Cross-industries innovation: What can restaurants learn from airports?

EHL Editorial Team | 8 Jun, 2016

What can restaurants learn from airports? How can a car manufacturer use tools from the gaming industry? What can a festival organizer learn from a chemical company?

Innovation is not specific to one industry. In fact, many concepts and technologies can be transferred from one industry to another and be the source of great success. It is not about copying but about adapting, enriching, customizing, learning and experimenting.

Through this “cross-industries innovation” series, you will discover examples of

At first sight there is nothing glamorous about a conveyor belt. Since the 19th century, the system has been used across many industries from the coal mines to assembly lines at Ford Motor Company for example. 

When it comes to the hospitality industry we can certainly see how this technology can be applied to food manufacturers, but not necessarily how it could be incorporated into the customer experience of a restaurant.

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Well, the magic lies into fresh sushi rotating through the restaurant on a conveyor belt. The first Kaitenzushi restaurant concept was opened in 1958 in Osaka, Japan, and was clearly inspired by the baggage carousel system used in airports or factory processing lines. Since then, we find such outlets across all continents.

The concept was initially thought to turn the traditional luxury charm of sushi dining into an affordable and healthy fast food. In that sense it presents various cost advantages that we can easily grasp: waiter budget reduction, higher client turnover and lower prices.

Furthermore, the custom color coding given to each category of plates offers an alternative to the usual sushi pricing approach where each tiny bite is associated to an additional cost.

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A couple of aspects however need to be taken into consideration:

In a sushi-go-round restaurants, the chef prepares the daily selection before placing it on the conveyor belt that surrounds him. The customer is positioned within arms’ reach of the sushi train and therefore its consumption level is tightly linked to the appeal of each plate. The presentation needs to be impeccable so as to encourage the client to taste as many as possible.

Moreover, the profitability of such outlets also relies on “mass-production” - which means that the standard offering should achieve the right level of variety to lower the demand for custom orders.

You might feel this innovation is now getting rather old and with now up to 84 percent of sushi consumed in Japan through this type of outlets, you would certainly be right. But it also represents today an enormous and attractive market.

Therefore, conveyor belt sushi shops are constantly evolving and the latest change involves how the custom dishes are ordered: using touch-panel menus. This new addition has lowered language barriers with multi-language options and picture menus catering to the international customer. It also has improved the follow-up with orders and some restaurants even deliver them directly to the customer’s seat by a separate conveyor belt.

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