BBB lauded for investigating time-share
THE Better Business Bureau of Hawaii has won its second award for Outstanding Investigation, for looking into complaints about a time-share operation that offered isle vacation deals but never provided promised tickets or hotel vouchers.
The Hawaii bureau also won an award for generating the most revenue from new memberships.
The awards came from the Council of Better Business Bureaus, the umbrella organization for BBBs in the United States and Canada.
In the time-share inquiry, none of the local businesses promoted as part of the package knew anything about the deal, the time-share or the operators.
"In collaboration with several law enforcement agencies in Hawaii and on the mainland, two people in California were charged with mail and telemarketing fraud and the money from the victims ... was eventually restored," said Anne Deschene, president of BBB Hawaii.
The four-month investigation was conducted by three BBB Hawaii researchers, the FBI, the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs and the Crimestoppers at the Honolulu Police Department.
The Hawaii bureau has cooperative relationships with several law enforcement agencies. "We have to," Deschene said. "As soon as we see anything illegal at all, we report it, but we -- people are not afraid to call us. We're sort of a safety net."
The bureau also was awarded for raising $341,000 via 1,300 new memberships, including a 20 percent increase on the neighbor islands.
"That made a big difference," she said.
The increase speaks of the state's strong economy, but also reflects business owners' desire for the bureau to "support our monitoring (of) business practices," Deschene says. It also reflects business owners' sentiment that "We want a fair and level playing field. We want you to keep doing what you're doing." The Better Business Bureau of Hawaii has 2,700 members statewide. The awards were presented at a conference in September.
With historically low unemployment and all the employer complaints about the tight labor pool, restaurateur Randy Schoch has hired nearly 200 people for his newly opened Romano's Macaroni Grill at Ala Moana Center's new Hookipa Terrace.
"Anybody can build a beautiful restaurant. It's building a beautiful staff that is a challenge," said Schoch, Romano's franchisee and chief executive of Desert Island Restaurants Inc. The latter operates Hawaii's Ruth's Chris Steak House restaurants, Thaifoon and Ling & Louie's restaurants in Arizona, California and Utah.
Turnover in the restaurant industry is more than 100 percent, but at Ruth's Chris, it is roughly 40 percent, Schoch said.
Along with hiring dishwashers, kitchen staff, servers and hosts for Romano's, he had to find singers -- opera singers -- to work in the front of the restaurant while serving customers.
They include Shawna Masuda, who starred as Kim in "Miss Saigon" and will be featured in an upcoming production of "Kismet," and Colin Miyamoto, who played the Cat in the Hat in "Seussical" and has been in other local theater productions. Both were among four singers who took turns serenading the lunch audience yesterday.
"We've got seven or eight singers," said Schoch.
The rank and file were trained for 14 days by 20 trainers flown in from the mainland, while managers were flown to the mainland for their indoctrination.
The management team is "awesome," said Alex Kirley, regional director of sales and marketing for Desert Island.
While Schoch has worked to build a company culture that people want to be a part of, he also credits the managers' reputations in the industry and relationships they have built, with helping in the recruitment process.
Paul Ah Cook, Desert Island's regional vice president, General Manager Darren Yasui and Executive Chef Michael Longworth all attracted quality people, in addition to those hired through help wanted advertising.
It didn't hurt that Schoch's publicist, Elissa Josephsohn, also does public relations work for many local theater companies.
Three guys, two joints
The three one-time frat brothers who built award-winning Tiki's Grill and Bar three years ago are expanding to Outrigger Enterprises' Waikiki Beach Walk project with a new concept, "Holokai Grill."
Bill Tobin, Kelly McGill and Greg Montgomery had a focus group of local residents, ages 18 to 70, help choose the name of the restaurant and guide the team on dining preferences and the reasons that motivate them to try a new restaurant.
The lease has been signed for a 6,000-square-foot, second-floor space, with construction to begin in April.
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Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: email@example.com