Locals Supporting Local: The Right Slice

This blog is part of a series from Mālama Kaua’i  & Tasting Kaua’i, highlighting local restaurants that source locally for their ingredients, sharing their tales of the pandemic and their battle for resiliency. Each week we encourage our readers and fans to support this Kauai restaurant as a movement to keep our small businesses who support our local food systems alive.

Sandy Poehnelt opened The Right Slice in October of 2009, in the midst of the recession for focus on making Kauai pies.  Little did she know what it would grow into.  6 months in she had to hire her first employee and they have been on the move ever since serving Kauai pies.  Starting in a shared kitchen (Thank you Anahola Granola) and then moving to her own kitchen in Puhi in 2011, The Right Slice saw tremendous growth, thanks to the support of our local community.  In 2014 The Right Slice moved to its permanent location in Kalaheo.  Here they were able to set down the community roots they had been looking for.  Pre pandemic The Right Slice employed 12-15 people.  Supporting local has been one of The Right Slice base principals and they continue to support local farmers even in these challenging times.

What’s happened to your restaurant during the pandemic? Any stand out stories? 

The pandemic has really shown us just how much our local community loves us.  When the island was locked down we were lucky enough to not have to close our doors, but we did close our retail space in favor of a small pick up window.  We operated from this window for over 6 months before we were able to reopen the retail area.  During that time our local customers really stepped up and kept us going each and every day.  Our business took quite an unexpected pivot…our previous most popular items were the sweet pies, now, during the pandemic that has completely flipped and the savory pies are our most popular!  We are grateful for the community support and being able to bring back 5 staff, and are currently looking to add 3 more to our ohana.

Have you tried pivoting – if so, what have you done and how has it worked for you?

We have pivoted in several ways.  First, the unintentional way of sweet pies now being outsold daily by the savory pies!  Everyone can use a home cooked meal these days…pot pies are comfort food!  But we can’t all afford the luxury of a dessert on top of that. In addition to this, our mainland customers wanted to support us, so we offered pot pie meal donations online.  We were blessed to donate nearly 400 pot pie meals across many businesses who were shuttered and to the local food bank.

Our final pivot, comes to our website.  We are adding a couple of online pie making videos for our customers.  Since we had just started teaching in person pie making classes just before the pandemic, we have had a lot of inquiries of when we would be able to restart.  We are excited to add these new offerings to our line up of pies for purchase online.

Tell us about your local sourcing. What kinds of ingredients on your menu are sourced from Kaua’i farms, ranches, etc.? How many different producers do you procure from?

We use local where we can.  We use Medeiros Beef, front just up the road for our Shepherd’s Pies.  We also will use as much local produce as we are able.  Lawai Nursery is usually where we grab our apple bananas.  Farmer Hannah gets the best veggies and citrus for us.  We have another great customer with a farm here in Kalaheo where we get Ulu, grapefruits, and new this year, Rhubarb!  We also have several customers who have excess fruits in their yards that we gladly purchase.  When in season we will use fresh local hayden mangos for our ever popular Mango Lilikoi pies as well.  We have several growers that we will use seasonal produce from them while they have an abundance.

Why is local sourcing important to you as a business for your Kauai pies? Have you seen more importance in that since the pandemic hit?

Locally sourced produce and meats have always been important to us as a business.  The less dependable we can be on that barge coming in then better.  We would like to keep as much of our dollar circulating in the local economy as we can.  Seeing a lot of our customer base disappear during the pandemic has been an eye opener for both the farmers and ourselves.  Tying in local is the best way to have the freshest high quality ingredients we can.  While we have not been able to purchase the amounts we generally do, we are ordering local wherever we can to keep our farmers going.  We need them. No question about it.  They are the heart of our island.

What’s your future vision for local food and restaurants on Kaua’i? How do you think we’re going to get through this together?

I am very excited about all of the advancements with Ulu.  I am stoked to see Ulu flours being offered more readily, and starting to be offered locally.  This will be a game changer for us, using flours in everything we make here at TRS…having a local source, and a gluten free source will be a terrific way for us to keep supporting local.  Ulu is so healthy for you and so sustainable, I am thrilled to see it making such huge steps forward.

For hours, menu, online ordering of these Kauai pies visit The Right Slice

Currently open for all your Kauai pie goodness M-F 11-6, Sat 10-4.