What are the differences between the Benihana production process and that of a typical restaurant?
The key difference was the way in which food was prepared. During the time period of the case Teppanyaki style dining was unknown in the United States. In this model, food was prepped table side by a chef instead of a kitchen in back. In this setup, customers were entertained with a "dinner show" and were able to see their (foreign/exotic) meal being prepared, something which Rocky Aoki felt would alleviate some of the reservations Americans held for "exotic foods."
The Benihana concept also allowed for guests to experience the benefits of having 'made-to-order' products instead of 'made-to-stock' without the higher costs associated with that level of service.
From a customer-focused perspective, the more intimate the experience or relationship between provider and customer, the perceived value gained in significantly increased.
Benihana was able to provide a unique, high quality meal at a good perceived value.
Examine the production system in detail. What are the major design choices which generated operating efficiencies?
The use of the hibachi tables in food production allowed for the back kitchen to be significantly smaller than a typical restaurant. Relative to total floor space, this design required only ~22% of the restaurant to be used as the prep kitchen as opposed to ~30% in a traditional kitchen. This allowed for much greater utilization of the restaurant building (a fixed cost). Being able to serve a higher number of customers as compared to traditional restaurants having a similar amount of total floor space helps Benihana to drive efficiencies such as scale economies (the more you make the cheaper everything gets).
The teppanyaki style restaurant also allowed for the reduction in labor without sacrificing customer service. The...