Where are we going with this...

A question popped to us multiple times each week and a fair question to ask. This inaugural phase of hanai was only through March for a number of reasons, mainly to continue growing. As a part of questioning the menu and values of a restaurant we are also actively questioning the structure. A standard brick and mortar restaurant with 50 seats can cost around $500,000 and not produce returns for the first 3-5 years and then if all goes well only produce 3-10% profit.

The restaurant business is what we've dedicated our lives toward but this equation has always presented a problem for me. We have so far invested only a small amount and see a % return much higher and faster then that, but logistically it can't grow in its current state. This time has also allowed us to get direct customer feedback as to what elements of the food they enjoy most to help guide us in an educated direction.

Now taking those two points of information we are developing Phase 2 of hanai. This means continuing some of the conversations that have happened already and are loaded with possibilities, choosing the right partnership and growing together.

We will continue questioning everything in our sight and hope that you can join us in our current or future capacity and that you also question.  

Making Gut Decisions

Stepping outside the comfort zone of a regularly scheduled paycheck while also following a path yet to be traveled simultaneously wasn't initially as difficult as you might imagine. Lot's of the conversations about hanai thus far have been about food and farming but there are a lot of other conversations about business and how we are doing what we're doing. There isn't one easy answer to that but rather a series of decisions that continue which resoundingly have one thing in common, they feel right.

Both Adam and I have had a vision for food on Kauai not only being better but being amazing. During our years here we began laying the infrastructure to make that happen, in different but complimentary ways without even knowing it. The conversations with farmers, the studying of how to create products normally outside a Chef's vocabulary and stepping back to see when the puzzle had enough pieces to be assembled.

The time has come where not only Kauai is ready but so are we and that was the catalyst for hanai. Exploring as many options as possible and accepting rejection as boundary not an final answer we have both been testing the waters for years. When we finally heard yes it wasn't a break through more than a confirmation that the time had come.

We have both had to stay focused and absolute in our concept and in doing so many more doors are now opening leading to braches of this project that were hidden a month ago. As we enter the following months and years of hanai listing to what feels right and acting upon it will remain a key component on where it goes.   

Letter from a Guest who is now part of the team


  I had the pleasure of stumbling upon Hanai this evening. I was blown away. I haven't experienced the feeling I encountered in your restaurant since I left the mainland. I'm certain you know what I'm referring to. That warming sensation that occurs in the gut when you discover something unique. What you guys are doing here reawoken my appetite for food that's created out of love. Something I didn't think I would experience again after leaving California. I wanted you to know what you are doing is inspiring. If there is any way you could find a spot in your creation for someone who shares a similar love for the art food. I would be honored to volunteer my weekends to what you guys are doing. I have no formal culinary experience. I have worked in restaurants as a younger man. And Imagine my self a proficient home cook. I get an immense amount of joy creating food and presenting it to loved ones. Anyways I want to thank you again for the feelings given to me tonight. And if you are fully staffed no worries. You earned yourself an appreciative regular. 

Shopping Locally & Menu Writing

For most of my career in restaurants the way food is procured is by placing a call at the end of the evening. There is an organized alphabetized list of every staple and even some exotic ingredients available and they will be uniform in size, shape, etc. and be at your doorstep before you arrive the next day. Sounds like a great system but it doesn't deliver the level of quality and personal touch every great Chef I've ever known desires.

The quest for local ingredients began as just that a way to find better quality and in-turn produce better food. Fortunately or unfortunately depending how you look at it in order to buy high quality ingredients there needs to be a personal interaction and story of who, what, when, where and even why. These interactions take time and are like any other relationship filled with variables and these interactions have become a huge inspiration for myself and Chef partner Adam.

Our week begins with a discussion not even about the menu most times (in the month we've been open) but about life interests and larger goals. We are relaxed and excited and ready to be inspired. We go to the Wednesday market in Kapaa and start walking the strip with a few hundred dollars to invest in our menu and those who grew it.

Once we finish at market we return to our home base Java Kai and begin sorting, cleaning and talking about what we have. We find that these four things seem like a good base for shrimp and these 8 items would make a great dish on their own. We continue until we have nothing left on the table and that's how we write our menu.

It's viewed as a constant work in progress and allows us to take risks that most can't when putting their menu in print for the next year. The items that are created strive for deliciousness first flowed by beauty, contrast, balance and sense of place.

These were ideas that have been explored in classic and modern cooking but not in Hawaii in this way to our knowledge and certainly not utilizing only locally grown ingredients. We have been told that this wouldn't be a viable menu to run due to it's ever-changing nature. We have now proved to ourselves that it is viable and sustainable by remaining within industry standard cost % with happy paying guests growing each week.

Starting a Movement

Restaurants, projects and events are all about time and place but a movement resonates for much longer. We have been patiently gathering resources and waiting for the right time and now all of a sudden were three weeks into it. Hanai was developed as the platform to explore and learn and where this pop-up started as a project it has already lead to questions and ideas far beyond the kitchen and dining room. Our ideology behind food, beverage, service, agriculture and community are the driving forces behind Hanai which have already and will hopefully continue to attracted other like minded individuals.

We are humbled by the initial response and hope that those who see, feel and taste a difference with us share not only what we are doing but also find paths within their own lives to accomplish things they are passionate about. The liberation of being apart of something that you truly believe in makes all the difference. This path wasn't paved when we started and is showing it's beauty as we go in ways we never expected. As we get further down the path less traveled we hope to share our resources and information so that others can become apart of the solution. Knowledge through mentorship has been a fundamental of community and anything we can share either personally or through connecting you to our support network is there for those who desire.

Can't wait to continue being apart of such a rewarding, positive and informative experience.  

Opening a restaurant in less than a month

We did it, we conceptualized, developed and created this restaurant in less than a month for under $1,000. The key to making this happen has been true partnerships between all involved. This was initialized by the partnership with Java Kai where they have allowed us the use of their space as a platform to make it happen. So many hospitality organizations seem to safeguard their places of business but aren't maximizing them for many hours in the day, week, month. This coffee shop for instance shuts down its kitchen at 3 but is open till 9 which to us looked like an opportunity.

Next was the legal stuff business license, tax id, etc. for this the SBDC (small business development center) lead us to a new government site that allowed us to get this together in a matter of days from start to finish.

This was a liberating experience as the thought of owning a restaurant has always seemed daunting especially when it came to money and time it would take to establish. Sure this "restaurant" isn't apples to apples the same as most but it does serve our food to customers when we open our doors and is 100% creatively controlled by us.

We are just now entering week 2 of business and feel wonderful about the last week and look forward to where this will take us.