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Cupies goes back to the future

While some shut down, eatery delivers food to cars

Cashier Rhea Del Rosario takes a customer’s order on a busy Monday afternoon at Cupie’s Drive-In. The Maui News / LILA FUJIMOTO photo

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, residents still want their Cupies Maui fix.

While many in Maui’s food service industry have shut down operations following Mayor Michael Victorino’s order that took effect Wednesday, the local Kahului eatery transitioned into a drive-in last week, bringing back the early 1960s style takeout where servers bring the food to customers’ parked vehicles.

“I think business will be pretty good,” said Emma Mennel, wife of owner Ronald Kalani Daniels. “All of our customers are local, you know, like I said before, if they don’t want to eat at home, they just come by Cupies.”

Mennel said Friday afternoon that Cupies used to take up 500 orders a day; the drive-in got 260 cars Thursday.

She considered current daily operations as “busy, busy, busy.”

“We have to run to the car, take the order,” she said. “I don’t know, you would think these people would want to stay home, but they like to go out and have Cupies food.”

Most of the local favorites are still on the menu, such as cheeseburgers, hamburger steak, bentos, beef tomato, omelets, breaded teriyaki, crinkle-cut fries and six-item plate lunches, she said.

Ice cream shakes are still available, but not the ice cream cone because “I don’t want it exposed to everything, everything has to be covered,” Mennel said.

Rather than making staff cuts, she said she actually needed more employees to “make sure we have enough people to deliver and run to the car.” This includes five workers out in the parking lot taking orders on portable devices.

“We have a good arrangement, if you order from the car, we have numbers on the parking spot — odd numbers on the left; on the right, even numbers,” she said. “And guess what, yesterday we made $220 tips. . . . They were so happy that they didn’t have to get out of their cars.”

To meet health and safety guidelines, Mennel encourages customers to stay in their cars and not order from the usual Cupies counter.

Adjusted hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For more information, call Cupies at 877-3055.

Not all eateries were able to make the Cupies’ transition to takeout after Victorino’s proclamation that closed restaurant dining areas and allowed only takeout or delivery to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some food establishments closed after finding takeout not financially viable.

Maui Tanpopo announced its temporary closure Wednesday after trying a takeout-only menu. Fork and Salad Maui in Kahului and Kihei announced March 18 via social media that it will discontinue takeout services and close until further notice. All excess food was donated to staff members and to St. Theresa’s Church.

Up until last week, Paia Bowls tried operating only from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily.

“Even though we were running half-days, business seemed somewhat normal for those morning hours until about Friday (March 20),” said owner Luke Walsh. “That is when we really started to see a decline in sales, and each day after that throughout the weekend, the sales got slower and slower until we closed up on Monday (March 23) afternoon.”

There are normally 11 employees on payroll, but when the business shutdown orders were announced, Walsh gave everyone the option to stay home or continue working.

The staff was reduced to five, hours were adjusted, and the small smoothie shop prepped for only takeout and delivery orders.

“Although we are a counter service and are considered a to-go eatery anyway, we kept our outdoor seating chairs and tables locked up to ensure that all orders were to go,” Walsh said.

However, it wasn’t enough to continue business.

“Due to the lack of sales and in addition to that, we also wanted to do our part with the mayor’s updated guidelines, which began on Wednesday,” he said. “We felt it was the safest option to close up shop until we feel this has all settled down.

“Hopefully, we will be back open sooner rather than later,” he added. “But I am confident that when we do reopen, we will be back better than ever.”

Owner and chef Mark Ellman said Saturday that he closed both Honu Seafood and Frida’s Beach House in Lahaina because “we were opening more than we were taking in,” even while offering to-go services.

“We wanted to sell the perishable product, instead of throwing it away,” Ellman said. “We closed both restaurants after sales started to decline rapidly.”

He had to lay off about 140 employees; Ellman hopes the stimulus package helps the business and staff to stabilize their financial situations until the pandemic blows over.

Other places still offering to-go meals include the Paia Fish Market, which is open daily from noon to 8 p.m. at both the Paia and Kihei locations. On Monday, a restaurant Instagram post said, “we are practicing extreme measures to keep our restaurants clean and sanitized, and the health of our community matters to us.”

Orders must be called in until further notice at 579-8030 for Paia, and 874-8888 for Kihei.

While the dining room is temporarily closed at Da Kitchen in Kahului, customers still can order takeout, curbside pickup or delivery from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Monday through Saturday. Da Kitchen Express in Kihei also is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily for the same services.

To make an order, visit dakitchen.com or call the Kahului location at 871-7782 or the Kihei express location at 871-7772. Orders also can be made via Da Kitchen’s mobile app.

All nine Subway restaurant locations in the Valley Isle will remain open for takeout and delivery during lunch and dinner hours, and “we are staying apprised of the evolving guidance regarding COVID-19 protocol and quickly adjusting,” according to a news release Friday.

Free delivery is also now available through all providers with the promo code SUBWAYNOW.

Flatbread Co.’s recorded voice message said that the restaurant is only open from noon to 8 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays in Paia for takeout only. The menu has been simplified.

In following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, the recorded message explains that all purchases must be paid via card over the phone or online, and that operations will continue a modified schedule until further notice.

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.

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