CRANFORD - It's been over a year in the making, but Ani Ramen officially opened its doors in Cranford on Monday.

"The response in Cranford has been unbelievable," said Founder and CEO Luck Sarabhayavanija. "We love all the towns we go into, but this is definitely one of the more special ones. It's bitter-sweet. We have other locations that were struggling to survive during these times and others we had to relocate and go into a smaller space. We planned to open a month after COVID hit, and we wondered how long it was going to last."

Despite the six-month delay, Sarabhayavanija says he was able to retain 75% of the staff he hired prior to the pandemic. 

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"We had a job fair in March and we had all of our staff ready to go," said Sarabhayavanija. "There is nothing worse than offering someone a position to join the family, our Ani Ramen family, then saying sorry, we're going to be delayed six, seven, nine months, who knows."

The Cranford location, 109 Walnut Avenue, is Ani Ramen's sixth in New Jersey with more on the way. Sarabhayavanija admits he was nervous to open in October, a fairly slow month for restaurants as the holidays approach, but the early response of the residents has quelled his worries.

"Every time you open a restaurant, you have to build momentum," said Sarabhayavanija. "We thought opening in October might not be the best move and it's going to be an uphill battle going into the holiday season. But it's been quite the opposite. We opened up our doors and met a ton of people already from residents to local business owners. It's been unreal. We never thought we'd have this amount of takeout orders and deliveries that we've had in conjunction with those waiting for a table on a week night. It's been overwhelming support."

Ani Ramen serves craft ramen featuring their signature noodles, created by Sun Noodle, and the menu also offers their big bite plates, bao buns, and more. The restaurant is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. Check out the menu and learn more on their website.