1. What is the Benihana concept?
The Benihana concept is to provide high quality, exotic food to the consumer in an entertaining manner, while maximizing production and cost efficiencies through a unique work-stream. Rocky Aoki, the company's President, commented that major issue in the US restaurant industry was the lack of availability of staff and the associated labor costs. By having the chef cook the food at the hibachi, Benihana was able to greatly reduce the kitchen staff needed.
The kitchen operated as a batch process, with each area assembling the materials needed for the hibachi chef. The chef was able to act like a cellular manufacturing facility, as the chef has all of the correct ingredients organized in the correct sequence at his workstation to quickly and efficiently create meals. This also leads to no waste as all of the food is served, which can significantly cuts food costs. The cellular manufacturing of meals at the hibachi is made possible by the simple, standardized menu that Benihana was able to offer, while still meeting the needs of consumers. In addition, then end chef only needed one appliance, the hibachi, to create meals for all diners.
In addition, the average turnover at a table was only an hour due to the efficient process. This high turnover also allows more consumers to be served and therefore higher income given matching demand. In addition, the smaller back room kitchens allowed for more dining space and the ability to increase sales.
By recruiting and training chefs in Japan, the company is able to provide authentic, talented cooks and still keep total labor to only 10-12% of gross sales. The Japanese chefs appreciated the ability to quickly rise within the company which is something that is not possible in Japan due to the country's culture. This created the supply of eager chefs to train, and come to the US for the opportunity.
2. Is Benihana a successful operation? How successful?