Hawaii Restaurants Are Struggling; 4 More Shutter Entirely

Hawaii Restaurants Are Struggling; 4 More Shutter Entirely

Will more Hawaii restaurants close, move to take-out only, or make other significant changes as

Hawaii Restaurants Are Struggling; 4 More Shutter Entirely

Will more Hawaii restaurants close, move to take-out only, or make other significant changes as problems worsen, and some restaurants simply decide to close down?

Four of Honolulu’s most recognized restaurants, and highly rated ones at that, have closed their doors with little notice. This comes as the Hawaii restaurant industry suffers from many issues, including high costs and a lack of ability to hire and retain staff. Of all these issues, the worst we are told is staff shortages.

The Hawaii restaurant industry remains primarily disrupted.

That comes following the pandemic, and the industry appears unable to recover. There are currently significant staff shortages at most restaurants.

Not only that, but some restaurants are seeking to provide housing for their employees to offset the untenable cost of living they face. Following Covid and the decrease in Hawaii travel, restaurants closed or reduced operating hours. Workers were initially laid off or chose to leave independently.

When Hawaii’s travel economy started recovering, and restaurants reopened, there was a skyrocketing demand for workers. Still, not enough people were qualified or wanted to return to restaurant positions.

While restaurant staffing shortages aren’t uncommon throughout the country,  it is greatly exacerbated in Hawaii because of the higher cost of living. Restaurant workers find it hard to make enough money in their positions to continue to afford to live in Hawaii.

While restaurants have sought to increase worker pay and benefits, that still hasn’t been enough. Many restaurants, cafes, and other establishments now operate on reduced hours, with fewer menu options and tables in use.

Technology, including self-service options and online ordering, is also being used to help restaurants operate with fewer staff. Restaurants are also trying innovative solutions like flexible hours and shorter and longer shift options. We just interewed one restaurant owner who said that it isn’t unusual to have staff work double shifts to make up for shortages. He said that the increased cost of overtime and in trying to hire, train and retain staffing presents a very challenging situation.

Zippy's Restaurant switches to take-out only

Zippy’s Restaurant tries a take-out-only model.

Could this be more of what the future will look like? The Zippy’s restaurant at the Koko Marina Shopping Center called it quits in terms of sit-down dining last week. They have transitioned entirely to being take-out. That is becoming commonplace, unfortunately.

The Hawaii Restaurant Association executive director said regarding Zippy’s, “the rent of that space and the revenue is what they’re looking at on the top of expenses, the employee shortage, and whether they have enough staff to provide excellent customer service.”

Four popular Honolulu restaurants closing suddenly.

Two closures already occurred this week. First was Piggy Smalls at Ward Center which closed after seven years. Their flagship Chinatown restaurant, The Pig & The Lady continues to operate. Next was Little Village Noodle House, a fixture in Chinatown for 22 successful years. Both will be missed.

Ruby Tuesday in Kapolei is scheduled to close on February 21 due to increasing costs and, even more so, unavailability of workers. Also closing  in Hawaii Kai is the Outback Steakhouse. They will serve their last meal on February 26.

While restaurant closures are becoming a regular occurrence, the number announced this week, is unpreceneted.

What we can do to stop more Hawaii restaurants from closing?

One thing is to support local restaurants and tip employees generously. The prior 15-20 percent tip guideline maybe now should be 20-25% given today’s world. What are your ideas?


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