Many restaurants find new ways to adapt amid coronavirus pandemic

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — More restaurants could be closing down for good in the coming weeks as federal funding begins to run out. While the restaurant card program gave them a lift, local business owners say more help is needed.

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Tom Jones of the Hawaii Restaurant Association owns four restaurants, which he says are doing pretty well compared to many others. Jones’ revenue is roughly 80 percent of what he earned last year, but he’s still not breaking even.

The restaurant owner says many in the industry were shocked when they heard that Town and Alan Wong’s were closing. He points out that restaurants operate on such a narrow profit margin that they have to get close to 90 percent of their business from the previous year just to break even. Some have been able to adapt by doing takeout, but that can only do so much.

“Being nimble and open minded is key too. But there’s just so many restaurants and even other businesses that are so dependent on tourists and or dining in that there’s nothing they can really do. They’re just at the mercy of the times right now,” Jones said.

Some offset their losses by preparing food for schools and other organizations.

“So there are niches where people need food that’s pre-prepared and if restaurants can connect with that need, they can increase their takeout business,” Jones said.

Location and timing can be an advantage for others. Yummy Restaurant Group, which owns several eateries at Ala Moana’s Makai Market Food Court announced they will reopen on Friday. Jones says the reopening makes sense considering the holidays are approaching.

“Also, tourism is open now, it’s not high numbers but it’s there. So the shopping center, particularly Ala Moana, is gonna see increased tourism,” he added.

As for other restaurants, Jones says they need to adapt and use whatever options are available. Some have been able to by putting tables outside to increase capacity and allow for safer dining.

“You see that here and there where restaurants are able to do that. Some restaurants don’t have a sidewalk so they’re kind of stuck, but they were able to adjust there. So a lot of it is doing what you can with what you got,” Jones explained.

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