Benihana fires up UK expansion plans after 30 years in Chelsea

By Sophie Witts

- Last updated on GMT

Credit: Victoria Metaxas
Credit: Victoria Metaxas

Related tags United kingdom

Japanese restaurant group Benihana has revealed plans to expand across the UK as it marks the 30th birthday of its Chelsea site this month.

Founded by the late wrestler Hiroaki ‘Rocky’ Aoki in New York, the chain popularised the theatrical teppanyaki cooking style with dishes prepared in front of diners on a hot plate.

Benihana currently operates three London restaurants in Piccadilly, Chelsea and St Paul’s, but CEO Keiko Ono Aoki told BigHospitality she was planning to expand the chain in to the capital’s family-friendly suburbs.

“Not many restaurants are kid-friendly, but when the chefs start their performance the children go very quiet,” said Aoki.

“But there is a big problem trying to find spaces in London, the one issue is Benihana needs a big space, ideally between 5,000 – 6,000 sq.ft.”

She added that the group had been approached to open in Cardiff and was interested in launching in other major cities under franchise, if large enough sites became available.

Speaking at an event to mark the 30-year anniversary of Benihana's Chelsea site, Aoki said the brand’s originality was key to its success.

“Benihana was one of the first restaurants to use an open kitchen, customers feel like they have a personal chef and can customise their dishes,” she said.

“These days delivery services are becoming more popular, but they cannot replicate Benihana’s entertainment, so customers will always come back to the restaurant.”

Benihana Chelsea is running a special £30 Rocky’s Choice menu for 30 days until 30 September to celebrate its birthday. 

The Japanese chain was launched by Rocky in New York in 1964 and now operates over 100 restaurants worldwide.

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