessary) from all landlords and lending institutions, respectively, starting in March and until the mandate is lifted and the economy recovers sufficiently.
  • Abatement of sales tax in Q1 and Q2.
  • Abatement of payroll tax in Q1 and Q2.
  • Relax and forgive late payment fines and fees on GET for up to the next 6 months.
  • Make dollar for dollar tax credits available to employers who provide and pay for employee health insurance during layoffs.
  • Call for statewide abatement of utilities and municipal fees effective March 15 and until 60 days after mandate is lifted.
  • Call for payment processors to waive merchant fees in Q2.
  • Pay unemployment to all restaurant employees 100% of their average wages over 2 quarters.
  • Temporarily authorize the sale of un-opened alcoholic beverages in original containers for off premise sale by on-premise only restaurant and bar club licensees.
  • Forgive employers’ unemployment insurance rate increases.
  • Call for the state’s health insurance providers to extend health benefits for all employees with current employer paid health insurance who are laid off; or cover COBRA expenses.
  • Consider increasing the Tip Credit up to $5 resulting in a $6.10 employer paid wage as long as the tipped employee’s total hourly wage is at least $17 per hour in order to decrease layoffs and provide livable wages beyond the minimum wage to all staff.

In addition, we ask that you be as careful and considerate as possible when introducing new mandates specific to independent small businesses under 500 employees that could potentially deplete our funds further rather than support our ability to re-open and operate as normal. We are discussing additional remedies for our industry and trust that you and the legislators will provide the necessary leadership to help our industry navigate to better times.

We realize this list is long and there are hurdles to overcome in their implementation, but they are all necessary to increase our chances of survival and therefore our ability to continue to employ and provide for our dedicated staff. Protecting our employees means also making sure they have jobs to return to when this pandemic is over. We trust that you will make the right decisions and act swiftly to save our businesses.

Did you know that in Hawa’i there were:

  • 3,665 eating and drinking place locations in 2018?
  • $5.6 billion in estimated sales in restaurants in 2018?
  • 98,900 restaurant & food service jobs in 2019 = 15% of employment in the state?

As members of the hospitality community, we’re programmed to take care of others and are ready to help our community in this time of need, but this time we are also asking you to protect and support us. The industry that has been a cornerstone of our economy and feeding Hawaii for the last century is facing an existential threat. Time is short to provide the necessary remedies to save it.


Tom Jones
The Hawaii Restaurant Association

Add your signature to the HRA letter to Hawaii Gov. David Ige here.

Food-A-Go-Go launched to support Hawaii restaurants during COVID-19 crisis

The Hawaii Agricultural Foundation (HAF), in cooperation with many of its partners, will replace its Localicious campaign over the next few weeks with a campaign to support all Hawaii restaurants who are open for takeout and delivery during this COVID-19 pandemic.

The new initiative – Food-A-Go-Go – asks customers to consider takeout, delivery or curbside pickup as an alternative means of providing meals for their families in order to help our local restaurants that have had to close in-room dining.

Customers can go to FoodAGoGo.org to find the latest up-to-date information on all restaurants that remain open with delivery, takeout or curbside pickup options.  All Hawaii restaurants, from mom-and-pop to fine dining, are welcome to participate and can submit an online form with information on their services. The initial directory was seeded from the “Hawaii Grinds @ HOME” crowdsourced list launched last week.

The launch of Food-A-Go-Go arrives in the midst of Localicious month, HAF’s month-long campaign promoting restaurants who support Hawai‘i’s farmers, ranchers and fisherman; and raises funds for HAF’s K-12 agricultural education programs. As the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected the restaurant industry with business closures and staff layoffs, HAF is shifting its focus from Localicious to Food-A-Go-Go. HAF will launch new television and radio PSAs with its media partners, aimed at encourging the public to consider takeout. Community, corporate, media organizations and many others are helping by donating airtime, funding, and marketing support to promote the message.  

“We need to come together now more than ever to support our local restaurant industry and their workers, says HAF executive director Denise Yamaguchi. “Food-A-Go-Go is a completely free resource for restaurants and customers and we encourage the community to do what they can do to support our local restaurants statewide.”

“We 100% support the actions of our government leaders to slow the spread of COVID-19, but the toll these actions are taking on our restaurant and hospitality industry is devastating,” says Jason Wong, president of Sysco Hawai‘i. “Sysco Hawai‘i is proud to support Food-A-Go-Go in an effort to provide an alternative to cooking at home where you can order ready-made takeout meals from your favorite neighborhood restaurants.”

Visit FoodAGoGo.org to find a restaurant and order takeout, curbside pickup, or delivery.

About Food-A-Go-Go

Food-A-Go-Go is a community service by Hawaii Agricultural Foundation and Hawaii Food and Wine Festival supported by Sysco Hawai‘i , Hawai‘i Gas, Hawaii News Now, iHeartMedia, KITV, KONG Radio, 94.7KUMU, KWXX, KNWB, B97 Hilo, B93 Kona, KPOA 93.5, KJKS KISS 99.9, Hawai ʻi Restaurant Association, Digital Illustrations, First Daughter Media, Library Creative, Mākaha Studios.

About Hawaii Agricultural Foundation

The Hawaii Agricultural Foundation is a non-profit charitable organization created to promote agriculture and farming. Established in 2007, HAF’s mission is to support and sustain Hawai‘i ’s agricultural industry by addressing critical needs and services of farmers and the agricultural industry, and by better connecting the farmers with the community and vice-versa. For more information, visit HawaiiAgFoundation.org

Marukame Udon tops restaurant list for Hawaii

The website Reviews.org compiled data from Yelp to determine the top restaurant for every state of the U.S. For the Aloha State, Marukame Udon took first place.

” We poured through data on Yelp and found the top three restaurants (both by ratings and number of reviews) for each state’s most populous city,” the site explained. “We then chose the highest-ranked restaurant of the three based on the reviews.”

Photo by Popat L.

Top of Waikīkī highlights heart-healthy menu

For a healthy meal without compromising taste, Top of Waikiki’s Executive Chef Lance Kosaka and his culinary team have created a delectable prix fixe menu that’s also great for your heart’s health.

This mouthwatering three-course prix fixe menu is only available during March and April for $55 per person. It features a mixed grain tabbouleh salad to start with a lemon vinaigrette, topped with pepita seeds, avocado and pomegranate. Enjoy an entrée of walnut-crusted chicken breast with moringa-leaves pesto over curried lentils and cauliflower parsnip puree. Finish your meal with a key lime pie with almond-amaranth crust and fresh berries. Top it off with our Puuwai Fizz ($16) made with Brokers gin, absinthe, simple syrup, lime, raspberries, olive oil and egg whites.

For details and reservations, visit topofwaikiki.com.


Hawaii’s only revolving restaurant, Top of Waikiki, has entertained guests in the heart of Waikiki for over 50 years. It features breathtaking sunset views of Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head and the Honolulu city lights with a full rotation completing every hour. 

Top of Waikiki offers award-winning Hawaii Regional Steak and Seafood, prepared by Executive Chef Lance Kosaka. This three-tier restaurant is the perfect setting for all occasions, including romantic date nights, dinners with family, friends, or private events. The restaurant revolves around an open, sit-down bar where guests can enjoy Waikiki’s best happy hour and feel like they are at the top of Waikiki!

TOP OF WAIKIKI Hours of Operation

  • Nightly 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
  • Happy Hour Nightly 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the bar
  • Dress code: resort casual, no beachwear and no sleeveless shirts for men
  • Restaurant reservations available at topofwaikiki.com or by calling (808) 923-3877
  • Validated parking available in the Waikiki Business Plaza and Waikiki Shopping Plaza

Stripsteak Waikiki unveils Aloha Lunch menu

Stripsteak-Waikiki-Lobster-Tacos-David Murphey.jpg

Stripsteak Waikiki has launched a new, Aloha Lunch menu with special prix fixe options featuring fresh seafood and locally-sourced ingredients accompanying Michael Mina’s contemporary steakhouse cuisine. The Aloha Lunch starts at $37.50 per person (excluding tax and gratuity) and highlights a selection of healthy and light starters paired with popular entrées where guests are able to choose one appetizer and one main dish.

Light bites featured in the prix fixe offerings include local favorites such as, “Instant Bacon” with kurobuta pork belly, tempura oyster and black pepper soy-glaze, Chilled Lobster Tacos with Maui gold pineapple, avocado cream and red bell peppers; and Thai Calamari Ceviche with green papaya, carrots, crushed peanuts and “leche de tigre.”

Popular main entrée selections featured in the Aloha Lunch special include Michael’s Ahi Tuna Tartare with kale salad, Asian pear, toasted pine nuts, sesame and mint; Free-Range Chicken with Okinawan potatoes, baby spinach and Hau‘ula tomato-curry sauce; and the Stripsteak Burger with caramelized Maui onions, Nueske’s bacon, American cheese and a side of Michael Mina’s duck fat fries.

Guests also have the option of ordering á la carte selections including an assortment of fresh seafood flown in daily including shellfish, sushi and sashimi. From the broiler, options featured on the lunch menu include hearty cuts of Moyer Farms Steaks served with fries and Citrus Grilled Fish served with quinoa pilaf. Lunch libations are mixed daily into unique concoctions including the bartender’s special selection served in a Lunch Punch.

Located on the International Market Place’s Third-Level Grand Lanai at 2330 Kalākaua Avenue, lunch is offered daily from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. with expansive indoor and outdoor seating ideally suited for business lunches. Kama‘āina are eligible for a 10% discount until the end of November with proof of residency. Reservations are highly recommended. Validated valet and self-parking is available at the International Market Place.

Stripsteak Waikiki opened on Aug. 25 and the Aloha Lunch special is the precursor to the restaurant’s participation in this year’s Restaurant Week Hawai‘i from Nov. 14-20, with more details to be released later this fall. Daily lunch service is followed by afternoon pau hana, available at the bar from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

For more information, please visit STRIPSTEAKWaikiki.com, Facebook.com/STRIPSTEAKRestaurant and @STRIPSTEAKHI on Instagram and Twitter.

Hello Kitty Cafe Truck Coming to Hawaii

delete-helloThis Summer, the hugely popular Hello Kitty Cafe Truck will be crossing the Pacific Ocean to make its first-ever visit to Hawaii.

The special three-day appearance will take place from Friday, June 17 through Sunday, June 19 at Ala Moana Center in Honolulu. The “mobile vehicle of cuteness and sweets” will serve goodies from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily to Hello Kitty fans of all ages.

Treats on board the Hello Kitty Cafe Truck will include a macaron box set with one surprise Sanrio character macaron inside, a delicious three-piece Hello Kitty cookie set in adorable packaging, a four-pack of mini cakes, and a pink bow-shaped water bottle. In addition to the goodies, a Hello Kitty Cafe mug, a supercute pink Hello Kitty Cafe T-shirt and the pop icon’s signature bow headband will also be available to purchase.

The Hello Kitty Cafe Truck will be stationed in front of the Sanrio store, making it easy for fans to continue their experience by stopping by the retail location.

The Hello Kitty Cafe Truck is the first-of-its-kind food service venture for Sanrio in the U.S. The cafe truck made its first official debut at Hello Kitty Con in October 2014 and has been rolling up to festivals & events ever since, spreading Sanrio’s message of happiness, friendship and fun while offering yummy goodies to Hello Kitty fans and foodies.

12 Isle Eateries Among Top 100 Outdoor Dining Spots

delete_thumb_600Hot on the heels of yesterday’s “Top 100 Places to Eat” list from Yelp comes the “100 Best Al Fresco Dining Restaurants” from OpenTable. For this list, ranking eateries where you dine outdoors, a dozen Hawaii restaurants made the cut.

“These awards reflect the combined opinions of more than 5 million restaurant reviews submitted by verified OpenTable diners for more than 20,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia,” notes OpenTable in its report. “The complete list features winning restaurants in 19 states and Washington, D.C., and … the scenic state of California claims almost half the number of winning restaurants with 44, followed by Florida with 13, Hawaii with 12, and Arizona with eight.”

100 Best Al Fresco Dining Restaurants in America 2016 – Hawaii

Hawaii Home to 10 of ‘Top 100 Places to Eat’

delete-yelpThe Aloha State is home to ten of the ‘Top 100 Places to Eat‘ according to Yelp’s annual survey of “food greatness.” The 2016 list, unlike the list from last year (based primarily on a restaurant’s performance in recent years),looks at performance since the founding of Yelp in 2004.

The top-ranked Hawaii restaurants are:

10. Marukame Udon, Honolulu, HI

14. Ono Seafood, Honolulu, HI

15. Da Poke Shack, Kailua-Kona, HI

35. Mama’s Fish House Restaurant, Paia, HI

56. Lahaina Grill, Lahaina, HI

63. Helena’s Hawaiian Food, Honolulu, HI

76. Musubi Cafe Iyasume, Honolulu, HI

84. Shark Pit Maui, Lahaina, HI

89. Umeke’s, Kailua-Kona, HI

92. Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop, Lahaina, HI

“Businesses from across the country were compared using a ranking that looks at both the ratings and the number of reviews while accounting for quality, popularity, and statistical fluctuations,” Yelp explains. “To localize the list, only reviews written by users whose profiles list their home location as within the reviewed businesses’ country were factored into the ranking.”

See the complete list here:


Hawaii chefs featured on ‘Moveable Feast’


Hawaii-based chefs Lee Anne Wong, Jon Matsubara, Peter Merriman, Jim Babian, Isaac Bancaco, and Kyle Kawakami are featured on three upcoming episodes of the public television series “Moveable Feast with Fine Cooking.” The first Hawaii episode, on Oahu, premieres Saturday, Feb. 13 at 7:00 p.m. on PBS Hawaii.

“I’m excited for people outside of Hawaii to see the agricultural community and how Hawaii is so much richer than just white sand beaches,” Merriman told PBS Hawaii. “We have a deep culture.”

He also recalled “[‘Moveable Feast’ host] Pete Evans and crew getting stuck in their rental car at Kahua Ranch! They had to get towed out!”

Oahu – Premieres Feb. 13 at 7:00 p.m.

Chef Lee Anne Wong and host Pete Evans meet fish guru Brooks Takenaka at the Honolulu Fish Auction. Then, chef Jon Matsubara shows Evans how to harvest pineapple. Matsubara prepares his smoking mai tai cocktail, hibachi-style Kauai shrimp, and Kahaluu roast pork belly. Wong cooks up fresh opah, and Evans prepares ahi poke. Guests enjoy the feast at Maunalua Bay.

Maui – Premieres Feb. 20 at 7:00 p.m.

2014 Maui Chef of the Year Isaac Bancaco, and founder of the mobile kitchen Maui Fresh Streatery Kyle Kawakami, show Evans around Maui. Their adventure starts with some off-shore fishing. Back on land, the team prepares a feast at Noho‘ana Farm, known for its taro and poi.

The Big Island – Premieres Feb. 27 at 7:00 p.m.

Chef Peter Merriman takes Evans up the Kohala Mountains to Kahua Ranch, where they pick up Wagyu beef. Meanwhile, chef Jim Babian sources abalone from the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii. The chefs meet up at Merriman’s Restaurant to prepare wood-grilled abalone; pipikaula; pan-seared kampachi with lilikoi brown butter sauce; and lamb curry with fresh ginger, turmeric, coconut, and pineapple-mint garnish.

PBS Hawaii is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and Hawaii’s sole member of the trusted Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). We advance learning and discovery through storytelling that profoundly touches people’s lives. We bring the world to Hawaii and Hawaii to the world.

Tiki’s Bar & Grill November News

Breakfast at Tiki’s Grill & Bar

Tiki’s is now open for breakfast daily from 7am – 10:30am and Chef Ronnie has put together an amazing menu of local and traditional favorites. Some items include: Loco Moco made with Grass Fed Big Island Beef; Smoked Hawaiian Marlin Crepe; Red Velvet Waffles; and Surfer Girl Omelette with shrimp, crab, smoked salmon and lobster sauce. The menu also includes three different types of Eggs Benedict and four different kinds of specialty bacon items: Cheesy Bacon Grits, Chocolate Dipped Bacon, Thick Cut Smoked Bacon and a Bacon Wrapped Pineapple!

St. Francis Winery Winemaker Dinner

Tiki’s Executive Chef Ronnie Nasuti has teamed up with award-winning St. Francis Winery Winemaker Katie Madigan to bring guests an amazing five-course wine pairing dinner. The dinner is taking place on Monday, November 16th from 6pm – 8:30pm. Tickets are $75 per person and can be booked through Eventbrite or Tiki’s website. Tickets also include complimentary valet parking.

For more than four decades, the wines of St. Francis Winery & Vineyards have reflected the finest mountain and valley vineyards in Sonoma County, California. This year, winemaker Katie Madigan was named Best Woman Winemaker at the 2015 International Women’s Wine Competition, where her 2013 Sonoma Old Vine Zinfandel won Best in Show. Chef Ronnie has expertly paired each St. Francis wine with a course from his kitchen (menu is pasted below for you). Chef’s delicious signature items and dinner specials made with carefully sourced local purveyors fuse Hawaiian/ Pacific island flavors with American cuisine. Seating for this event is extremely limited and will sell out quickly.

Turkey At Tiki’s Grill & Bar

Iconic views and Chef Ronnie Nasuti’s special three-course menu (with all the fixings) will make this a memorable Thanksgiving Day for all!

  • When: Thursday, November 26, 4pm – 10:30pm
  • Where: Tiki’s Grill & Bar, 2570 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, HI
  • Cost: $36 per person (exclusive of tax and gratuity)
  • Reservations: 808-923-8454 or www.tikisgrill.com

First Course: Parsnip & Apple Bisque with cinnamon creme fraiche and macadamia nuts or Waimanolo Green Salad with dried cranberries, roasted grapes, pistachios and sherry dijon vinaigrette

Second Course: Slow roasted Tom turkey with all of the fixings: Portuguese sausage, pineapple dressing, Yukon gold potato puree, rosemary Chardonnay pan gravy, fresh cranberry and star anise relish, island long bean amandine

Third Course: Pumpkin butter cake with egg nog anglaise