Seiju Ifuku, the founder of Rainbow Drive-In, learned to cook while in the Army serving with the famous 100th Battalion during WW II. He participated in campaigns in Italy and France. After the war, he worked at the famous Kapiolani Drive-In, now the site of Wailana Coffee Shop and Condominiums, then, together with Ayako, opened a smaller version of this as Kalakaua Drive-In, currently the site of Cheeseburgers in Waikiki, at the corner of Ala Moana Blvd and Kalakaua Ave.
In 1961, in the midst of major economic changes in Hawaii, they took a chance and opened Rainbow Drive-In in Kapahulu, a small, local community at the entrance to Waikiki. They opened serving 50-cent chili with rice and $1 barbeque steak plate lunches alongside 25-cent hamburgers and 14-cent French fries — all food that was geared to families, nearby workers and the Waikiki beach crowd.
Seiju and Ayako’s philosophy was to serve plates with generous portions of hearty, simple food, with two scoops of rice and a side of macaroni salad at a reasonable price.
They kept their prices low and counted on the volume of sales to keep the Drive-In going. They raised prices very slowly and moderately so their customers would not be shocked, and they never charged taxes believing that their patrons should know exactly what each item cost. And they insisted on quick, attentive service, because they knew that the working person had only a limited lunch period.
While Hawai‘i has recognized this popular eatery with local awards, Rainbow Drive-In has also caught national attention with features on the Travel Channel, Cooking Channel and the Food Network’s Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives with Guy Fieri.
Keeping sight on their original philosophy, these traditions continue as the drive-in heads into its fifth decade of serving Hawaii.