[] Jeff Barabe walks us to his journey in managing one of Palau’s successful restaurants

By Rhealyn C. Pojas

Everyone has their own secret to success but if one would really think about it, the secret to success is no secret at all.

When one talks about the best dining experience here in Palau, the Elilai Bar and Grill would immediately come as one of the top recommendations for tourists and locals, what with its location overlooking a good scenery and good dining experience.  


Ten years after its inception, the Elilai Restaurant continues to delight tourists’ and locals’ palates and one could only wonder what makes the restaurant as successful as it is today.

In fact, when you look the restaurant up in Trip Advisor, it was ranked as second among all the restaurants here in Palau.    

Owner Jeffrey Barabe shared in an interview with Island Times his journey towards Palau and eventually putting up various businesses, especially the Elilai Bar and Grill.

Back to 10 years ago, a Japanese gentleman who was a friend of Barabe had thought of starting a restaurant business here in Palau and had decided to name it after a local flower, Elilai.

“We helped in the early stage of [establishing] the Elilai, so he (Barabe’s Japanese friend) thought to name the restaurant Elilai to express elegance,” Barabe said.

It was only from four years ago when Barabe took over the restaurant business, especially after his Japanese friend passed away.

When asked about what makes their restaurant different from others, Barabe said that it is actually quality and good customer service. Aside from that, they are also proud to say that their menu is from a celebrity chef.

But more than just quality and good customer service, Barabe also takes pride to his employees for what success they have accomplished in the business by sharing that they are the secret to his success.

“My theory is that if I treat my employees well, then they will also treat the customers well,” Barabe said.

Barabe sets a good example to his employees by displaying humility.

“I don’t ask anybody to do anything that I won’t do myself,” Barabe revealed, adding that he also does chores that his employees do at the restaurant such as picking up trash, etc.

For Barabe, a business man should have an eye for choosing the good people to be part of the workforce. Choosing an employee for him requires “a lot of a trial and error.”

“I can get a feel for people willing to learn quickly,” Barabe said, revealing later in the interview that great resumes may be good but it does not always impress him.

“Sometimes the best degrees do not necessarily mean that they (the applicants) are the best people,” he expressed.

Before coming to Palau, Barabe was working in the motion picture industry in the United States and had decided to come to Palau with his wife, Kassi Berg, in 2001.   The original plan was that they were to live only in the country for one year but much to their awe, they find themselves staying here for 16 years already.

With lots of business innovations in mind especially at the Elilai restaurant, Barabe said that they are up for introducing big changes for their customers. [/restrict]