How much do Benihana chefs really make?

Few restaurants offer a dining experience more entertaining than Benihana. Shrimp fly through the air, onion volcanos spout steam, and knives and spatulas become a slicing and dicing blur before the eyes of guests. Behind all of this creativity are the chefs of Benihana. They're more than simply skilled cooks who serve up a hot meal to waiting customers sitting just feet from their workspace — the chefs of Benihana are true entertainers with a flair for showmanship that helps make a dining experience at Benihana like none other.  

Perhaps you've wondered while eating your teriyaki chicken and scallops just what sort of money the chef who prepared your meal makes. Here's what you need to know about working as a chef at this Japanese-American dining institution.  

A big portion of their pay comes from tips

According to Indeed, as of February 2020, chefs at Benihana make an average of $16.67 per hour. This is less than what ZipRecruiter lists as the $38,948 average salary for a hibachi chef; however, it's pretty common for Benihana chefs to get tips, so that could make up the difference. That said, The Washington Post reported in 2014 that Benihana paid its chefs minimum wage, so that $16.67 per hour may very well include tips. 

Cooking at Benihana might not make a person rich, but it still pays better than the $12 per hour a person would make cooking at a chain like TGI Fridays (via Indeed). Then again, most cooks don't need to know how to flip a shrimp into their pocket either.

A chef on Reddit, who didn't specifically say they worked at Benihana (only that they had worked at multiple hibachi restaurants) said that in 2012, they were making $10 per hour. That was without tips though. "I'd say we averaged about $120 a night and on a good night you could maybe pull in $200 to $220."  

Being a Benihana chef can be hazardous

Learning all of those Benihana chef skills takes a bit of practice, and the chef on Reddit confirmed that they went through quite a few bandages. "I burned myself every night... literally," they said before adding, "There is so much grease flying around, and you're in front of a huge grill for eight hours a day that it's inevitable. I've been sent home probably 10 times for cuts that wouldn't stop bleeding."

For those who are interested in finding out what it's like to be a Benihana chef, the company offers a program where, for $200, a Benihana chef will guide a person through some of those wild tricks — Band-Aids presumably not included.