End of an era for Saskatoon's Samurai restaurant
After decades of service, time is marching on for a beloved Teppanyaki restaurant.
“I think almost anybody living in Saskatoon at some point in time has actually dined at the Samurai,” said Delta Bessborough Hotel GM Jason Clark. “I mean a 40-year run for a restaurant, that's a very long time and it's been very successful here.”
Opening in 1980, the Samurai has been a fixture in Saskatoon’s hospitality industry – but a $20 million renovation plan is bringing a new restaurant design.
“The Delta Bessborough is actually going to be repositioning itself to a higher Marriott tier brand called Autograph next year,” said Clark. “With that we actually look at all aspects of the hotel from guest rooms, to convention facilities, to food and beverage outlets and that's when we really started to do the analysis of the Samurai restaurant.”
After hiring a consultant from New York, management wants to improve guest utilization.
“When you see the hotel from the outside it's a beautiful castle, it has a great aura to it, great imagery, we want something inside thought to be very approachable,” said Clark. “We want everybody here locally to feel very welcome here and you're not just coming here for a special occasion so we've opted actually to not go fine dining.”
The change in restaurant design is a trend the Saskatchewan hospitality industry is familiar with in the city. Attracting customers inside rather than opting for delivery or takeout are some of the factors affecting each individual business.
“It's really tough, if you look at the restaurant scene across the entire city, it's been really rough particularly the last couple of years,” said Jim Bence, president & CEO of the Saskatchewan Hotel and Hospitality Association.
“The economy has taken a pounding and it's reflected in their attitudes towards their discretionary spending. The Samurai is a legendary establishment. The challenge with restaurants is really how long they can stay in the marketplace. For those that have been around a long time, what are they considering as far as their feasibility going forward.”
Bence said it’s not just hotels that are adjusting their restaurant customer experience, rather it’s restaurants across the city.
“There’s a lot of folks out there that are really tightening their belts,” said Bence. “Across the province taxation is a big factor, we had the PST exemption swept off, people are saying ‘do we have the money to go out as much as we did’? We’re heavily taxed on the liquor side and people are concerned about their .04 blood alcohol level. Those are the kinds of things that have come together to make it for a difficult economic environment for restaurants.”
Clark said the restaurant taking the place of the Samurai will be a surprise, but does say it will be an upscale casual dining experience. The restaurant’s final day for business is Dec. 31.