Sakaya Kitchen's Richard Hales Planning 20 Locations In Florida And a Sit-Down Restaurant

In the near future, Sakaya Kitchen plans to open 20 stores across Florida and two more locations in our region, one in Kendall and another in Pembroke Pines. Chef and Owner Richard Hales is also developing a full service concept inspired by a trip to Tokyo and Seoul earlier this summer.

A job opening for a director of operations popped up on the restaurant's website last week, and Hales says he's looking for someone to help with the endless responsibilities of running two restaurants and two food trucks.

"We're going from an adolescent company to a mature company, and the only way we can be competitive and keep the standards where I envisioned them in 2009 is if I sort of adopt this franchise model even though we're not franchising," he said. "While I do this I need somebody who's strong on multi-unit operations who can take some slack from me."

Hales says he also has a Canadian investor interested in bringing the fast-casual Korean eatery to the Land of the Loonie, but gave few other details.

No recipes at Sakaya are written down and all of them have come from Hales, he notes. At the same time he concedes that sort of thing can't go on, as he looks to open stores in South Florida, and later in Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville.

"I picked out the chairs and tables. I painted the walls," he said. "In downtown I installed the floor, I chipped it away and put in the concrete.

"I'll walk in and see something that I don't like and I'll think I should have been here, and that's been the hardest part for me," he adds.

Today there's often a wait to order your food at either of Sakaya Kitchen's two locations. At food truck round ups its mobile version, Dim Ssäm à Gogo, often boasts the largest line. Hales was the first to take a risk on Midtown, whose development was a gentrification what was once a contiguous tract of urban blight. At the time the now-sprawling complex housed little more than a Five Guys and a Target, but has since become a magnet for trendy eateries.

It seems, from the outside, Hales is making money. Yet going from a cook and chef to a businessman doesn't seem to totally sit well with him.

"The hardest part for me has been getting out of the kitchen, he said. In Midtown "I was cooking, I was doing the fry station in morning, the grill station at night. I was the cashier."

"This is the step for me to not be working in the business, but be working on the business."

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Zachary Fagenson became the New Times Broward-Palm Beach restaurant critic in 2012 before taking up the post for Miami in 2014. He also works as a correspondent for Reuters.
Contact: Zachary Fagenson