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Japan’s Pepper Food Service Co., the operator of Ikinari Steak and other restaurant chains, will pull out of New York, sources have said.

The stand-up steakhouse chain has struggled to attract customers and was also hit hard by the shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic forced Pepper Food to shut all four of its stores in New York. The company has run into financial difficulties due mainly to rent payments even after laying off employees.

Pepper Food opened its first Ikinari Steak outlet abroad in New York in 2017 and expanded the number of stores in Manhattan to 11.

In 2018, the company became the first Japanese restaurant chain to go public on the U.S. Nasdaq Stock Market.

However, customer traffic remained sluggish at Ikinari Steak restaurants even though they offered steaks for less than half the prices of luxury steakhouses.

The company’s efforts to attract U.S. customers, such as through installing seats, did not bear fruit.

Last year, Pepper Food shut seven of the 11 Ikinari Steak outlets and converted two of the remaining four to another type of restaurant. It was delisted from Nasdaq.

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