Benihana outlines UK expansion plans

By Emma Eversham

- Last updated on GMT

Japanese restaurant brand Benihana sees potential for expansion across the UK
Japanese restaurant brand Benihana sees potential for expansion across the UK

Related tags: Asia, Japan

Global Japanese restaurant group Benihana is intending to expand its UK business outside of London and into other major cities. 

The company, set up by Rocky Aoki in New York in 1964, currently operates three Benihana restaurants in London - in Piccadilly, Chelsea and St Paul's (run under a franchise agreement). 

Chief executive Keiko Ono Aoki told BigHospitality Benihana now saw potential in cities such as Leeds, Birmingham and Manchester for the concept, which is based around the Japanese teppan-yaki table - the practice of cooking food on an iron grill. 

"We have been in London for nearly 30 years where the concept has been successful, but now we are seeing other cities doing well, so we see potential, not only in London, but in cities like Leeds, Birmingham, Liverpool," she said. 

"Benihana is also a family restaurant, so anywhere there are families, in fact, there's potential."


Aoki said the company was looking for partners and franchisers to help it operate new sites. 

"We don't have an aim for number of sites, more an aim to find the right partners," she said. "It will be important that whoever we work with can understand the theatre of our concept." 

Benihana, which also operates sites elsewhere in Europe, the Middle East, South East Asia and Canada, sees chefs cook directly at the table. Despite the company's size, each restaurant is run independently with all sauces and dishes prepared on site. 

"Our concept is very unique and in touch with the customers. In 50 years we have done very little to change it," said Aoki. 

Ramen concept

During a visit to London earlier this month, Aoki said she was also scouring the capital for suitable sites for Koa, the modern Chinese ramen restaurant which Benihana launched in New York last year. 

The concept is based around ramen with unusual toppings such as fried chicken, roast beef and seafood. A broth made from soya milk imported from Japan is also a speciality.

"Before he passed away (in 2008) Rocky believed that the next sushi would be ramen, but at the time no-one thought it would be so popular. Now, several years later, we see he had predicted the trend," said Aoki. 

Anyone interested in starting a franchise with Benihana can contact​.

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