The company was founded in 1964 on West 56th Street in New York City by 25-year-old Hiroaki "Rocky" Aoki. Aoki, a wrestler who had qualified for but did not attend the 1960 Summer Olympics started the restaurant with $10,000 earned from driving an ice cream truck in Harlem. The first restaurant, Benihana of Tokyo, was named for the red Safflower that was the name for the coffee shop owned by his parents in Tokyo. Aoki's concept was for the meals to be theatrically prepared by a knife-wielding, joke-telling chef at a teppanyaki table surrounded by a wooden eating surface in front of the guests (Teppan meaning "steel grill" or "griddle" and yaki meaning "grilled" or "broiled"). It initially did not do well until early 1965 when Clementine Paddleford of the New York Herald Tribune gave it a rave review. The Beatles and Muhammad Ali were among the celebrities who then descended on the four-table restaurant. Within a year Aoki opened a bigger restaurant that featured Samurai armour, heavy wooden ceiling beams and sliding Shoji screens to provide some privacy. In 1968 it opened its first restaurant outside of New York City in Chicago. Aoki brought in consultant Hardwicke Companies (its founder Charles H. Stein was the original developer of Six Flags Great Adventure and also operated various New York restaurants including Tavern on the Green) as a partner to run the company in 1976. Aoki terminated the relationship in 1980 and settled a Securities and Exchange Commission complaint of insider trading of Hardwicke stock.
The famous Benihana "Tiki Mug" has become collectible.
In 1982 Benihana National Corporation went public with Joel Schwartz as president. Some of the restaurants continued to be privately owned by Aoki. The company had some missteps including the opening of the upscale Big Splash restaurant and a frozen foods division Benihana National Classics. Its stock dived and shareholders sued over management including the fact that Aoki still had his...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document