Apparently Americans like to sit — Ikinari Steak, the ambitious Japanese steakhouse chain best known for making diners stand, will go against its tried-and-true business model and experiment with a few stools.
The restaurant opened its first U.S. location in the East Village at 90 East 10th Street earlier this year, and it’s already gearing up for an aggressive expansion plan with three more locations in Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea that the team says will open in the fall.
Part of the growth plan — which includes at least 20 locations in Manhattan — involves whether or not the chain should stick solely to its most defining characteristic of limited seating. No seating increases turnover, which is what founder Kunio Ichinose says keeps prices of the steak down. All of the more than 100 locations in Japan are standing restaurants, but it’s a concept that’s far more popular there, where even a chef with Michelin-star experience opened a standing-only spot to discount prices.
At the East Village location, most of the room is for standing diners, with just three tables for sitting. Stools will be added to a portion of the restaurant’s standing stations within the next few weeks on a trial basis, according to a spokeswoman. The planned new outposts at 368 West 46th Avenue, 154 7th Avenue, and 96 Eighth Avenue will all fit about 45 to 50 people, and stools may be added at these too, depending on how the East Village seating experiment goes.
The chain did not offer a reason why they planned to try out stools.
But maybe they’re finding New Yorkers just want to plop down when paying to dine out. After all, for all the popularity of food halls, one of the biggest complaints is that they never have enough places to sit.
And already, Ikinari has made some adjustments to the U.S. crowd. The restaurant initially sold all the meat by the gram to remain as Japanese as possible, but recently adjusted so that people can buy it by the more American-friendly ounce instead.