January 31, 2011 | last updated March 25, 2012 7:31 am

New Player Enters Restaurant Market | Connecticut group opens Millbury eatery

Photo/Christina H. Davis
Photo/Christina H. Davis
Feng Asian Bistro is the first Massachusetts restaurant for Connecticut-based Ginza Restaurant Group.

Worcester is already a city of restaurant groups. Some of the city's most recognized names in dining — The Sole Proprietor and Bocado, for example — are run by the Worcester Restaurant Group and Niche Hospitality, respectively.

Now the region is about to welcome a new group.

The Connecticut-based Ginza Restaurant Group, which has four Asian restaurants in Central Connecticut, opened the second of its Feng Asian Bistro restaurants at The Shoppes at Blackstone Valley in Millbury late last year.

Ginza, with 150 employees, runs two Feng restaurants in Connecticut: One in downtown Hartford and one in tony Canton.

The Millbury location is the group's largest and its first in Massachusetts. It features three hibachi tables that seat between 18 and 20 diners each, a bar and lounge that can seat about 25 and a dining room that seats 90, said Jim Kehoe, the group's general manager.

The Ginza group has been in business about 10 years, and liked what it saw in Millbury when the opportunity to open a restaurant at The Shoppes at Blackstone Valley presented itself.

"The mall has a lot to offer, and the area has a lot to offer," Kehoe said. He said the area's demographics, including how much is earned by households in the area, are a good sign for initial success and repeat business alike.

Blackstone also helps Ginza diversify. When the Feng location opens there in the coming weeks, the group will run an urban location, a rural location and suburban location.

The 3,500-square-foot Millbury location will be the group's biggest.

Median household income in Millbury is nearly $70,000. In Canton, the location of the group's more rural Feng restaurant, the median household income is nearly $80,000.

Ginza also runs two Ginza Japanese Cuisine & Hibachi restaurants in Bloomfield and Wethersfield, Conn., both immediate suburbs of Harford.

"Canton is quiet and affluent. In Hartford, there are a lot of businesses and functions and at Blackstone, there's the mall, a movie theater, other restaurants," Kehoe said.

Kehoe said it pays to be a young, energetic company in the restaurant business.

Worcester-based Niche Hospitality seems to bear that out, as well. In recent years, Niche, run by 30-something Michael Covino, has closed restaurants, renamed others and opened new ones, most recently, the Ceres Bistro at the Beechwood Hotel off Plantation Street.

But where Ginza thrives on geographic diversity, all of Niche's restaurants are in Worcester.

Matthew L. Brown is a freelance writer based in Connecticut.

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