Hawaii restaurants still in survival mode as they grapple with everything from COVID to supply issues

Published: Oct. 30, 2021 at 5:10 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 31, 2021 at 9:16 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some 19 months into the pandemic, restaurants say they’re still in survival mode — suffering from lower foot traffic, inflation, labor shortages and major supply chain issues.

“It’s like we don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel as much,” said Michael Skedeleski, director of operations at Eggs n’ Things.

“As soon as you think that you turn the corner another thing comes up,” added chief operating officer of L&L Hawaii, Bryan Andaya.

Skedeleski and Andaya say it’s like a never-ending cycle of roadblocks as restaurants gear up for the holiday season.

“Because the manufacturers are bugging us like ‘Hey, you’re not using as much as you used to do because revenue is down,’ so they stopped,” Skedeleski said. “And then when things got busy in the summer, they’re like ‘Sorry, we don’t have items to give to other people.’”

Andaya added: “We’ve had multiple price increases and apologize to all of our customers about any kind of price increases, but we just had to do that.

“Because that’s the only way we can keep the lights on and the doors open.”

Some 192 restaurants responded to the Hawaii Restaurant Association’s Survey, which focused on the impact of the delta variant on the industry.

Ryan Tanaka, incoming chair of the Hawaii Restaurant Association. said the results were worse than expected.

“Back in September, 60% thought that they would lose about 30% or more, but it was actually higher so 60% became 80%,” said Tanaka.

About 37% lost over half of their revenue, and two in three restaurants believed employees would feel safer knowing their co-workers are vaccinated.

In addition, less than half believe their staff feel safer if guests were vaccinated.

Nearly 80% of restaurants are over 70% vaccinated.

Meanwhile, Safe Access Oahu is in effect through Christmas Day.

“I think there has to be an end date because on the administrative side to be honest, it is a lot of work and the liability increases for us every single day,” Skedeleski said.

“I definitely don’t want these restrictions to go on forever,” said Andaya. “But I think if you measure it right, and maybe ease it up slowly and study the science, believe in the science, base your decisions on that.”

Restaurants hope they’ll soon be allowed to operate indoor and outdoor seating at full capacity and social distancing rules change to three feet.

“Even when it’s busy, the demand is there, but we just can’t service those people because we’re at capacity,” said Skedeleski. “So even a good day when they’re full at 50% capacity, it’s really not a good day and that goes for us as well.”

Blangiardi said he continues to push for these changes but adds that the governor has the final say.

Hawaii News Now reached out to Gov. David Ige’s office and are waiting for a response.

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