“Customer is God.”
お客様は神様です。

—Japanese Proverb

Did you know that December is “Write a Business Plan” month? If you are in need (or mood) to construct a business plan, we have the perfect metaphor to help you out. For a wholesome plan that focuses on customer experience, meet Obanzai (お番菜). Obanzai is the name of the traditional Japanese cuisine native to city of Kyoto. Its link to crafting business plans is that the key qualities and philosophy of obanzai are actually pretty good guidelines for building a customer experience focus in your company.  

Here’s the very first detail that sticks out: For a dish to be considered obanzai style, more than 50% of its ingredients must be produced or processed in Kyoto. Interpret this rule in your terms for your own case. Authenticity is the best when it comes to planning and operating your own business. Your plans must be your own, but they should be open to enrichments from outside. Your unique and consistent approach to your customers will differentiate you from the copycat competition.  

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Secondly, obanzai style incorporates ingredients usually discarded during cooking process. Not a part of vegetables, fish, or meat is thrown away; each grain of rice is used. Take a lesson from this utilitarianism. Know the true value of each tiny detail that makes up your operations. Your efforts, no matter small, is valuable. When you think on such scale and scope, the journey that your customers and employees go through will be improved.  

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Now, let’s focus on the 6 core spiritual concepts of obanzai. You will realize they are actually tenets of an amazing customer experience strategy:

  • Mottainai (もったいない): A sense of regret concerning waste. Not a single grain of rice is to be wasted in obanzai. Do not waste your human and financial resources when you are planning and working. Time is too precious to be wasted when you are interacting with your customers. Success requires efficiency and frugality.  
  • Honmamon (ほんまもん): Genuine things. Obanzai dishes use seasonings and cooking implements that have value. Only allow those factors that can actually contribute something to join your cause. Anything “fake” should be anything “out”.
  • Anbai (あんばい): Balance. Unique balanced taste of obanzai is born out of flexibility and creativity in utilizing the ingredients. You must be aware that there is intense pressure on companies to adopt, to alter and to improve. Yet, all of these must be done in balance and moderation in order to ensure everything progresses smoothly at a natural pace.
  • Shimatsu (始末): Not creating waste. Similar to mottainai, it means putting everything available to good use. Make sure you utilize everything and ensure nothing stays unused.
  • Deaimon (であいもん): Encounter. Obanzai chefs cherish those encounters they go through as they acquire and use the ingredients. This concept means the act or spirit of living with the nature or community. Your staff, your customers, your store, your investors, your country, and yourself are a unity. Each one provides a unique encounter in their totality.
  • Omotenashi (おもてなし): Hospitality. It is a huge part of obanzai to make an effort to make the best selection matching the mood or condition of others, to cogitate to enjoy the meal, to cook with the wish that whoever eats the meal stays healthy. These 3 acts means omotenashi. Carry this mentality whenever you interact with your customers. Your positive wishes will reflect on your engagements subconsciously.  

There are tons of lessons we can derive from obanzai cuisine. However, what really matters here is taking the principles to heart and applying them faithfully. We wish you the best in crafting your own business plans and hope obanzai guides you well.  

 

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