Seiju Ifuku, the founder of Rainbow Drive-In, learned to cook while in the Army, serving with the famous 100th Battalion during World War 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. Together with his wife Ayako, they opened a smaller version of this restaurant called Kalakaua Drive-In, currently the site of Cheeseburgers in Waikiki, at the corner of Ala Moana Boulevard and Kalakaua Avenue.
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 plates, $1 barbeque steak plate lunches, 25-cent hamburgers and 14-cent French fries — food that was geared to the working person and the Waikiki beach crowd.
Classic, Hawaii-style plates lunches.
The Ifukus 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 tax, 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.
These traditions, which started more than 50 years ago, continue today at Rainbow Drive-In.