November 30, 2023 | By Diane Ako |

HONOLULU (Island News) — There’s still a labor shortage across Hawaii – and the rest of the nation. And the hospitality sector has been hit especially hard, according to local industry experts.

Makana Lani in Waikiki has eleven workers, but owner Liz Hata-Watanabe says she needs eight more.

Her other restaurant, Burgers on Bishop, has three staffers, but needs four more.

“It’s been so difficult to staff both restaurants. There’s not enough workers, workers aren’t available, their schedules don’t match, the qualifications don’t meet- it’s a series of things that causes a labor shortage,” listed Hata-Watanabe.

Threadfin Bistro in Kilohana Square agrees. The new restaurant has only had a soft opening because of this.

Chef and owner Jason Kiyota adds, “It is a little frustrating and that’s why I don’t want to really open fully yet, I want to wait until other pieces are in place.”

The Hawaii Restaurant Association advises you book holiday meal reservations and expect higher prices.

Industry leaders say in the short term, restaurants are going to have to cover the labor shortage any way they can. In the long term, there’s a public-private partnership to train more workers.

HRA’s Executive Director, Sheryl Matsuoka, shares, “The Hawaii Restaurant Association’s Educational Foundation has 12 local high schools that have culinary programs within each of the high schools. In May, I’m proud to say, we graduated over 1,000 students.”

HRA says there are 63,000 restaurant jobs in the state. Staffing is short by 5% across the board, or 3,150 vacancies.

Sherry Menor-McNamara, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, says, “When you look at it from a long-term perspective, invest in the high school level and even middle school. For the Chamber, we’re looking at work-based learning opportunities.”

It’s a multi-layered approach to getting that industry fully staffed. Case in point: this news story raises awareness that all the restaurants mentioned here have job openings.

To read the full article, click here.

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