MBA students help a local Japanese Restaurant

Many times IESE students get involved in their local community, using skills learned from the MBA. This time, we were tasked to conduct a consulting project for a local Barcelona Japanese Restaurant, Dining Yu.

Our mission was “to provide overall support to the owner, Yamashita family, regarding renewal open of Ramen Dining Yu“. Yu was founded in 1991 not as Ramen Dining but as a normal Japanese restaurant. Despite its success in the past, by 2014 Yu needed a catalyst to improve both sales and profitability. In an effort to turn around Yu’s situation, the Yamashita family decided to introduce ramen to the menu – a delicious noodle soup loved by Japanese, which has been gaining global popularity in recent years.

We started working closely with Yamashita family in May 2015, and the first thing we did was to renew the concept of Yu, which was a casual dining place that served reasonably priced, tasty dishes. After many meetings and discussions, we finally agreed upon defining the concept as “Beber, Picar, 〆 (Shimer)”, which encourages customers to begin with some tapas and drinks and complete the meal with ramen to obtain sense of satisfactory fullness, which is a Japanese tradition. Therefore, the right combination of flavorsome Japanese tapas and ramen was the key to Yu’s turnaround success. The concept was arrived upon by considering: the aim to maintain the existing customer base while acquiring new customers; the eating habits of Spanish people; the cost structure of Yu; and the capacity of resources.

Once the concept was decided, we targeted young professionals as the main new audience, since we believe that this group is flexible enough to accept the new dish and concept, and is also capable of spreading the reputation of Yu efficiently by utilizing social media. In addition, we had to select dishes to put on menu and brush up their presentation. Many IESE students contributed in this process by participating in tasting event and giving feedback to Yamashita family. As a result of many trials and errors, the dishes have become more trendy and fashionable than they used to be, consequently attracting existing and new customers.

For our next task, promotion, we brainstormed many ways to promote Yu and so far we efficiently publicized the renewal of Yu by sharing announcements and pictures on Facebook, scattered flyers through our network, implemented “happy hour” which offers selected drinks for 50% off from 19:30 to 20:30 attract non-Spanish habitants and tourists, and approached media to urge them to write an article about Yu and so on. The next two steps that you will see are promotion on TripAdvisor and an exciting introduction video.

A month has passed since the renewal opening, and the good news is that it seems that we have succeeded in attracting both new and existing customers, thus the number of total customers has increased. Next, we will analyze how customers discovered Yu, what motivated them to visit Yu, and how satisfied they were, in order to improve the current situation and execute further effective promotion.

This experience of consulting on the renewal launch of Ramen Dining Yu was very fruitful because it gave us the chance to employ the skills that we learned in many of our MBA classes, such as strategy, marketing, operations, and accounting, and apply these concepts to real business. We learned not only how this process of enforcement and adaptation is difficult and time consuming but also how important it is to achieve business success. We believe that matching a good balance of academic study with actual business practice has maximized our learning.


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