The Case Centre’s top 40 bestselling cases

3rd place - Virgin Atlantic Airways
The case
Case: Benihana of Tokyo Virgin Atlantic Airways
Authors: W. Earl Sasser and John Klug
Institution: Harvard Business School
Ref: 9-673-057
Date published: 1972
By 1972, Benihana was basically a steakhouse with a difference – the food was cooked in front of the customer by Japanese chefs, and the décor was styled like an authentically detailed Japanese country inn. By 1972, Benihana had grown to a chain of 15 restaurants across the country. But what was Benihana really selling? Food? Atmosphere? Hospitality? Was the concept a fad, or was Benihana at the forefront of a growing trend? Students are asked to evaluate the current operating strategy and suggest a long-term expansion plan.
The authors

W. Earl Sasser is a Baker Foundation Professor at Harvard Business School and has been a member of the faculty there since 1969.

John Klug was a Research Associate and now serves on the board of WorldDenver.

The teacher

Stein Bjørnstad Stein Bjørnstad is Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Innovation and Economic Organisation, BI Norwegian Business School.  He first came across this case on an international faculty programme and now uses it regularly. Here, he explains why.

The case has several layers which makes the learning experience special for students. I teach the case on a New Ventures Creation elective and approach it as though it were a mystery to solve.

Students typically think that successful new businesses arise because there is a new idea and an opportunity – in the case of Benihana, fast eating with a new cultural and theatrical twist. But when they delve a little deeper into the case, they realise that one of the crucial drivers of Benihana’s success turns out to be operational innovation and efficiency. The students love the case and it is an exciting teaching experience every time.


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