Apparently some Americans just can’t stand the no-chairs concept.
Somewhere between properly sitting and outright standing exists the humble stool. And now, Japanese standing steakhouse chain Ikinari is considering whether a few stools might be just the compromise it needs to better appease its new American audience.
As you may recall, Ikinari was a huge splash when it made its American debut with a location in Manhattan earlier this year. But though offering low prices for high quality steaks is probably its biggest selling point, what makes the Japanese chain so noteworthy is that its standing room only – a concept that’s very foreign to U.S. consumers, literally. In Japan, where Ikinari has over 100 locations, the idea of a fancy restaurant with nowhere to sit has become a bit of a cultural phenomenon. But in the US, even the smallest of Starbucks will usually throw patrons a few bones in the form of a seat or two.
However now it seems Ikinari may finally be acknowledging that cultural differences are – in fact – different. When the 50-person East Village outpost opened in February, the chain famous for standing was already offering ten seats in the form of three tables. Now, Ikinari says they are planning on offering stools in some of the standing stations on a trial basis in the next few weeks. (Though the restaurant is “standing room only,” you are still shown where you are supposed to stand by a host.)
According to Eater, the (kinda) standing steakhouse didn’t offer any reason for the stool try out, however, the move could have surprisingly large implications for a chain that has already announced it plans to open three more NYC locations this fall and as many as 20 locations in Manhattan alone over the next five years. More than just a gimmick, a lack of seating allows more patrons in the door and keeps the dining times extra quick, all of which help keep those steak prices cheap – just $22 for a 7 ounce filet – which as mentioned before, is truly the restaurant’s most defining characteristic. That’s not to say shelling out for a few stools will put a dent in the brand’s entire business model, but if it’s indicative of a larger cultural gap, that could prove more significant. As Eater also points out, the US location has already had to switch from selling its meat by the gram to by the ounce to translate the pricing more aptly to an American audience.
Ikinari says that if the stool trial goes well in the East Village, stools could be added to the new locations coming later this year too. Meanwhile, when they decide to add a crispy chicken sandwich or milkshakes to the menu, we’ll know they’ve truly caved.