Yakiniku is as familiar a food to Japanese people as sushi is. There are yakiniku restaurants all over the country, including quite a few chains. Here are 6 recommended yakiniku chain restaurants, from nationwide chains to those focused on regions like Kanto or Kansai.
Gyukaku is a yakiniku restaurant known for having traditional Japanese charcoal barbecue grills called "shichirin" located on all the tables and counters. There are more than 600 branches around the country, and they even have branches outside of the country, clearly making it Japan's biggest yakiniku chain. No matter which branch you go to the prices are reasonable and the atmosphere is welcoming. Their most popular offering is kalbi (390 JPY - 1,280 JPY (excl. tax)), a type of rib meat. There are various types of meat labeled kalbi, and that combined with the type of cow and the different sauces used on the meat means you can enjoy various flavors. For lively parties or dinners it might be good to order the all-you-can-eat course (2,980 JPY - 4,280 JPY (excl. tax) per person). It's a set that comes with different kinds of meat, snacks, salad, and dessert. The lunch set offered only during lunch time (around 650 JPY - 1,500 JPY) is a set made so that one person can fully enjoy a yakiniku meal.
Yakiniku King is a restaurant that mostly offers all-you-can-eat courses where you only eat what you like. In some restaurants everything is buffet-style, but at Yakiniku King all you have to do is use the touch panel to order. After you order, an employee will bring out your food. Some of Yakiniku King's best points are how easy it is to order and how the seats are all set up semi-privately so you can enjoy your meal. It's very popular with families, and there are more than 150 branches nationwide. There are three kinds of all-you-can-eat courses. There's the 58 Option Course (2,680 JPY (excl. tax)) that has 58 options from which you can choose, the Standard Course (2,980 JPY (excl. tax)) that has 100 options, and the Premium Course (3,980 JPY (excl. tax)) that has five kinds of mature meats that you can choose. The Sukiyaki Kalbi (with raw egg) that's part of the Standard and Premium Courses is a great dish that will let you try sukiyaki even in a yakiniku restaurant. If you order it on its own it's 580 JPY (excl. tax). The all-you-can-eat course has a time limit of 100 minutes, so please order wisely.
*Children under or equal to elementary school age and people 60 and over get discounts.
2. Yakiniku King
Jojoen is a high-class yakiniku restaurant operating more than 60 branches in the major cities, and it's well-known nationwide thanks to being mentioned by celebrities on radio shows and TV programs. Their motto is "testing quality and deliciousness is the highest service." They are very particular about the meat they offer to satisfy customers' stomachs, from choosing it to the seasoning, and at the same time they pay close attention to the restaurant's atmosphere and the employees' devotion to satisfy the customers' hearts. However, it's a high-class restaurant, so in order to enjoy dinner there you should budget beforehand. The kalbiyaki is 2,600 JPY (excl. tax) per person. It's expensive when compared to other chain restaurants, but the taste is amazing. The courses run from 14,000 JPY to 22,000 JPY (all excl. tax). If you want to enjoy Jojoen at a reasonable price, try going at lunch. There are four lunch courses that run 2,400 JPY - 5,800 JPY (incl. tax), as well as bento that you can get for take out (1,200 JPY - 4,800 JPY (all excl. tax)). It might be good to buy it and eat it at your destination.
Osaka Yakiniku Horumon Futago is a chain that is steadily increasing in branches, with 30 branches nationwide (mostly in Tokyo) and a few overseas as well. The store's policy is offering half-sizes for half-price so that customers can try different types of meat. Plus, their style is "handling meat until it reaches your mouth." In most yakiniku places customers grill it on their own, but in this restaurant the employees grill it for you so you don't over-cook the meat and can eat it at its height of deliciousness. There are many unique dishes, and the dish with the biggest impact is the Meibutsu Kuroge Wagyu no Hamideru Kalbi (1,500JPY (excl. tax)). "Hamideru" means "to jut out," and it indeed is a cut of meat so large it juts out of the roaster. You'll be satisfied by its volume just by looking at it! When it's finished the employee cuts it into four pieces, and it's a valuable meal since each part has a different taste. There's also the Hamidetai Harami (1,680 JPY (excl. tax)). Harami is skirt steak and theirs is thick and soft. There's also the Sukiyaki Kalbi Kimi to Tomoni...(380 JPY (excl. tax) for one piece), in which meat is dipped in a sukiyaki-style egg-yolk sauce and is placed on rice like sushi. Popular dishes sell out, so it's recommended to make your reservation for an early time.
4. Osaka Yakiniku Horumon Futago
Yakiniku Fufutei is a restaurant that mostly has time-limited all-you-can-eat courses. It's a system called the "table order buffet," where the server brings your food after you order. Currently there are 13 branches in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba, Osaka, and Hyogo, and its popularity is growing thanks to its reasonably priced delicious meats. The secret to their being able to offer fresh meat for low prices is the fact that they're the company restaurant affiliated with a wholesaler. Fufutei, where you can eat plenty of high-quality meat, has a time limit of 120 minutes and you can choose between two menus. There's the Yakiniku Tabehodai (2,980 JPY (excl. tax)) where you can choose from 81 dishes, and the Jou-Yakiniku Tabehodai (3,480 JPY (excl. tax)) that has an additional limited 10 dishes made with domestic beef. Of course, you can also enjoy ordering off the menu without ordering the course. They have plenty of non-yakiniku dishes, and you can enjoy their domestic kalbi for 780 JPY (excl. tax) for one serving. Under their rice dishes, their sous vide roast beef rice bowl (680 JPY (excl. tax)) is very popular with women.
*Children equal to and under elementary school age get a discount.
5. Yakiniku Fufutei
Yakiniku Dining One Karubi is the pioneer in the table order buffet style. One Kalbi alone has 70 branches in the Kansai and Kyushu area, and when added to its sister chains Aburiya (also yakiniku) and Kin no Buta (shabushabu) there are around 100 branches total. The concept is that they offer not just yakiniku, but delicious food that will stir up conversation so that you can enjoy sitting in a happy circle with your friends and family while deepening your bonds. Because of that they don't have big rooms for parties but semi-private rooms that seat 6. The interior decorating, brightness of the lights, width of the floor, all of these details were chosen carefully so the customers could relax. The all-you-can-eat is limited to 120 minutes. It costs 3,480 JPY (excl. tax) but there are various discounts available for customers over 50 and under elementary school age. The most famous dish on their non-course menu is the One Kalbi (780 JPY (excl. tax)) that's also the name of the restaurant. It's meat from between ribs, and its distinguishing characteristic is the long, thin slices. You grab it with tongs and use scissors to cut it into bite-sized pieces. It's a soft, juicy dish that will make your heart feel like it's enjoying luxury. Their non-course menu has a huge variety.
*Photo is for illustration purposes.
6. Yakiniku Dining One Karubi
In Japan, there is a phrase that goes "friends that eat from the same pot." It means sharing things like food will deepen your bonds. In yakiniku, you eat meat that's cooked on the same grill, so it's a cuisine that will strengthen your friendship. Please enjoy having yakiniku with your friends!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.