Successful Restaurants Using Lean Management 1: Kura sushi in Japan

July 14, 2019


Restaurants around the world are moving toward lean management. They have embraced lean because they want to cater to customers’ needs and desires in order to deliver customer value in direct response to customer demand. Moreover, lean practices help them in managing inventory, understanding capacity and customer demand, responding to customer orders within a speedy period, and more.

In this article, we will show you how a successful lean restaurant benefits from applying lean practices.

Kura Sushi in Japan:

Kura is  Japan’s second-largest chain of sushi restaurants. In Kura, they are delivering food on revolving conveyor belts. Kura has a market value of about ¥130 billion. Kunihiko Tanaka is the Kura’s founder who moved from selling vinegar to running a Sushi empire.

According to the japantimes, ” Tanaka decided to establish his own sushi restaurant. But he would do it differently. And so, with ¥3 million that he’d borrowed, he opened his first restaurant in 1977, setting out on a path that would eventually lead to the founding of Kura Corp. in 1995. The firm embraced a range of modern technologies, aiming to bring sushi to the masses.”


Lean practices in Kura:

  1. Visual management:

In order to allow customers to find their table easily when the customer’s table is ready, he or she is given a color-coded card with a number that matches the colors and number on the map that is hanged on the wall to represent each table. Each table, also, includes the same numbered and colored sign.


  1. Standard table setting preparation:

When the customer shows up at his/her table, the customer finds that everything has clearly been prepared and set and waiters are replenishing cups, plates, and other items.


  1. Digitization:

On their website, Kura Sushi shows that they combine staff’s efforts with robots to prepare the food.


  1. “Pull” & “Push” systems:

As for the “pull” system, customers order food and drinks through a computer system at their table. They can browse through the computer screens that show photos of various food and drink options, then their orders are submitted directly to the kitchen with no involvement from the servers to take any order.

The kitchen can manage the ordering process by accepting a specific amount of new orders at any one time, which is done automatically by the system. When there is no capacity, the computer at customer’s table will notify him with a message to “wait” until more capacity is available, and then alert him when the kitchen is ready to accept new orders. Whenever the order is ready, it is zipped out to the customer’s table on the conveyor belt.

While the “push” system operates through collecting pre-prepared plates off the moving conveyor belt on a lower level, where the plates are protected by dome-shaped covers as the plates circle the restaurant.


  1. Waste reduction:

Generally, in Japan, people do not serve themselves more than they can eat and nor produce more than they demand.

As for Kura, they depend on data collected from bar codes on deposited plates to understand customers’ demand and usage and to anticipate how much of each plate to pre-make.


  1. Digital menu:

Highly visual Digital menu with an option for English helps in reducing any errors in ordering as customers are able to order mostly what they want.


  1. Dealing with dirty plates:

To eliminate plates from stacking up on the table and help in preventing messes, once the customer finishes his plate, he put it down a shoot at his table. This helps the system to count the plate via bar code to add to the customer’s bill, collect data to understand demand, and automatically convey the plate through an automated delivery system under the conveyor belts directly to the washing station to be cleaned.