Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.– James Cash “J. C.” Penney Jr.
We couldn’t agree more with Mr. Penney. When our story began in 2002, co-founders and brothers Jimmy and Johnny say the inception of Bento Cafe resulted from the perfect storm brewing:
- the economic shift at the time after 9/11
- Johnny’s own impending graduation from the University of Florida (because we all feel that pressure to figure out our whole lives if we haven’t already in that short 4-year span amirite)
- patiently waiting for the ideal time and location
And above all they wanted to honor their father’s culinary legacy in traditional Chinese cuisine – in a more fresh, approachable way.
Often being in the kitchen with their dad and wearing many hats, they were able to absorb invaluable lessons and an understanding of the business from a young age.
Rooted in Family and Tradition
Jimmy and Johnny’s deep appreciation for their dad’s hard work, sparked their own inner fuel to make good, high quality Asian food faster and more accessible for everyone.
Growing up in the restaurant business, they saw the need and opportunity to bridge the gap between traditional ways of eating Asian food (mostly Chinese take out in the white boxes with some fortune cookies if you’re lucky) with a more modern and open approach to the cuisine.
The Bento concept places emphasis on fresh-to-order Asian fare tailored to the unique needs of the ever-growing, always-on-the go crowd.
This inclusive approach would help with connecting the two seemingly distant generations of old school and new school.
Bento Evolves With You
Sixteen years, 11 locations, 7 cities, and a growing team of 500 members later, there is no ceiling in growth for our Bento family with more new store openings on the horizon.
Bento couldn’t do all of this without you and your unwavering loyalty to us, or more aptly to our Pao Pao (spicy cream) chicken (let’s be real).
Recently we’ve been busy expanding, and even fortunate enough to tread new territory. So without further ado, let’s shine the spotlight on some of the latest members of the family.
One of the recent expansions landed us in sunny St. Pete, all less than half a mile from The University of South Florida St. Pete, the surreal Salvador Dali Museum, the Al Lang Stadium home to the Tampa Bay Rowdies, and in the heart of downtown St. Pete. It’s a spot we’ve been scheming for quite some time, to be honest.
“We were drawn to downtown St. Pete for its rapid real estate market growth, the incredible transformation of the business district, and its proximity to the USF St. Pete campus and notable hospitals,” said Johnny.
In other words, he wanted Bento to be part of the ever-expanding development of the ‘Burg. Johnny was confident that Bento and St. Pete’s energetic live, work, and play community would be the perfect match with the concept’s fast, easygoing, and fresh vibes.
“With so many young professionals drawn to this area, the community will benefit from a quick, casual dining experience.”
We opened doors to the very first Bento in the Tampa Bay area this past October where we had the warmest welcome, including a ribbon cutting courtesy of Mayor Kriseman, who helped us kick off our grand opening. We are happy to be the new kids on the sunniest block and look forward to creating so many new tasty memories together!
We’re so proud to call the City Beautiful our home, and are grateful to contribute to its perpetual growth in Orlando and in its surrounding areas. It brings us great joy to have had our Winter Park location join us this past November – also marking our fourth Central Florida Bento (we now have all your Pao Pao chicken needs covered in every corner of the city 😜).
“Our first Orlando location opened in downtown ten years ago and now we’re choosing to build our headquarters here as we know Orlando will be our home for many years to come,” says Johnny.
We’re happy to add a fresh bite for every appetite whether you’re perusing the city’s world class art, local specialty stores, or the famed Saturday Farmers’ Market (hello IG photo opps galore). Soon you will also be able to bulk up on protein with one of our build-a-poke bowls after leg day at our neighbors, LA Fitness. The gym is currently going through $4.2 million worth of renovations. Gains and the full update of the new LA Fitness anticipated: April 2019.
Meet us in the park 🤗
#BentoInTheSwamp (this baby is almost ready to make its entrance)
Gainesville is the birthplace of Bento, and we couldn’t be more excited to go back to our orange and blue roots 16 years later to set up Gainesville’s third Bento at The Standard just a walk across from the University of Florida.
Coming back to where we launched is an opportunity to add to the impassioned community that has provided us with so much support and a chance to thrive from day one.
The student population, families, and business professionals all over town have shown us so much love, and we couldn’t be more grateful to add another Bento in our beloved swamp.
The Best is Yet to Come
While these locations mark the latest members to join the family, we look forward to more development in the upcoming year and beyond – satisfying all your roll, bowl, box, and tea cravings one city at a time.
“It’s a very exciting time for Bento Group, especially with all of our expansions,” said David Yu, Bento Group partner.
“When Jimmy and Johnny Tung were originally planning for the first Bento opening, they hadn’t really envisioned how massive it would grow to be.”
Bento Baby Store Details:
Bento St. Pete
320 3rd St. South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
Bento Winter Park
501 Orlando Avenue #221
Winter Park, FL 32789
150 NW 13th Street, Suite 60
Gainesville, FL 32601