Accounting & Human Growth Manager Sarah Lau

Sarah Lau is a powerhouse, a woman who loves her family and friends fiercely, is deeply connected to fighting racial injustice. Sarah is very organized and can help anyone compartmentalize and understand things that might not come naturally to them.

Sarah loves the hospitality industry and has worked alongside Liholiho owner and partner Jeff Hanak since 2010. After being unhappy in the corporate world, she moved to The Bay from LA. She attended culinary and hospitality management school because she loved food and restaurants. In Sarah's words, “I found an industry that lit me up from the inside out. It gave me life. And living in San Francisco made me realize that I could be honest about who I was, and I was able to comfortably come out of the closet when I was 33.”  During this time was when she met Jeff Hanak. Sarah decided that she wanted to do her internship with Jeff as she had eaten at his restaurants when she had visited SF and was taken by the environment and the ethos. Sarah had her interview with Jeff and was hired. Her internship led to Jeff becoming an incredible friend, mentor, and inspiration in leadership. It also led to her integral role with our Liholiho family. 

Sarah brings a level of care and skill to Liholiho unique to her. She has created a human resource department for us, though she prefers to call it a human growth department. In turn, this developed systems and processes that ensure our staff knows we value them and care for them personally and professionally. As much as we are invested in our business, we are also invested in their growth, inside and outside of work. Sarah is incredibly proud of her work with the Liho team, abolishing tips and creating a compensation model based on equity—rewriting a recruitment and hiring process also centered in equity. As she says, “ It has not been easy, but we, as a team, ARE DOING THE DAMN THING. We are walking the talk and making a huge impact in our industry and our community.”

If Sarah were not in restaurants, she'd work within the AAPI community to learn and understand history, culture, and heritage. To appreciate their immigration stories and to fight anti-Blackness within the AAPI community. Sarah stays focused and committed to racial and social justice for everyone, LGBTQIA+ rights, and smashing the patriarchy in everything she does. Her dream is for everyone to have access to a roof over their heads, food to eat, and mental health resources - for everyone to be who they are and be loved and supported at all times to allow them to continue growing and learning. Sarah works hard to doing her part to create a better world - in the restaurant industry and society in general. She’d like to see more balance, where we don't have billionaires while people in the world die of hunger and have nowhere to live.

Aside from Jeff Hanak, Sarah deeply admires Emma Rosenbush from Cala Restaurant. Emma had the vision to create and manage a program to hire people who live in the margins, such as the formerly incarcerated or those who experienced homelessness. Even though it came with many challenges, Emma stayed the course. She is an inspiration and a complete badass - all while being an incredibly kind human being.

There are so many loved ones who have balanced out Sarah’s life. If she could go back and have dinner with anyone from her past, she’d choose her friend Mel. Mel took her own life in 2019, she left so suddenly, and there are a million things left Sarah would like to say to her and even more questions she’d love to ask. Mel was so damn fun to share a meal with, and Sarah misses her dearly. Mel's passing made Sarah realize the impermanence of life and the importance of the now with the loved ones in her life.

Sarah and her partner, Leila, have a young son, Leo. Outside of work on their family days, you will likely find them taking day trips to Marin, Sonoma, Half Moon Bay, or Monterey. They love being in nature, going to farmer's markets, or having the perfect dining experience. A magical dinner out, shared with friends, is one of her favorite things ever. The ambiance, the plates, the silverware, the service, the food, the way it makes her feel, and the lasting imprint of the experience in her memory.  

It’s obvious Sarah’s life journey led her to the perfect career within the ideal industry. Her kind-hearted, organized spirit helps us create a fantastic dining experience through her passion for our guests. Her care is far-reaching, and without a doubt, each of our guests experiences it, even if they do not realize it.