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Leilani’s and Kimo’s / TS Restaurnats – True Stories

November 9th, 2010

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NO-Leilanis By chance, a few days ago I met one of the bartenders from Leilani’s at another restaurant. He mentioned to me that one of the many managers at Leilani’s read my blog. The comment from the manager was ‘he sure was mad’. I had to laugh to myself. Now, a few years later, still, no one from Leilani’s has stepped up to simply say ‘we apologize’. Or. Gosh, Mickey that should not have happened to you.  A little comment admitting I did nothing wrong would work for me! Admission of any wrongdoing. An  apology. What a concept.  LOL.

I have learned one thing from my embarrassing and disrespectful incidents. Do not, under any circumstances, raise a red flag about poor service or inconsistent food at Leilani’s or Kimo’s if you are a local. Raising a red flag, complaining or being the subject to something disrespectful, as a local, will only tag you as a troublemaker.  This is a small island; Maui, especially the Westside. Locals communicate via the “coconut wireless” – gossip, grapevine.  Locals love gossip. The perpetrator will get a slap on the wrist and you, the customer, will get nothing except exaggerated rumors and continued disrespect.  

Some of my friends, their families, came to Maui for a few days from Chicago. They ventured into Leilani’s for lunch. They ordered the fish tacos, as they have done on previous visits. They said to me that the only reason they went back to Leilani’s was the fish tacos. They visited last year. They told me that they will never waist their money at Leilani’s again. Two of the three orders of fish tacos were really small portions. It was embarrassing. One person sent their order back for replacement.
This is something us locals have discovered. It is rare to have consistent food preparation from Leilani’s. It is, and will always be, a destination for unsuspecting tourists.

The bartender that insisted to fight me because I would not give up my seat to his friend still works there. Several of my friends, although they still drink there, will not sit in this man’s section. He gives poor service and pours weak drinks with an attitude.


I’m sure the TS restaurant chain would not be so successful if they were not doing many things right. Unfortunately there are always few rotten apples (employees)  in the barrel . I would rate these restaurants; Leilani’s on the Beach, Kimo’s, Hula Grill and Dukes a solid seven; with ten being best. I’ve had memorable times and many good meals at these eateries over a period of many years. The two incidents I relate below are, as I come to hear, not uncommon. Even to this day, years after these events, I hear feedback  from strangers and local bartenders. The bartenders and food servers on this little island can be a clique. Most of them know each other. They easily perpetrate myths and exaggerate stories. The stories relating to me have very little truth to the actual incidents; hence this blog. I have a few thoughts.  A simple apolgy from a restaurnat manager would have gone a long way .  Never let a bartender treat a local businessman as if he were a common bum and ask him to leave. Get a manager if you are going to ask a cutomer to leave. I would think that would have been appropriate thing to do.  Note: It is wise to not make waves on this little island if you live here. If you have a complaint about bad service you might as well keep it to yourself.  Talking to a restaurnat manger can be a frustrating experience.

  True experiences at Leilani’s on the Beach and Kimo’s on Front Street.

If Rob Thibaut were alive today he would be embarrassed.

This blog would not be here if only the some  manager at TS restaurant had offered a simple apology instead of doing nothing. Two troublesome bartenders are at fault.

Hold on to your money this vacation and find somewhere else to dine if you were thinking of Kimo’s or Leilani’s. The food may very well be good most of the time at these TS restaurants; Kimo’s, Leilani’s and Dukes, but they help disciplining their employees to respect their clientele. Life is too short to be hassled, bothered and mistreated by inconsiderate restaurant waiters or tiny-brain bartenders. Spend your money where it will be appreciated. There a few excellent suggestions below and dozens more easily found.

T. S. = Terrible Service

Leilani’s on the Beach – Complaint

Kimo’s on Front Street – Complaint

Mauishirts.com had a few year’s of Christmas, New Years party time at these TS Restaurants. NOT this year, not ever again. Our money is valued anywhere. We prefer to spend it where we are respected, not dejected and disrespected.

Not long ago TS restaurants, Kimo’s on Front Street in Old Lahaina Town and Leilani’s on the Beach in the Kaanapali resort area were my favorites to dine, drink, party and meet my friends and customers. I loved the times MauiShirts.com had our year end employee Christmas parties at Leilani’s. We appreciated the service and tipped more than 20%. I’ve referred many of our island visitors to these restaurants over the years. Not anymore!  There will be no recommendation to these eateries from me. I tell my customer’s to find other places.

Things have changed. The economy has soured. Restaurant management has been transferred to the waiters, food servers and bartenders.  The old boy’s have gone. This new breed of management can be clueless. My experiences tell me they have little or no business or marketing awareness. These surfer-kid managers do not share in any restaurant revenue, I suspect. Where is their incentive? There pursuit is not the future success of TS. These new managers cater to their buddies, friends and roommates. I don’t think they care if a customer spends ten dollars or a thousand dollars. I don’t think they care if you ever come back. The concepts of building a long term customer base is not their occupation. Whether TS makes a little money or a lot of money is not their responsibility. All their concern is their own hides and their next pay check. Where is the pride? These new managers have been moved up the TS hierarchy into the business of managing the restaurant.  The days of a manager greeting and hand shaking new customers is gone. Cliques of locals, and old time employees fill up the bar stools and get the best treatment. The “old school” is gone.

Sit at the bar at Leilani’s. Watch bartenders concoct mixed tropical concoctions. More times than not, a great deal of the drink is poured into the bar mat under the glass. The pouring spout missed the interior of the glass because his or her attention is not focused.  They are mixing a half-dozen cocktails at one time.  The price has gone up over the years while the contents has missed the glass.  Be prepared for short pours and high prices. The same dinner or lunch you consumed last week will not be the same the next week. It may not have the same taste, it might be served cold, and the contents on your plate might be missing something. The service and the food is, at best, inconsistent.

I was told to get up from my bar seat one night by an arrogant bartender named Ian. He wanted one of his friends sit in front of him; his section. The bartender actually threatened me if I did not get up from my seat. He said if I did not get up he would come to the other side of the bar and make me. This young , insolent bartender was threatening a 65 year old man. I’ve never been treated so shabbily at a restaurant. I was thoroughly embarrassed.  (See Comments below)

Get up from your seat immediately and go to a different section or leave the place If you do go to Leilani’s and a bartender named Ian waits on you. I’m not alone in this observation of this man. Many of my friends continue to frequent Leilani’s, but if Ian is bartending they quickly go elsewhere or find another seat at the bar.

I was asked to leave Kimo’s like some drunkard on two separate occasions because of a dispute over a $100.00 tip to a day bartender. The night bartender coming on the new shift felt slighted. This is my observation. I complained of his rude the behavior. I sent a letter. The management took sides with their bartender. The bartender said I was over-poured and had enough to drink. I have been drinking for over 40 years and I have never been asked to leave because I had too much to drink. I know when to stop. I always drink responsibly. I will never frequent Kimo’s again. One would think It is a manager’s job to ask someone to leave, not a bartender. What a joke.

Here I am spending big bucks, liked and treated with respect by everyone in these places for ten or more years. I never caused a problem. I was asked to leave by a bartender and treated like a stranger by another. The two incidents were beyond belief.  The Kimo’s bardenter, named Abe, no longer works there. Ian still works at Leilani’s.

Give a bartender the ability to make proprietary decisions and watch you bar revenues shrink.

I dine out almost every day and night. I not bragging. I’m telling like it is. I easily spend $8k to $10k a year eating, drinking and patronizing our local Westside Maui eateries. I spent the previous 33 years living in the heart of Beverly Hills before I moved to Maui. I ate and drank at the best bars and restaurants Beverly Hills had to offer. I’ve experienced the world’s best food, drink and service while living in Beverly Hills. I know good food and good customer service. It is not the same here, by any means.

Leilani’s on the Beach and Kimo’s. Stay away! Find other places to spend your money.

I’ve been dubbed a “trouble maker’, I’ve been told, by some ill-informed TS manager. I was told this by one of the Leilani’s bartenders. How ridiculous! I’m a 65 year old successful business man on this island and never in my life been called a trouble maker. If you whistle blow or raise a red flag, or try to let a manager know what is really gong on you will be dubbed a trouble maker. If you point out some short coming, a rude bartender, a bad experience to the manager you will get nowhere. The bartender or food server may get a little scolding and it’s back to business as usual. You, the whistle blower is now persona non grata..

Believe me there are many other bars and eateries to spend your money. Here is a short list: Moose Mcgillicutty, Mai Tai lounge, Bubba Gumps, Longhis, Roy’s, LuLu’s, David Paul’s Lahaina Grill, Lahaina Fish Co, Lahaina Coolers, Penne Pasta, Cool Cat CafeMaui No Ka Oi Deli. There are dozen or more. I recently joined the Lahaina Yacht club so I could have lunch and dinner close to my business. MauiShirts.com’s showroom is a short walking distance to the LYC on Front Street. It’s better there than getting the bum’s rush at Kimo’s. I walk past Kimo’s with distain.

Try this place; Tiki Bar at the Kaanapali Beach Hotel. It’s a short walk north on the beach walk way from the dreaded Leilani’s.

Some locals and employees call Leilani’s “Hell-Leilani’s”.

If you sit at the bar in Kimo’s and have two or three drinks, have not ordered something to eat, there is a good chance the bartender could shove a glass of water in front of you. That’s the clue that he thinks you have had one too many.  Kimo’s can be filled with screaming toddlers and baby strollers. You might not find a seat at the bar because a family of four kids are sucking on soft drinks kneeling on the bar stools playing patty-a-cake while mom and dad are waiting for a table upstairs.

Tourists easily wait  30 to 45 minutes for a table at these places. Trying to find a seat at one of these bars will usually be a frustrating experience. Leilani’s on the Beach and Kimo’s remain in business; that is for sure. But, without unsuspecting throngs of tourists, I think they would find their gross revenues dwindle as time passes by.

Here is a copy of the TS Mission Statement from their web site:

“Striving to be “The Friendliest Restaurant Company in America”

This is TS Restaurants Mission Statement:

“Have Fun

Make Money

With Aloha

Let me elaborate a little:

Have Fun? Have a positive attitude. It is best to smile. Laughing is great too. Smiles and laughs cheer up your fellow workers as well as our guests.
Make Money? Learn your skills well. Be responsible. Become a better person. Be clear headed, healthy and fit. Give us your best effort, give us 100%.
With Aloha? Uplift your friends and family. Treat fellow workers as friends. Get in to hospitality. Make T S Restaurants the friendliest restaurants in America.
And this is what we really are all about. The key to our success is in our people. More specifically, the key to our success is in our people with the spirit of Aloha”

I think something went wrong. Duh.

Where was the Aloha?

Customer's Communicate

  1. Blackie Gadarian
    November 25th, 2009 at 06:32 | #1

    TS Restaurants – Leilani’s
    2530 Kekaa Drive
    Lahaina, HI 96761

    To the General Manager and All Concerned:

    There was an incident at Leilani’s at about 8:00 PM on Friday, February 6, 2009.

    The bar was full and a bartender named Ian was involved.

    My wife and I were sitting at the bar and conversing with acquaintances standing behind us.

    I paid my bill and got up to leave. My acquaintance sat down at my seat.

    At that time, Ian placed a “Reserved” sign at my previous place on the bar.

    Ian told my acquaintance to vacate my previous seat, because he (Ian) had someone else to sit there. Ian signaled two men to take the seats where my wife and I had been sitting.

    My acquaintance was ordered off the seat, and he got up and left. He should not have left the seat. I would not do that.

    It is obvious that Ian had promised our seats to his friends.

    Ian was rude and out of line in ordering my acquaintance to leave his seat.

    The situation was embarrassing to all of us present.

    My acquaintance lives on Maui and frequents Leilani’s often. He will not be back to Leilani’s.

    I go to Leilani’s almost every night. I will continue to frequent Leilani’s.

    I will warn people I know there to order drinks from other bartenders, not Ian.

    Ian did a selfish, mindless trick to favor his friends in a public bar.

    Blackie Gadarian

  2. Rachelle
    December 3rd, 2009 at 08:57 | #2

    I have witnessed first hand the behavior of this particular bartender. I feel that he becomes complacent and cocky with his position as a bartender and imagines that he has the almighty power to diss whomever he wishes without thinking of the grand consequences. Why would you lessen your “tip” pool by being rude to one of your “regulars”?

    Sooner or later this will catch up with him.

  3. Sharon
    January 3rd, 2010 at 11:35 | #3

    I was recently at Leilani’s with a friend. It was a Saturday afternoon at about 1 PM. My friend and I are both professional people, known to some of Maui’s west side community. We usually enjoy going to Leilani’s to have a drink and their great fish tacos and feel like we are on vacation. This afternoon, after we had been there for a while, a man sat next to my friend at the bar, and had a drink. He seemed to know the bartender. Not long afterwards, the man acted as if her were drunk. He touched my friend and intruded into her personal space. My friend, trying to be nice and not cause any conflict was being cordial. She acknowledged to me she wanted to go and felt uncomfortable. I touched the man’s hand on my friend’s back and told him that was inappropriate. His mood changed to that of a dragon. He started to scream, (not kidding) “Fucking Haole, Fucking Haole!!” many times. The bartender and the managers tried to get him to calm down and move to another area, but he insisted that we move! Soon after, which seemed like an eternity, he was escorted out.

    I believe this person has done this type of behavior before. I personally felt the managers were reluctant to have him leave for some reason. The managers did apologize to us, but also said to me that something must have been said to him to push his trigger and upset him! OMG! What incentive crap. ?&^$#%#

    I feel Leilani’s should demand that people like that to be banned from the establishment. This incident was very upsetting and embarrassing to us both. It really makes us feel like not going back to Leilani’s and maybe having the same thing happen again.

    I am familiar with Mickey Steinborn. I read the beginning of this blog. I believe him when he says that he did not do anything at all wrong the night of his incident, but he too was made to feel like he was to blame. Shame on Leilani’s shame on T S restaurants.

  4. mauiman
    January 6th, 2010 at 07:25 | #4

    Alert Maui Tourists: T S restaurant and their Leilani’s restaurant should reevaluate there customer policy. I heard of this last incident.

    T S equals “Terrible Service”. I witnessed a similar incident myself. One day one of their drunken local customers will cause an accident on the highway because some stupid bartender friend of theirs will over serve him.

    When a person is drunk you don’t move him to the other end of the bar. You tell him, ask him to leave in no uncertain terms. Leilani’s managers coddle them and laugh it off. Sick

    My comment, Mickey Steinborn

  5. Jane
    January 7th, 2010 at 16:14 | #5

    I’m wondering what your advice might to be to get a “good” steak on Staurday? I won’t be going to a TS Restaurant (Leilanis on the Beach or Kimo’s on Front Street) that is for sure!

  6. mauiman
    January 7th, 2010 at 17:18 | #6

    I would suggest the meat counter at Lahaina Farms and BBQ it yourself. I like the Rib Eye cut. If that is out of the question than I would try Ruth Cris on front street.

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