Benihana of Tokyo has been very successful for the last 40 years since 1964. From a small restaurant, it has developed into a chain of themed restaurants. The success of Benihana has been attributed to the superb total quality management (TQM) process especially in maintaining the overall exotic ambience and the high quality food provided. All these strengths contribute to providing an unforgettable dining experience to its consumers and are reflected in their ability to retain consumers which is shown in exhibit 4 such that 65.
% of their customers are return customers. Benihana is able to minimize cost effectively without affecting the quality of food and service provided. From Exhibit 1, total costs of sales are kept to 35-45% of total sales. Their attempt to reduce operating costs is also reflected through a reasonable net profit margin of 0. 5-9% of sales. Benihana made use of floor space efficiently to decrease labor costs and rent. The elimination of the conventional kitchen with the hibachi arrangement allows the company to keep labor costs low and at the same time, give huge amount of attentive service.
This boosted its dining experience, through constant interaction with consumers. Benihana also focuses on setting up their businesses in areas with high traffic, especially in the business district areas. Rent is usually higher in these areas. By using floor space more efficiently, Benihana is able to serve more consumers during peak period and allow for more sales to cover the higher rental costs. The concept that Benihana adopts is that consumers are served at their tables with freshly prepared food by the chef.
By only providing 3 menus to consumers, this reduces food costs and wastage. Benihana’s lower food costs are also reduced through the use of fresh ingredients, where storage is minimized. The main process flow of a Benihana restaurant is different from a typical restaurant. In Benihana, the orders for the soup, salad and beverages taken by the waiter while the order for the main dish is taken directly to the chef. This allows Benihana to quicken the process flow, and make it more efficient, as it eliminated the waiting time in ordering and receiving their orders.
As the food is freshly prepared, the production flow is very short as there is limited movement to the food being moved from the storage area to the tables where food is being prepared. As food is being served on the spot after being cooked, this allows Benihana to maintain their quality of the food, and this satisfies consumers as shown in their feedback in Exhibit 4, where food is the main highlight of Benihana restaurants. Benihana is also able to reduce labor costs through the use of a simple management structure in each of their restaurant.
In addition, chefs and waiters would clear the dishes and set the table for the next customer, unlike the use of cleaners in typical restaurants. This also reduces labor costs. Benihana success is also attributed to their TQM system where the management also emphasizes the importance of quality control in every employee’s responsibility. They emphasize quality in their inputs like the high quality food provided, and the sources of food are also selected carefully. Benihana also highlight quality in the process of serving their food to their consumers.
However, the management of Benihana also faces problems despite their raving success. Their attempts to go into franchising didn’t go as planned as Rocky was unwilling to give up its control, and he felt that these franchisees were not well equipped with the experience and knowledge to run a food business, especially one that relates with Japanese culture. In addition, Bill Susha, the head of Operations for Benihana recognizes that if Benihana wants to continue to expand, it will face higher costs in terms of rental as well as shortage of well trained employees.
Although Benihana has been proven that their uniqueness cannot be replicated easily by competitors, critics have been predicting that the uniqueness of Benihana is only a fad and it will not last. As Benihana is providing not only products, but also the service, they should continue to emphasize and improve on their TQM, as in this industry, employees are key input sources and by implementing TQM, there will be positive impacts on the service being delivered.