VIDEO: Real Talk with Chef and Restaurateur, Roy Yamaguchi

June 4, 2020, 6:03 AM HST · Updated June 4, 6:05 AM
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VIDEO: Real Talk with Chef and Restaurateur, Roy Yamaguchi
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Tara Dugan, digital sales director of MauiNow interviews chef and founder of Roy’s Restaurants and co-chair of Hawai’i Food And Wine Festival, Roy Yamaguchi to learn how the coronavirus pandemic has affected his business operations and his outlook on the restaurant industry.

Yamaguchi had to close seven out of 10 of his restaurants during the pandemic with most of his restaurants only serving takeout.

“You have to understand that we have restaurants that are in different areas…some areas are really prone to travel and tourism rather than locals. So, of course, those operations will not open when the mandate is lifted,” Yamaguchi said.

Yamaguchi is currently focused on restaurants that are primarily located and serve the local community.

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“A lot of our restaurants are heavily dependent on tourism but we are also fortunate that we have restaurants that are in neighborhoods and communities we serve…For instance, the original Hawai’i Kai restaurant, the Roy’s has been here for 31 years and we are part of the neighborhood,” he said.

Roy’s restaurants have been helping the community by supporting charitable causes such as local food banks.

The Hawai’i Food And Wine Festival has also created the Kokua Restaurant Workers’ Fund to provide immediate support to restaurant and bar workers impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic. The fund gives workers financial relief through a Visa card valued at $250 to purchase meals for their families – the card can be used at local restaurants throughout the state.

“After the first couple of hours that they announced, they had over 15,000 applicants,” Yamaguchi said.

Applications for the Kokua Restaurant Workers’ Fund is currently closed. More information and updates on the fund can be found on their website.

Yamaguchi advised restaurant owners to adapt to changes in the status quo and to communicate those changes to their team.

“There’s a lot of individuals that are relying on restaurants to make these changes so they can continue to be employed and to make sure that their businesses are sustainable for the future,” Yamaguchi said. “Businesses are started by individuals that have had a dream and these are people’s dreams.”

Yamaguchi hopes a successful future for his businesses and his competitors as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reshape the restaurant industry.

To learn more about Roy Yamaguchi’s restaurants and his thoughts about the future of the restaurant industry, watch the interview above or visit their website.

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