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Nikutei Futago specializes in fine-dining tasting menus including this selection of seasonal items.

FTG USA, which operates Japanese restaurants in New York City, acquires Soba Totto as part of national expansion plan

The operator of Nikutei Futago and Yakiniku Futago eyes new American markets

FTG USA Holdings, a New York City-based restaurant company that operates two concepts under the Futago brand, has taken over operations of Soba Totto, which specializes in soba buckwheat noodles, as an initial step in expanding its footprint in the United States.

“We saw that Soba Totto had a lot of potential because of its brand image,” said FTG USA’s director of operations, Atsuko Kidaka. “It has been here for more than 10 years, and it has a good location near Grand Central Terminal. And it has a liquor license already, which is good news.”

The previious owners of Soba Totto, wanted to exit the New York market, so FTG USA took over the lease, she said, adding that no money was exchanged in the transaction. 

Kidaka added that Soba Totto’s menu, focusing on healthful soba noodles but also offering tavern-style snacks called izakaya, has broad appeal. Additionally, the restaurant has fewer competitors than it did before the pandemic since many similar restaurants in Midtown Manhattan have closed in recent years.

Dining in New York City’s central business districts has dropped off in the aftermath of the pandemic as more office workers are doing their jobs from home rather than commuting.

FTG USA also operates a fine-dining restaurant, Nikutei Futago, which specializes in omakase tasting menus with a specialty in Japanese wagyu beef, and Yakiniku Futago, which is more casual and offers meat and vegetables grilled at tableside in a style similar to Korean barbecue.

“Yakiniku Futago has more upbeat music, a little younger energy, and also a more affordable price point than Nikutei Futago,” Kidaka said.

Both of those restaurants are part of the broader Futago brand founded by twin brothers Suncho and Sunbong Lee (“futago” means “twins” in Japanese). There are around 120 Yakiniku Futago locations in Japan, and three or four in Hong Kong, as well as a dozen Nikutei Futago restaurants in Japan, Kidaka said. There was also a short-lived Yakiniku Futago in Honolulu, Hawaii, that fell victim to the pandemic, she added.

Sobo Totto’s menu will remain largely intact, although once the new team is settled in the chef might start offering seasonal specials, Kidaka said.

The purchase of the soba and izakaya restaurant is part of FTG USA’s strategy to expand, both by purchasing existing restaurants, opening new restaurants under both Futago concepts, and also through franchising. Kidaka said the company is looking to open restaurants in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Florida, Texas, and Hawaii.

Besides opening its own restaurants, FTG USA also offers services to Japanese companies who want to set up shop in the United States, including back office support and help with procuring licenses, opening bank accounts, and staff recruitment.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected] 

Correction: November 29, 2023
This story has been corrected to clarify that FTG USA took over the lease of Soba Totto but that no money was exchanged in the transaction.
TAGS: Food Trends
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