Recipes for Reopening


Hawaii’s food and beverage sector is one of the industries hardest hit by the pandemic. As the economy slowly reopens, there are many questions surrounding what the future looks like for restaurateurs and food operators. From supply chain challenges to preparing the physical workplace for a safe reopening, it will feel like spinning multiple plates in the air while trying to balance on a high rope. The green light to reopen is June 5th and while it’s an exciting time to look forward to, there is much to tackle before opening the doors to customers again.

ProService Hawaii partnered with the Hawaii Restaurant Association to host a discussion with industry titans about how the future is shaping up for one of the state’s largest economic sectors.

The featured panelists were:

  • Jason Wong, President, Sysco
  • Don Murphy, Owner, Murphy’s Bar & Grill
  • Erik DeRyke, Vice President, Growth & Retention, ProService Hawaii
  • Moderated by Janina Abiles, Director of HR & Safety Training, ProService Hawaii

Here are our key takeaways.

It’s a Stair-Step Recovery

While you plan for reopening, be mindful of every decision and consider your bottom line. The road to profitability will require small steps in operational efficiencies and sales maximization. Many factors play into whether or not you can sell what you have and at price points that allow you to just break-even. You should be considering that food manufacturers are shifting operations from retail to food service sizes again, so meat and produce orders may be backlogged. Plan ahead! Take stock of what you do have and be flexible in your menu. Should you be pivoting from expensive steaks to $10 plate lunches? Or do you need to add high demand, essential items to each ticket to increase the sale? Maybe add a dozen eggs, a gallon of milk, toilet paper, or even alcohol to take out orders. Be creative in your approach to maximizing each sale in simple-to-execute ways so you can get back to profitability.

Also, be flexible in how you approach implementing safety in your space. One example given was modifying your HVAC system to circulate more outside air into the restaurant to lessen virus exposure. Or set tables out on the sidewalk or curb to creatively use that outdoor space while addressing social distancing measures. Leveraging technology is also a trend that may be here to stay with some restaurants considering table-top devices for ordering and auto-gratuity, lessening human interaction with staff. Jason Wong of Sysco concluded this point by saying how the industry operated before will be no more. It will take everyone to work together and be flexible in order to revive the sector.

Have a People Strategy

Bringing the right people back to work at your business is an integral part of the solution to a successful reopening. There is a direct correlation between having a dedicated team and a seamless recovery. Think about the key individuals who contribute positively to your business’ culture and its operations. If you’re dealing with hesitant employees who don’t want to return for various reasons, this is an opportunity to double down on the culture you wish to maintain. And for those willing to come back, make them feel appreciated. Panelist Erik DeRyke of ProService Hawaii, works with many restaurant clients and he shared how one client is considering a “Thanks for coming back to work bonus.” Be thoughtful in what they are sacrificing by coming back, but communicate your expectations at the same time.

Time to Think Like a Startup (Again!)

Restaurateurs are the epitome of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship isn’t for the faint of heart. The road to recovery for the food and beverage industry will require everyone to think like a startup again. Don Murphy of Murphy’s Bar & Grill shared that because restaurants are now competing with other food service models (i.e., “grocernaut” concepts where grocery stores sell prepared meals), every restaurant is going to have to think uniquely about what they plan to do in this new era. Especially with tourism shuttered, you need to implement immediate changes that allow you to break even without the visitor market.

Consider current innovations that will be here to stay and keep those successful tactics even after reopening, such as customized meal kits or heat & serve food that is easy for home preparation. Perhaps keep curbside pick up for take out only. Reimagining the food and beverage industry means going down that entrepreneur checklist: Have a strategy, be ready to pivot on that strategy, find your niche, and do the best you can!

Mahalo to the Hawaii Restaurant Association for partnering with us on this innovative discussion. For more restaurant guidelines on how to reopen, click here for HRA’s COVID-19 Re-Opening Guidance publication.

The New Normal: How to Make a Comeback


The aftermath of this pandemic will require a crystal clear roadmap to a strong economic recovery. Businesses across all industries are struggling to grasp onto definitive answers for reopening survival. Hawaii Business magazine and ProService Hawaii joined together to host an insightful panel of Hawaii CEOs and asked the all important question: What does your comeback look like?

The featured panelists were:

  • Elisia Flores, CEO, L&L Hawaiian Barbecue
  • Matt Heim, Chief Operating Brother, HONBLUE
  • Christine Lanning, President, Integrated Security Technologies
  • Ben Godsey, President & CEO, ProService Hawaii
  • Moderated by Steve Petranik, Editor, Hawaii Business magazine

Here are our key takeaways.

1. Know Your Worth

Understanding your business value is an important trait to have at any time. But understanding and demonstrating that value is a must have strategy to ensure customer loyalty or new business leads in these uncertain times. Customers will have hardline expectations.

Keep a pulse on what your customers need and provide that and more! Explore new ways to offer products that are in-demand or hard to source. Matt Helm of HONBLUE shared that they are now producing safety signage for businesses that need to communicate social distancing or other covid related messaging to help offset the loss of business from the tourism industry. This is a great example of repurposing existing assets, upselling or reimagining products to fit current consumer needs. You have to be adding high value for customers or they will look elsewhere.

However, not every interaction has to be a deal closer. Proactively offer expertise or help when asked even if it’s from a competitor. Be open to providing value beyond tactical services such as sharing ideas and best
practices with your peers and the larger community. Be open and opportunities will flow in.

2. Don’t Just Survive, But Thrive!

Crisis is (now) the mother of all inventions. If you are not focused on what has changed and how you operate in this new business climate, you’ve already missed the boat. Now is the time to break out of existing assumptions and view things through a new lens. Elisia Flores of L&L Hawaiian BBQ shared how L&L is training some franchisees how to sign up for delivery services and engage more deeply with the local communities! And how L&L shifted to targeting customers online to replace the lack of walk-in and word-of-mouth traffic.

Examples like these show how crisis moments are where you grow and learn. How do you become a much better business out of this situation? A new normal means you can emerge as a new leader in your market. Do everything the best way possible and command attention to your hard work.

3. Accept, Adjust, and Adapt

Survival isn’t a given! There will be some industries that are not going to come back. Acceptance is sometimes the hardest part to overcome in this uncertain time. You must constantly evaluate your business, whether through weekly forecasting or staff performance reviews, to continuously adjust your business priorities. Then be communicative and transparent with your employees about cost-cutting measures so that everyone is aware of the new expectations.

Ways to adjust:

  • Trim the fat
  • Look at fixed and variable costs
  • Go after every funding resource
  • Work with vendors or partners on reciprocating actions that may benefit costs

This will be a period of intense innovation and change but positivity will come out of it. Ben Godsey of ProService Hawaii shared that his staff went 100% remote and digital by the second week of March. Two months in and many businesses, like ProService, are realizing that people are much more productive working remotely.

Once adjustments are made, adapt to YOUR new normal and remember this could be an incredibly exciting time to adopt new processes, new technology or new business ideas. All things that may not have occurred organically. Christine Lanning of Integrated Security Technologies shared this relatable quote: ”Nobody likes to change except a baby with a wet diaper.” We cannot go back to what was. We may be forced to change. But we don’t have to be forced to fail.

Mahalo to Hawaii Business for partnering with us on today’s CEO panel and thank you to our amazing panelists for sharing their current strategies and hopes for the future. Stay tuned for more ProService webinars.

Reopen, But Will They Come?

Retail Leaders See Opportunities in Reopening

The reality of “reopening” Hawaii is fast approaching. Although many businesses are mentally ready, there are lingering questions about what is the best reopening strategy and what challenges and opportunities will
surface in doing so. In episode 3 of our Executive Series CEO Roundtable we invited respected leaders in retail to discuss how they managed to adopt quick, go-to-market strategies following the governor’s latest announcement on reopening. What we learned was innovative examples of people management and brand connectivity.

Our panel for Episode 3 featured:
  • Carol Ai May, President, Simply Organized; Vice President, City Mill Company, Ltd.
  • Tanna Dang, Co-owner, Eden in Love
  • Tina Yamaki, President, Retail Merchants of Hawaii
  • Michelle Kirk, Service Team Executive, ProService Hawaii

Here are a few of our takeaways.

1. No one size fits all for reopening

Consumerism has changed because of the pandemic and it will not be business as usual. If you’re a business that services customers or sells products, there needs to be an operational shift and strategy in your reopening plan. Are you physically ready to reopen? Do you have safeguards in place to protect your employees and customers? Here are some best practices in restrategizing your business model for reopening:

  • Reimagine your inventory to fit demand: Pairing down or distorting categories is a great way to take stock of what you’re selling and how it fits today’s consumer needs. There may be opportunities to work
    with new vendors who can contribute to new inventory needs. Or think broader and explore new ways to create revenue by offering your products to other businesses who are seeking it.
  • Take care of your people first: Keeping the communication lines open with your employees is crucial to ensuring a smooth reopening. Reward them in ways big or small for their dedication and hard work during this time. Also, be sure to delegate tasks as needed and engage them every step of the way so they know your expectations and can contribute to a successful reopening strategy. If you take care of your staff, they will take care of your customers.
  • Master online channels: Online business is booming and will continue for our lifetimes. Just because your brick and mortar reopens doesn’t mean people will come flocking through your doors. Remember, people are shopping from the comfort of their homes, 24 hours a day, with delivery of their purchases right at their front door. People will surely shop cautiously during the first few weeks as they get comfortable with a reopened economy. Expanding your online presence and actively using it to
    demonstrate your brand, showcase your products and engage your customers is your best bet to ensure steady revenue.
2. Operating in a need versus want climate

Preparing for a shift in consumer behavior is just as important as operational readiness. Hawaii’s high unemployment rate contributes to less discretionary spending. People will shop more on a need versus want basis. Keeping a pulse on spending habits will allow you to assess reopening timelines, staffing needs, and inventory levels. Or, you can create engagement and brand loyalty by launching visible community efforts such
as selling Girl Scout cookies for chapters who have been unable to sell them during the pandemic. You can also offer ways to donate to the local food bank by rounding up change for customers at the registers so they
can give seamlessly when shopping at your establishment.

3. Brand differentiation

Seize every opportunity to tell your brand story and differentiate your business. Integrating brand touches in the “new customer experience” may be the advantage you need to achieve sales. Delivering your brand through required safety practices creates connectivity with customers. Perhaps it’s offering a signature scented hand sanitizer for sale or thanking customers via intercom for safe distancing and wearing masks. Neither say “Cold & Covid” and are positive and creative examples of brand differentiation weaved into the customer experience.

Episode 3 of our CEO Roundtable offered a timely perspective on reopening strategies for Hawaii businesses. Though our panelists represented the retail industry, they provided practical strategies for any business looking
to reopen in the coming weeks. Mahalo to these retail industry leaders for a lively discussion on a very popular topic among businesses today. Stay tuned for episode 4 (more details coming soon).

Answering Community Needs with Adaptable Leadership


The sudden onset of community needs have forced local businesses to become more agile within their organizations while staying true to their missions. In episode 2 of our Executive Series CEO Roundtable we asked these trusted leaders how they are managing and motivating their workforce while evolving their service delivery models amidst times of intense pressure. What we found was tremendous leadership and examples of creating good from this crisis.

Our panel for Episode 2 featured:

  • Dean Wong, Executive Director, Imua Family Services
  • Kim-Anh Nguyen, CEO, Blood Bank of Hawaii
  • Micah Kane, President and CEO, Hawaii Community Foundation
  • Ben Godsey, President and CEO, ProService Hawaii

Here are a few of our takeaways.

Always Opportunity in Crisis

As a business model, nonprofits always seem to survive and respond to crisis situations with much flexibility and resolve. What they do and how they do it becomes less evident than the “why.” Here are some examples of how the “why” drives new opportunities to arise in a crisis:

  • New Leaders Emerge: When the going gets tough, the tough get going. New leaders emerge within organizations based on their actions and beliefs, not their title or compensation. We must engage employees so they will have the confidence to think innovatively and out of their comfort zone. Get the most effective people in the right seats and “get out of their way!”
  • Trust Instincts, Set Priorities, and Execute Quickly: Leadership is even more critical in a crisis. CEOs will be forced to work differently in order to respond quickly to the ever-changing landscape. That is why it’s imperative that leaders set a few priorities, develop a quick framework and then run…. focusing on excellent execution. Mistakes will be made and goals will change but utilizing data and course-correcting are the leadership qualities necessary to move with the tide.
  • Breakthrough With Innovation: The weight of a crisis can weigh heavily on an organization when need is critical and capacity is questionable. Innovation is key such as new uses of existing assets, new revenue streams, or embracing technology. Fundamental changes to the business model will keep things moving forward.
Collaboration Over Competition

In peace times, partnerships and collaboration can be hard. But times of crisis sometimes calls for a united front in community efforts. Competition is no longer what drives productivity but rather a much needed response for good. We learn that we must work together in order to balance the health of our economy with the health of citizens. This creates sufficient motivation to make collaborative efforts work. And come together quickly and powerfully then otherwise imaginable.

This crisis has allowed for important collaboration to collect critical information in order to plan better for the next crisis. While beneficial to the community, the real win is creating cause-fighting coalitions that never existed before.

Good Business is Good Business

Whether you are a nonprofit or for profit, purpose-driven decisions reaps good business decisions that will weather any storm. Leaders must often change their frame of reference before they can respond effectively to the needs of their constituents. Leadership courage at the core is thoughtful, purposeful and informed decisions in action!

Episode 2 of our Executive Series revealed proven leadership examples within our nonprofit sector and best practices for any business to acquire during a time of crisis. Though our panelists represent the non-profit sector, they’re excellent leaders first and foremost. And their lessons are applicable to all leaders. We thank them for an honest and insightful view into how they are managing through tense times in the community and in their organizations. Stay tuned for episode 3 (more details coming soon).