A $6 lunch once a week could spare somebody's job.
It's not a public service announcement with a coughing actress walking through the squalor of a third-world village. It's an idea credited to Louis Vuitton Waikiki Store Manager Kathy Wong and her colleagues in the Waikiki Ohana Workforce Committee of the Waikiki Improvement Association.
It's an idea so small and simple it could become huge.
The purpose of the "Back to Business" Monday lunch is two-fold -- to boost patronage at Waikiki restaurants to keep them in business and to keep their employees working.
The program involves five restaurants for the rest of the year; each takes a Monday through Saturday week and offers special $6 menu items from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Each restaurant is offering validated, if not free, parking.
"If the parking charges cost more than the lunch then we're defeating the purpose," said Waikiki Improvement Association Vice President Kayleen Polichetti.
"We're starting on (Nov.) 19th and decided that Monday, December 24, and the day before New Year's it would not be wise," Polichetti said. So those weeks are not included.
The restaurant inaugurating the "Back to Business" lunch will be Villa Paradiso. The following week, Shilla Korean Restaurant takes a turn; both are in the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center. Dec. 3 the lunch special moves to All Star Cafe at 2080 Kalakaua Ave. Back at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center Dec. 10, the week belongs to Paradiso Seafood & Grille and the program wraps up the week of Dec. 17 at House of Hong on Lewers Street. Menu items will range from spaghettini al pepperoncini to grilled butterfish to jerk burgers to a duck leg noodle dish.
The committee aims to send 50 to 100 people to the participating restaurant each Monday. It is hoped they will spread word of mouth and the restaurant's menus by taking them back to their workplace and putting them on bulletin boards, Wong said.
The restaurants have agreed to make takeout service available but one point of the program "is to keep people employed, so the restaurants would have to staff-up to provide customer service (for table service)," she said.
"The restaurants understand that this is their opportunity to make a first impression," Wong said. "For us, and other employees in Waikiki, there's a lot of restaurants that have yet to be discovered."
Participating restaurants will be surveyed afterward to gauge the program's effectiveness and help with the decision on whether it should continue. "If this program is strong I think that Waikiki and the restaurant business is still going to need help into 2002," Wong said.
Reservations for "Back to Business" are recommended.
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