A quick-service steakhouse chain that’s wildly popular in Japan — known for its lack of chairs and fast turnover — is debuting its first U.S. outpost in New York. The Ikinari Steak, owned by chef and restaurateur Kunio Ichinose, is expected to debut in the East Village at 90 East 10th St. later this year. The concept is to feed people steak as quickly as possible. It’s not yet clear if the new outpost will also forgo seating in favor of stand-up tables, a method that helps with the speedy turnover. Ichinose’s company applied for a liquor license this month, and the application notes that the restaurant will have 50 seats and 15 tables.
Ichinose first opened the stand-up steakhouse in Tokyo in 2013, according to a profile of the "steak zealot" chef in the Financial Times. Ikinari now boasts more than 50 locations, with more on the way. He developed the restaurant specifically to feed people steak as quickly as possible, for a population with high tastes but middling incomes. FT explains:
Customers stand at 1m-high tables and order the precise number of grammes desired. The cost — Y5/gramme for rib-eye to more than Y10/g for sirloin — gives customers what Mr Ichinose claims is a vital sense of control.
Everything is calculated for speed of throughput and optimal use of limited ground floor spaces in key city locations. The height of the tables, Mr. Ichinose demonstrates by jumping up and miming, has been calibrated so that diners are unlikely to put their knives and forks down between mouthfuls. He pulls out a smartphone, which funnels him real-time CCTV footage of all the restaurants, to show this happening.
The steakhouse offers a variety of cuts, and the application for the NYC location also notes that soup, salad, and rice will be served. An online menu for the chain lists the price for about seven ounces of top rib steak at 1600 yen, or about $16.
It’s a hit in Tokyo for the lunch crowd, FT reports. In places with offices, people wait 45 minutes to get in on weekdays. People stay in the restaurant for about 30 minutes or less, and the original location, which is about 200-square-feet, reportedly serves about 500 people per day. Besides the turnover, Ikinari also offers a loyalty program that Ichinose is particularly proud of — a "beef milage card" app that allows diners to track how many pounds of steak they’ve eaten and ranks them against other regulars. As of August 2015, the top Japanese diner had consumed 37,000 grams, or 81 pounds, of steak at the restaurant, according to FT.
It's possible that the East Village location won't be the same speedy lunchtime meal that the Japanese outposts are. East Village isn't known for its office workers, and a liquor license suggests Ikinari Steak may want people to hang out for longer at this location. Eater has reached out to the chain; stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.