The Confusion of Japanese Restaurants

Last weekend, I read an article from The Bulletin by John Gottberg Anderson called “Teppanyaki cooking at Shoji’s.” This is a Benihana type restaurant where the grill cooking is the entertainment. For John and his party, it wasn’t a good experience.

For me, John’s review was a typical one. Arrived at the restaurant at 6 pm, the place wasn’t crowded, but had to wait in the bar for 15 minutes. Seated at the table, but no drink order taken, wait another 15 minutes, etc. If you don’t care to get your customers seated with drinks right away, it’s downhill from here. During this visit, John and his party didn’t try the sushi, so they went back a week later just for sushi. He’s a better man then me, I would’ve never gone back.

As a Japanese American and as a chef, I’m saddened about the current state of Japanese restaurants. Many owners are retiring and selling their restaurants to people who have no experience in the restaurant industry or think they know the cuisine. Everyone is trying to do “Fusion”, because they don’t understand that Japanese food is simple and try to do more upscale. These places turn out to be “Confusion” and a total mess. They don’t stick around long and close soon after they put out the “Happy Hour” or “50% Off” banner.

A “new” restaurant owner told me once that all he needs to do is hire a “General Manager” and all of his problems will go away. Based on his thinking, his problems are only beginning and where do you find a good GM? I wasn’t going to tell him…

Too many owners, managers, and chefs don’t want to look at the reality of their restaurants. Maybe they’re forgetting that this is a “business” and if their customers don’t have a good experience they WON’T BE BACK. No customers, No revenue, No business, No survival.

Thank you for stopping by, I would appreciate your comments.

If you want to read John’s article, it can be found at


Vivian said…
Chef, bad service in any restaurant always saddens me. I am an Asian-Pacific Island transplant myself and love the food from that region. A restaurant can have fabulous food but turn me totally off with bad service. I rarely go back to those places and then only with others who insist. The places where I find that well balanced dance between food and service win me as a repeat customer and my recommendations as well (word of mouth is the best advertising).

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