More Hawaii visitors brings long lines and limited reservations

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Long lines to eat are becoming more common, and some folks are surprised to know certain restaurants could be booked weeks, or even months, in advance.

It’s not a lunch rush or special occasion — the line for a popular Waikiki udon noodle restaurant curves along the building and stays throughout the day.

“We knew that it was going to be crowded, and there was a lot of people traveling right now, but we were shocked by a lot of the waits,” Hawaii visitor Maryanne Ebersole said. “And the fact that a lot of places are completely by reservation and stuff, we didn’t know that prior to coming and sometimes as two months in advance.”

More people visiting means more planning in advance to land a reservation.

A recent Hawaii Tourism Authority survey found limited capacity and availability at restaurants or activities were visitors’ biggest struggle.

Hawaii Restaurant Association Chair Greg Maples said the long waits are the result of several issues.

“There’s really three things that we struggle with: one is capacity, one is staffing, one is supply chain,” Maples said. “You have restaurants right now that are struggling, you will see the hour, the two wait lines. Alot of it is because they can’t serve as many people as they used to.” 

Maples supports cutting back social distancing to at least three feet apart for outdoor sitting, which would allow restaurants to fit more people. He said a lack of workers has also been an issue.

Low staffing levels has also affected hotels to some degree. The Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association President and CEO Mufi Hannemann said properties are averaging about 80% occupancy. The number of visitors is only expected to increase as vaccinated people from the mainland may skip quarantine or COVID-19 testing requirements starting July 8.

Hannemann said, “There was no one common complaint across the board, and what I think was really helpful was the steadily increasing the number of visitors that come here increasing the number of members in the workforce, so like I said, we’re ready we are prepared.”

In the meantime, people are finding ways to shrink their wait time.

“We were a group of ten,” Hawaii visitor Ryan Painter said. “We split up into three groups just to make sure that we could actually get down and sit down and have a place to eat.”

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