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GETTING A LIFT: Jim Hill, that works because that Wayne"s Crane & Rigging, supervises as a crane elevator a teppanyaki table ventilation hood ~ above the roof that the Benihana restaurant under renovation in east Memphis. The new-and-improved Benihana need to be all set for client by June. -- photo By Andrew Ashby


The Benihana at 912 Ridge Lake Blvd. In east Memphis is acquiring a makeover. The 8,000-square-foot restaurant is gift renovated to fit through the company"s "Next Benihana" design, which involves a modern-day Japanese look and feel.

Columbus, Ohio-based style firm WD partner Inc. Draft the restaurant"s renovation, which is scheduled to be completed in mid-June.

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Benihana: the next generation

Benihana restaurants are timeless Japanese-style hibachi steakhouses - referred to as "teppanyaki." Meals are prepared and also served through a performing chef at the customers" table. Benihana founder Rocky Aoki began the company"s very first restaurant in new York City in 1964, v the Memphis location opening in September 1979.

Current general manager Vhoc Lee began at that restaurant together the chief bartender in 1981. He came to be the assistant manager in 1986 and then was promoted to basic manger in 1993.

He said the Memphis location will take on many elements of the company"s "Next Benihana" prototype.

"After the renovation at the next Benihana in Memphis, ours guest count will be significantly increased, especially with sushi," Lee said.

Before the renovation, Benihana seated roughly 250 guests. The renovations will include moving the episode bar to the prior of the restaurant and adding two teppanyaki tables, i m sorry adds approximately 20 more seats.

The episode bar, which can seat 50 customers, is being increased as well. Once Benihana opened up in Memphis, not numerous restaurants to be serving sushi. Now there is an ext competition in eastern Memphis from Sekisui, Mikasa Japan, Shogun that Memphis and others, i m sorry is a reason to expand that area the the restaurant.

Benihana restaurants have a typical menu, yet can have menu transforms in specific markets. In Memphis, that means more sushi.

"From time to time, us upgrade our menu to fit with regional consumers," Lee said. "A lengthy time ago, there weren"t any teppanyaki tables in Memphis. Yet in the past 10 years, there have been number of restaurants v teppanyaki tables cultivation in Memphis."

Sparking competitive buzz


Here room some quick facts around East Memphis" Benihana restaurant and also its renovation:- 8,000-square-foot restaurant- expanded waiting area- stone wall through Benihana family members crest behind hostess- much more windows to watch chefs prepare food- Two an ext teppanyaki tables- expanded sushi bar moved to the front of the restaurant- broadened sake menu- big red mural in lounge- backdrop behind every teppanyaki table

Takeo Higasai, the owner that Edo Japanese Restaurant in ~ 4792 Summer Ave., has been functioning in Memphis because that 21 years.

Although his restaurant is more of a Japanese steakhouse through sushi and also doesn"t have the teppanyaki tables Benihana has, Higasai has seen the area"s tastes change.

"The first time ns came below there weren"t many Japanese restaurants," he said. "About 10 year after that, episode became very popular nationwide, even in Memphis. After ~ that, we got even an ext customers."

Two other east Memphis competitors of Benihana space Sekisui Pacific Rim at 4724 Poplar Ave. And the initial Sekisui at 50 Humphreys Blvd.

Sekisui spokesperson Joe Hemingway stated he doesn"t recognize the impact the Benihana"s short-lived closing has had on the two nearby restaurants.

There is a connection in between the 2 companies, together Sekisui founder Jimmy Ishii operated with Benihana as soon as he very first came come Memphis.

The Sekisui restaurants have actually made no alters in solution to the recent Benihana renovation, although the Sekisui top top Humphreys Boulevard added teppanyaki tables, which Ishii phone call hibachi tables, once Benihana put in a episode bar about five years ago.

"Mr. Ishii has always been of the ideology that even with much more restaurants, over there is service for every one of us," Hemingway said. "He doesn"t remorse seeing someone boost their problems or increase their restaurants due to the fact that he thinks that anything we perform in Memphis come get people going the end helps everyone."

Goldfish-bowl mysticism

The Benihana exterior also is experience a change, through glass home windows looking in top top the teppanyaki tables so guest entering the restaurant deserve to see the chefs at work.

The waiting area will certainly be expanded. A rock curved wall surface with the Benihana family members crest will certainly be put behind the hostess station.

In the lounge area, a red mural is walk to it is in added. Benihana way "red flower." The bar additionally is going to have actually an broadened sake menu. Services is an alcohol addict beverage brewed native rice.

In addition to the 2 teppanyaki tables, the dining area will have actually some transforms as well. A background is being added behind every table.

In Memphis, the restaurant"s sales have tripled end the past 10 years. Lee claimed he expects the with more tables and an enhanced sushi bar, sales might increase 5 percent to 10 percent in the following year.

"I think our high quality is very an excellent and through the renovation, i think we"ll execute great," Lee said.

Benihana"s renovations already are help the businesses bordering it. Many of the builders have to be staying next door in ~ the Staybridge Suites.

Tony Conte, basic manager at Staybridge, said the restaurant has actually been valuable to the hotel"s business, yet doesn"t have specific number in regards to foot traffic. However, he said he gets hopeful feedback indigenous customers and also groups.

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"It"s certainly a hopeful impact," that said. "Just to be in ~ walking distance, it"s something that"s certainly utilized by ours guests. It have the right to be provided as a offering tool since our guests and groups love the convenience of having a quality restaurant following door."

It"s not simply for guests, as the hotel"s employees walk over there for having lunch all the time.

"We"re excited around it," Conte said. "We"re really all set for them come open earlier up."