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In a strip mall in Oahu, Hawaii, one might not expect to find an award-winning restaurant. Yet Adela’s Country Eatery has grown a name for itself beyond its small takeout counter, winning the #5 spot on Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat. Praised by customers for the delightful customer service and perfectly cooked noodles, Adela’s traces much of its appeal and success back to its central 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-hued Okinawan sweet potatoes from nearby farms. Director of Business Development Elizabeth Chan helped create the restaurant with her mother Millie, with the goal of bringing this special produce to a larger audience.
“[Okinawan sweet potatoes] were being fed to pigs because the farmer couldn’t get it to the market in Honolulu, so we were like, ‘Wait a second! We could use this for something else,'” Elizabeth said. “It’s a staple that everybody likes and nobody [was] doing this yet.”
Reviewer Gina L. resonated with Adela’s mission to use locally sourced ingredients: “Since it’s on an island, I feel like that’s really important for the economy within the island versus having them import items that are more costly [which] bumps up the price. They’re able to not only support farmers but also their neighbors and their friends through their products.”
With locally sourced produce at the forefront of its Hawaiian-fusion dishes, Adela’s is a true testament to the local culture. Because 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’re waiting, they can watch the noodle-making process. By giving customers a first-hand peek into the cooking process, Elizabeth hopes the customer experience is memorable, even without table service.
“We thought that for the person making the noodles, it would be fun to have a chance 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 do actually find the noodle process to be almost magical when it comes out.”
In addition to the values of sustainability, one of Adela’s strongest values is family. Millie and Elizabeth foster a close-knit kitchen team and try to make all customers feel like they’re a part of the family as well.
Adela’s welcoming customer service has garnered the restaurant a fair share of regular customers—and over 2,000 Yelp reviews. To strengthen relationships 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 pal you haven’t met for a long time, and it’s just the excitement that inspires me.”
Gina said she felt Millie’s warmth from the second she stepped into the restaurant. This pleasurable 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 leading us through the process,” Gina said. “She was very patient with us. She had the sweetest voice, and she seemed like a very good person overall.”
In addition to its delicious food, Adela’s achievement on Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat was made possible by:
- Putting business values at the forefront. As a small business, let your customers know what your values are, whether they are displayed on social media or branding around your storefront.
- Showing customers how much they care. Invite customers in and give them a behind-the-scenes look at your process to make their experience memorable.
- Building a united staff. Treat your team members like family to make them excited to come into 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 to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.