Website launched to help keep Hawaii’s restaurants afloat

A new website developed by the Hawaii Agricultural Foundation hopes to support restaurants statewide by providing an updated list of locally owned businesses that offer takeout or delivery services.

Food-A-Go-Go provides listings for about 50 Big Island restaurants — and hundreds more statewide — that provide takeout, curbside pickup or delivery services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

ADVERTISING


“It’s a free campaign for restaurants that are having a hard time during all this,” said Leia Haff, a spokeswoman for the foundation, which launched Food-A-Go-Go on Monday. “We’re pretty much looking to help anybody who wants it.”

By Tuesday afternoon, more than 400 restaurants were listed on the website, foodagogo.org, including Jackie Rey’s Ohana Grill in Hilo (which offers curbside pickup and takeout), Hawaiian Style Cafe (takeout only) and Suisan Fish Market (offering takeout and delivery).

The pandemic has hit restaurants especially hard. Late last week, Tom Jones, chairman of the Hawaii Restaurant Association, submitted a letter to Gov. David Ige pleading for support after his administration issued a directive for all restaurants to cease dine-in operations.

“Restaurants are a low margin business, buying food that is perishable,” reads the letter. “Many restaurants have accrued extensive labor costs in preparation for the hours, days and, in the case of preserved foods, even weeks in advance. Many of us do not have the infrastructure or menus to pivot and depend on takeout and delivery sales. While we are scrambling to create these new business models, time is running out every day as our cash reserves deplete. In many cases, restaurants only have a few weeks of reserve cash to rely on. Time is of the essence.”

The letter went on to suggest several policies that could support the struggling industry if included in a business sustainment package, including the abatement of sales tax for the first two quarters of the fiscal year, a statewide abatement of utilities and municipal fees, unemployment pay to all restaurant employees equal to 100% of their average wages, and more.

ADVERTISING


More than 80 businesses have signed in support of the letter, including Big Island establishments such as Liko Lehua in Hilo and Menehune Coffee in Kailua-Kona.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.