Hawaii Restaurants: Capacity, Staffing, Security Struggles + Death of Roy’s-Trained Chef

Restaurants in Hawaii are facing unprecedented times, and the issues are at so many levels.

Starting earlier this month, Hawaii implemented new vaccination passport requirements for restaurants on Maui and in Honolulu. That is creating unanticipated problems at a time when restaurants are already struggling in a multitude of ways. Those include inadequate and demoralized staffing, reduction in capacity limits, and more.

Vaccination passport rules are now in effect on Maui and Oahu.

Earlier this month, rules went into effect on two islands. For those who are vaccinated, the ability to frequent restaurants is unaffected. For those unvaccinated, however, it presents a difficult situation.

1. In Honolulu, under the new Safe Access Oahu rules, diners must provide proof of vaccination or negative testing to enter.

2. On Maui, the rules, called Maui Safer Outside, require that customers provide evidence of vaccination to be admitted indoors. Outdoor dining only is permitted without such proof.

Hawaii restaurants find that customers aren’t always happy to comply with the new rules, and restaurant staff is stretched to the limit. Restaurant employees never envisioned themselves as security enforcers, and restauranteurs can ill afford any further problems at this point. Some restaurants are hiring security to help manage the situation, and at times police have also been summoned, and citations have been issued.

When customers do not comply with new rules, the onus falls on the restaurant, and they could face serious consequences, including $5,000 fines or jail. Restaurants must follow the rules; they don’t make them.

Many employees never returned to Hawaii restaurants.

Hawaii restaurants are still struggling to find employees for a variety of reasons. Those include government and employer vaccination or testing mandates, as well as a significant number who decided not to return to the industry after being unemployed during COVID.

Hawaii restaurant capacity is set at 50% for now.

Hawaii restaurants operate at a maximum of 50% capacity, while no “mingling” is permitted in bars. “Patrons in restaurants, bars, establishments must remain seated with parties maintaining six feet of distance.” — Governor Ige.

Eating out for lunch? Maybe not.

We have noticed that many restaurants are no longer keeping their normal hours. Be sure to check to be sure your favorite venue is still serving lunch.

Restaurants hit by COVID include the latest death of a Roy Yamaguchi-trained chef.

We were sad to learn this week of the death of the Westin Maui’s talented executive chef, Chris Lederer. The Roy’s (Roy Yamaguchi) trained talented chef was a rising star in Hawaii restaurants. His fiancee, to whom he was scheduled to be married next year, said that Chris was unvaccinated. A Go Fund Me has been set up to help pay for his memorial.

Are your Hawaii restaurant plans changing? 

As for your editors, we are both still eating out far less than before. When we do eat out, we are often choosing take-out instead of in-restaurant dining.

61 thoughts on “Hawaii Restaurants: Capacity, Staffing, Security Struggles + Death of Roy’s-Trained Chef”

  1. Appreciate your stating the facts we have delayed our trip til next year and hope things are better for you beautiful state

  2. Thanks for your details on the current situation. How do the vaccination requirements for dining, etc. work for families with children too young to be vaccinated?

  3. How does the restaurant rule on vaccinated vs unvaccinated people eating inside work if you are only eating at the restaurants at the resort where you are staying? Thank you.

  4. I have moved towards dining out more now. Even with vaccinations, the spread of covid is still highly probable. If the hospitalization rates stay low for the next year, I may transition back to dining in.

  5. Aloha BOH Bro’s

    I believe the vast majority of both residents and tourist are respectful of current island dining and travel rules. To get viewers and clicks the media tends to focus on rare bad behavior of a few.

    As of stated in the past including BOH I scan several Hawaiian travel websites and speak to friends living on Maui. None are reporting any issues above the norm.

    It’s frustrating times it can be wearing on all our patients.

    It was disappointing to learn about the death of Chris Lederer. It’s an individuals decision to be vaccinated or not, but when it comes to the Delta strain it’s clear that the vaccinated are fairing far better than un-vaccinated.

    What a shame.

      1. I can’t wait to see the look on my wife’s face when I pop a bottle of Champagne tonight to celebrate my 200th post on BOH.

        Should I go with the Costco Kirkland Brut or Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label?

  6. Only an idiot would allow an unvaccinated worker in a food line. I hope he was tested, diagnosed, and immediately removed from prep. I am currently on Maui and, as all customers must verify that they’ve been vaccinated, I ignorantly assumed those preparing the food were also protected. Should I ask the server? Will I always believe the answer? Because of my age and an underlying condition I an triple vaccinated, but there is inconclusive evidence that, if exposed, I could still possibly spread the disease to those ineligible to be vaccinated or those without the mental capacity to protect the society in which they choose to live.

  7. I just returned from Kona on Sept 17 after a wonderful stay for 7 days. Had no problem eating out and only one time we made a reservation. Only complaint was the rental car was $$$. That was a total ripoff because I saw plenty of rental cars in all the lots. There were 4 us traveling together, all vaccinated and did all the proper paperwork and uploading our vaccine card to Hawaii.gov. Got our wrist bands to board without any problem.

    1. Finally made it to Kauai, and our family rented 2 vehicles at the airport (reserved it last year), and we were surprised by how many vehicles were in the car rental lots!!

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