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Why Benihana Wants This Burger Off Its Menu

Benihana's franchisors aren't seeing eye to eye over the "Beni Burger."

Nicholas Eckhart/Flickr
Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

A burger from Benihana? Sounds sacrilegious, and franchisor Benihana Inc. agrees. The company is feuding with Keiko Ono Aoki, widow of the company's founder Rocky Aoki and owner/franchisee of Benihana of Tokyo, over the "Beni Burger," reports Fortune magazine.

Keiko Aoki's company manages the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki location and in 2012 created the contentious burger as a way to drum up additional lunch business. However, Benihana Inc.— which owns the Waikiki dining spot - objected to Aoki's addition to the menu. The company says her creation did not fit the "eatertainment" restaurant's model, citing a 1995 franchise agreement that states that the Hawaiian Village restaurant may sell "only such products and services as have been expressly approved for sale in writing" by Benihana Inc, according to the Miami Herald.


Aoki lost her initial court battle with Benihana Inc. but fought back by simply selling the banned burger under the title "Tokyo Burger." In February 2014, when a judge issued an injunction against all burger sales at the company's restaurant, Aoki decided to move the burgers outside to a patio food cart. Now the two parties have returned to court, and Benihana Inc. is seeking termination of the restaurant's franchise agreement.

This isn't a first for Benihana. According to the Miami Herald, the two parties have fought over everything from hip hop dancing chefs ("Beni Girls") to garlic butter. Still, the heated burger squabble between Benihana Inc. and Benihana of Tokyo doesn't compare to seven years of family court battles over the late founder's estate.