Hawaii restaurants plan to bring back buffets for Easter while following CDC guidelines


HONOLULU (KHON2) — It is a big weekend for family and food with Easter on Sunday, April 4. The holiday is huge for restaurants.

Some are offering buffets again for the first time in a year while being mindful that the risk of COVID-19 still exists.

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The Kahala Hotel and Resort has a plan in place for contactless service at its Easter buffet at the Plumeria Beach House.

“The chef on (the other) side will walk with you and you can make all your choices and they’ll serve it to you. That way you’re contactless,” said Jonathan Mizukami, Kahala Hotel and Resort executive chef.

The new changes are part of the new normal. Both the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) do not recommend self-serve stations out of COVID-19 safety concerns.

The Pagoda Floating Restaurant is also making changes for guests so they can enjoy their meals safely. The restaurant is installing plexiglass barriers and extra tables for social distancing in its International Ballroom for its buffet called “Easter Brunch in the Ballroom Event.”

“We had to think of a way to be able to offer all you can eat with still being within guidelines.”

Kelvin Nakahata, Pagoda Floating Restaurant Assistant Manager

Both venues will require temperature checks for guests and workers. Guests will also need to mask up when stepping away from their table. Social distancing is also required.

“We really want to be cautious. We want to keep our employees safe, keep our customers safe,” said Nakahata. “But we really have to, you know, kind of balance it out.”

Pagoda Floating Restaurant had to furlough 60 workers in 2020 and five extra workers in January, 2021, due to a decline in business. The Easter holiday is a chance for them, as well as other restaurants, to bounce back.

“We are bringing the banquet staff back because it is a catering event… We (also) did bring back more kitchen staff because now there’s more food to prep both on the restaurant and the banquet side,” said Nakahata.

More restaurants opting to reopen for the holiday means stiffer competition for suppliers.

“A lot of places, their production is slowing down because of COVID. This is one of the first big events that we’ve had for the year so there are a few things that are a little more difficult to get, for instance lobsters and shellfish,” said Mizukami.

Both restaurants say they just hope it goes well.

“I think Easter is special. This is our first brunch of this year, so I think it’s a good opportunity to get the families out and for them to come enjoy food and feel safe in a comfortable environment.”

Jonathan Mizukami, Kahala Hotel and Resort Executive Chef

“Everyone is working hard to prepare for this holiday,” said Nakahata. “This is actually the first time we’ve reopened for all you can eat, so we’re really hoping that all our efforts and preparation pays off and it goes smoothly.”

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