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Food & Dining // Table Talk
Jo McGarry

A Gift Everyone On Your List Will Love

Restaurant gift cards, like this one from Ruth's Chris Steak House, make the perfect stocking stuffer. Photo courtesy Ruth's Chris Steak House

Technically there isn’t a Black Friday for restaurants, although it might be a pretty good idea. Imagine if holiday gifting could be done in a swipe or two of a card, and gift-wrapping was all tied up at the same time. A Black Friday for restaurants could mean an increase in business not just on the day after Thanksgiving, but in the days that follow Christmas, and throughout the year.

Buying a restaurant gift certificate is the simplest of shopping adventures. It requires almost no time, there’s usually adequate parking while you shop, you can call ahead to make sure you’ll be served when you arrive. And if you choose your restaurant carefully, you will be rewarded with as much as a 20-percent return on your investment. What other retailers offer as much?

At Romano’s Macaroni Grill, for example, every $25 gift card purchased this month comes with an additional $5 bonus card, and if you bring a donation for Hawaii Foodbank, expect an additional “thank you” gift.

At the newly opened Karai Crab at The Willows, you’ll receive an additional $20 gift certificate with each $100 purchase.

Chart House Waikiki was among the first of Honolulu’s most popular restaurants to develop the bonus gifting cards, and the promotion has been adopted by dozens of our best-loved restaurants. Some even set up gift card stations inside the restaurant during December to cope with demand.

But while simplicity might be the strongest motivation to buy during the next few weeks, the thing that matter most – to me, at least – is that gift certificates embody the easiest and strongest way to show commitment and support to local restaurants. Think how many times during the year organizations tap into the generosity of restaurant owners and ask for donations. If you’re the parent of a schoolchild, someone involved in local sports or charities, or a participant in any event where there’s a silent or live auction, then chances are you’ve benefited from the largest collective of donors to community events in the Islands – restaurants. There’s not a day that goes by at Roy’s, for example, where dozens of requests for donations come in via phone, email and letter. Almost all receive a response – and a donation – and the same scenario is played out around the Islands week in and week out, through good economic times or bad. Whether you favor hole-in-the-walls, fine dining, organic only, or simply a great place to eat, drink and be merry, restaurants are the heartbeat of our communities, and the holidays bring our opportunity to give back something to them.

And, as a gift, this simple plastic card is capable of transcending race, creed, culture and even your horribly picky sister-in-law. A restaurant gift card is multi-generational, crosses corporate boundaries and is as suited to an elementary school teacher as to a business partner, family physician or friend. This gift that makes sure you’re remembered long after the holidays are gone, also has never been returned Dec. 26.

And, chocolate aside, is there anything better designed to fit perfectly inside a Christmas stocking?

Happy eating!

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