Julian Johnston, partner launch Japanese restaurant with plans to expand

Owners plan to open 10 locations in two years in neighborhoods like Midtown Miami and NMB

Jan.January 06, 2017 09:45 AM

Japanito. Inset: owners Ken Ray and Julian Johnston

Luxury broker Julian Johnston has teamed up with his business partner Ken Ray to launch Japanito, a fast-casual Japanese restaurant, in the Sunset Harbour neighborhood of Miami Beach.

Johnston and Ray opened in a roughly 500-square-foot space at 1701 Purdy Avenue about a month ago and plan to expand to up to 10 locations in South Florida, the partners told The Real Deal.

Johnston, broker at Calibre International Realty, focuses on luxury homes in Miami Beach, and ranked sixth in Miami-Dade for residential sales volume last year, according to a TRD analysis. The residential market slowdown has impacted him in the $15 million-plus range. “Buyers are not in a rush right now,” he said.

His partner Ray has the hospitality background. He’s been in the industry for more than 20 years, handling food and beverage operations for hotels and condo buildings like the Trump Towers. Ray also owns Maso Group, a hospitality-focused brokerage and development company.

Over the next two years, they plan to open up to 10 locations in neighborhoods like Brickell, North Miami Beach, Sunny Isles Beach and Aventura. Next is Midtown Miami. The ideal space is roughly 800 square feet with leases with a minimum of five years – small enough to seat customers but also to cater to the delivery crowd. At its Sunset Harbour location, delivery is already popular, Johnston said.

Japanito was born out of necessity, they said, for healthy, low-sodium and fast casual food. “I can’t eat Chicken Kitchen every day,” Ray told TRD.

The menu features bowls, burritos wrapped in Japanese sushi paper, mochidoki desserts, snacks, iced coffee and tea – including a bowl/burrito Johnston named after his firm, Calibre, featuring shrimp tempura, crab salad, asparagus, lettuce, avocado and Japanito sauce.

“It’s just food that we would need,” Johnston added.

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