Burger Boom

Opening of Molokai Burger creates 26 jobs.
By Melissa Kelsey

Molokai might seem like a difficult place to find a job, but the family-run Molokai Burger is doing its part to change that image. After lengthy bureaucratic hold-ups, they recently introduced Molokai’s first drive-through fast food option, and lowered the island’s unemployment statistics as well.

When Molokai Burger opened for its first day of business in Kaunakakai last month, the sparkling clean fast food restaurant introduced 26 jobs to Molokai’s economic scene, according to owner Rod Felt.

The brightly tiled eatery has been a project in process for the last two years by Mr. Felt and his wife Kerrie Felt, who wanted to create a place where Molokai’s young people can find jobs.

“This is a place for our local young people to come and work,” said Mr. Felt, a Latter Day Saints bishop who taught seminary for four years to youth at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Kalamaula.

“I hear their ambitions and hopes,” said Mr. Felt, speaking of youth who attend his church who want to stay on Molokai, but are worried about finding jobs. “They want to know, ‘Can I live on Molokai?’”

Molokai Burger offers a straightforward menu of burgers, French fries, milkshakes and ice cream. A vegetarian burger option and a keiki meal are also on the menu, which is displayed digitally on large screen monitors over the counter.

“We just wanted a simple business plan that we could run easily,” said Mr. Felt.

Burgers at Molokai Burger are made from grain-fed Iowa beef because Mr. Felt says he prefers the flavor over locally grown grass-fed beef. French fries are served with French fry sauce made from a recipe from Utah, where Mr. and Mrs. Felt are originally from and where French fry sauce is a big deal, according to Mr. Felt. But it’s the fries themselves that seem to meet a critical eye on Molokai. At first, some did not like the fresh potato French fries served at Molokai Burger, so they decided to change to frozen Stealth French fries, according to Mr. Felt.

Mr. and Mrs. Felt want Molokai Burger to be a space where employees are safe and can plan for their future, said Mr. Felt.

“This is a friendly, family-oriented environment,” said night manager Maile Auwae on her work experience at Molokai Burger.

Mr. and Mrs. Felt moved to Molokai from Utah in 2003 where Mr. Felt had been an architect-builder. It took them one year to obtain zoning approval for the business and one year to obtain a permit to remodel the building, according to Mr. Felt. This is their first experience operating a restaurant.

“I have invested every fiber of my being in this,” said Mrs. Felt. “I love our employees.”

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