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In a strip mall in Oahu, Hawaii, you might not expect to find an award-winning restaurant. Yet Adela’s Country Eatery has made a name for itself beyond its tiny takeout counter, taking up the #5 spot Yelp’s top 100 places to eat. Praised by customers for great customer service and perfectly cooked noodles, Adela’s draws much of its appeal and success from its core mission of sustainability.
Owners Adela Visitacion and Millie Chan create colorful noodle dishes using locally grown Hawaiian produce that would otherwise be thrown away, such as purple-colored Okinawan sweet potatoes from nearby farms. Director of Business Development Elizabeth Chan helped set up the restaurant with her mother Millie, with the aim of bringing these specialty products to a wider audience.
“[Okinawan sweet potatoes] were fed to pigs because the farmer couldn’t get it to market in Honolulu, so we were like, ‘Wait a minute! We could use this for something else,” Elizabeth said. “It’s a staple that everyone likes and no one likes [was] don’t do this yet.”
Reviewer Gina L . resonated with Adela’s mission to use locally sourced ingredients: “Being on an island, I feel like that’s really important to the economy on the island, rather than them importing items that are more expensive [which] bump up the price. They can support not only farmers, but also their neighbors and their friends with their products.”
With locally sourced produce at the forefront of its Hawaiian fusion dishes, Adela’s is a true testament to local culture. Since it only has a takeout counter, customers are encouraged to eat their food outside and enjoy the beautiful scenery Hawaii has to offer. But while they wait, they can watch the noodle making process. By giving customers a first-hand look at the cooking process, Elizabeth hopes the customer experience will be memorable, even without table service.
“We thought it would be fun for the person making the noodles to actually meet the people they’re making the noodles for and chat with the customers,” Elizabeth said. “For our customers, we thought we’d bring the experience a little bit closer to them because we actually find the noodling process almost magical when it comes out.”
Besides the values of sustainability, one of Adela’s strongest values is family. Millie and Elizabeth nurture a close-knit kitchen team and try to make all customers feel like part of the family too.
Adela’s welcoming customer service has earned the restaurant quite a few regular customers – and more than 2,000 Yelp reviews. To strengthen the relationship with new customers, Millie always greets them and guides them through the ordering process, answering any questions about the dishes and the ingredients behind them.
“I’m just happy to see [customers] walk into our restaurant,” Millie said. “It’s like seeing an old friend you haven’t seen in a long time, and it’s just the excitement that inspires me.”
Gina said she felt Millie’s warmth from the moment she stepped into the restaurant. This enjoyable customer experience inspired her to leave a 5-star Yelp review.
“When we walked in, it felt very local. [Millie] welcomed us in, and then my sister and I didn’t know how to order, so she ended up walking us through the process,” Gina said. She was very patient with us. She had the sweetest voice and she seemed like a really good person overall.
In addition to the delicious food, Adela’s achievement on Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat was made possible by:
- Put company values first. As a small business, let your customers know about your values, whether displayed on social media or in branding around your storefront.
- Show customers how much they care about you. Invite customers and give them a behind-the-scenes look at your process to make their experience memorable.
- Building a unified staff. Treat your team members like family to get them excited about getting to work every day. Customers will feel the passion they have for your business.
Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Millie, Elizabeth and Gina, and subscribe Behind the review for more information from new entrepreneurs and reviewers every Thursday.