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Winners

Gourmet Navigator

2010 10th Porter Prize Winner Internet-based information and service provider
Activate restaurant industry with a two-layered platform consisting of an ICT platform and a people-based network

Industry Background

Before Gourmet Navigator's website "Gurunavi" was launched, restaurants had very limited means for sales promotion. The means for raising consumer awareness were limited primarily to advertising in the Yellow Pages and distributing flyers. As a result, the restaurant business relied heavily on location, especially in big cities.

Executive Summary

Gourmet Navigator was launched in 1996 with the goal of activating the restaurant business and facilitating a "rich" food experience for all people. It focuses both on chain restaurants and SME restaurants, and provides support through not only an ICT-based platform, but also a people-based network (comprised of 1,000 salespeople).
It operates the ICT platform "Gurunavi," which functions as a portal site for anyone looking for official information on restaurants.. For restaurants, it serves as a tool for sales promotion and for individual consumers, it is a communication tool that provides various kinds of information. Gourment Navigator was the first-mover, and its Gurunavi service helped individual consumers to acquire the new habit of searching for restaurant information on the Internet before going out for a meal. It is the biggest platform of its kind. It had 6.85 million registered individual members (as of December 2009), 840 million page views (in the month of December 2009), 20 million unique users (in the month of December 2009) and contracts with 50,227 restaurants (as of March 2010). Its sales and operating profit have been growing steadily even after 2008, during the economic downturn, and ROIC and ROS have improved from five years ago.
Gurunavi is a tool for restaurants for uploading various information. Gourmet Navigator charges restaurants for its service. This is in contrast to the popular strategy in the long-tail market, which is to have individual consumers provide information and website operators earn profits from advertisement fees.

Unique Value Proposition

In comparison to its competitors, Gourmet Navigator's target audience is much more broadly defined. As for restaurants, Gourmet Navigator targets restaurants ranging from the low end to the high end, (e.g., cafés with customer transactions of 300 yen, to Japanese-style luxury restaurants charging 50,000 yen for a meal). Gourmet Navigator targets individual consumers in all segments. At the same time, it responds well to diverse customer needs by providing different entrances to the website, for example "Kochira Hishoshitsu" (This is the Secretarial Section), and making it easier for users to find the information they are looking for.
Gourmet Navigator defines its service to restaurants as "providing support for restaurants." It offers the following benefits to restaurants: 1) A higher profile (for the restaurant) among consumers; 2) the provision of sales promotion tools, such as coupons and sales for a limited time only; 3) the provision of means for acquiring new customers, and means for increasing repeat customers; 4) the provision of services to improve restaurants' business in such areas as menu development and recruitment, and 5) online and off-line "market" for local farmers, which also creates business matching opportunities for all participants. The basic service costs 50,000 yen per month, and restaurants can sign up for additional services for a fee
To individual consumers, Gourmet Navigator defines its service as "a comprehensive website for food," and positions itself as "the official restaurant information site." Its portal site, Gurunavi, offers the following benefits to consumers for free: 1) Thorough and real-time searchability; 2) reliable, detailed, real-time information about restaurants, such as location, regular holidays, business hours, menu information, budget, availability of parking and private rooms, recommendations from the restaurant, delivery services, takeout options, etc.; 3) availability of discounts through coupons and special offers; and 4) reservation placement.

Unique Value Chain

Gourmet Navigator's value proposition is supported by its ICT-based platform and its people-based network.

Business planning and system development
Gourmet Navigator has been adding new information and new services, such as Gurunavi Delivery, through which individual consumers can order delivery services online, and Gurunavi Shoku-ichiba (food market), through which users can do online shopping with restaurants. Also, it expanded its service to farmers and processed food manufacturers to better serve restaurants. Information can be uploaded and updated by restaurants.
Gourmet Navigator's sales people and GPC (Gurunavi Promotion Community) members understand the needs of restaurant owners. Also, farmers and food manufacturers bring in ideas and information to Gourmet Navigator, attracted by its people-based network and close ties with restaurants.

Information uploading and searching
Many restaurants upload and update their information. Matching between the information on the platform and the data requested by individual consumers is done automatically by the system.

Sales and after-sales service
Gourmet Navigator has a sales force of 1,000 people, who undertake sales, the subsidiary GPC (Gurunavi Promotion Community), Gurunavi University, and the call center. Sales personnel visit restaurants regularly and propose sales promotion tools, like account executives in advertisement agencies do for their clients.
Part-timers of a subsidiary, GPC, provide information, conduct surveys to get feedback from restaurants, introduce new services, and maintain relationships with restaurants through regular face-to-face communication.
A call center follows up the efforts of the sales force and GPC by making outbound calls. The call center also handles inquiries and complaints from individual consumers. Errors that affect the reliability of information are corrected immediately.
A paper-based monthly magazine, Gurunavi Tsushin (news letter), is delivered to the member restaurants, offering tips from successful restaurants and explaining how to make good use of Gurunavi. Between 100,000 and 150,000 copies of Gurunavi Tsushin are published each month. Gurunavi University offers educational programs on sales promotion, shop management, etc.
These sales and after-sales service activities contribute to the multi-layered network with restaurants, at the restaurant-owners' level, the restaurant-managers' level, and the chefs' level. A people-based network is indispensable for changing restaurants' mindsets and introducing innovative solutions leveraging ICT.

Human resource management
Gourmet Navigator helps to maximize an employee's potential by assigning individuals to positions with significant opportunities for taking initiative. This practice, in turn, attracts individuals who are competent and motivated. As part of staff training, Gourmet Navigator encourages employees to meet challenges and create new things every day. It aims to instill the DNA of evolution throughout the organization.
In order to help sales personnel develop the skills of account executives, Gourmet Nagivator monitors and evaluates the entire process, by noting the number of restaurant visits and/or sales calls per employee and the details of sales talks, rather than focusing merely on the results, such as the number of new contracts won.

Fit among Activities

At Gourmet Navigator, activities are selected and coordinated around the key strategic choices, namely, broad services, an official portal site for restaurants, and a multi-layered sales network. (Please refer to Gourmet Navigator' activity system map, which appears at the end of this report.)

Innovation that Enabled Strategy

  • Developed a communication platform, where restaurants upload information.
  • Provides both online and offline (people-based) infrastructure.
  • A system where restaurants send proposals to party organizers in response to requests that have been placed by these party organizers. In this way, party organizers can easily find a restaurant that can meet their requirements.
  • An online and calling center-based reservation system that enables restaurants to sell canceled reservations and vacant seats.,
  • A community site for executive assistants / executive secretaries, where 20,000 executive assistants / executive secretaries of 10,000 companies exchange information regarding restaurants for business dinners and souvenirs for guests.
  • Gurunavi University is offered to restaurants, where best practices are collected and shared through lectures on sales promotion.

Consistency of Strategy Over Time

Gourmet Navigator has kept the same mission and the core ideas for its business strategy since its establishment in 1996. Its mission is to protect and nurture the food culture of Japan, and its business strategy is to provide plenty of high-quality information to individual consumers free-of-charge, to provide restaurants with tools to improve their management and operations, and to establish a people-based network to supplement the ICT-based infrastructure between Gourmet Navigator and restaurants. However, the ways in which Gourmet Navigator has been implementing its mission and core ideas have been changing according to the growth phase of the platform. In the early stages, the first priority was to increase the membership to 10,000. Therefore, in the beginning it sold simple and less expensive services. After achieving 10,000 members, it changed its service, by offering more expensive but more effective services, and it also changed its sales approach, adopting an account executive-style approach. It expanded the service to include recruiting and restaurant renovation. Now, it provides the platform to farmers and food manufacturers, making it possible for farmers to connect with restaurants and consumers, based on the thinking that the prosperity of the agricultural industry leads to the prosperity of the restaurant industry, which at the end of the day, contributes to its mission, which is to protect and nurture the food culture of Japan.

Trade-offs

  • Gourmet Navigator foregoes the efficiency that a focus on ICT enables, and instead complements it with high touch (a people-based network).
  • Does not focus on one function. Gourmet Navigator offers services beyond sales promotion services, in line with its positioning as a "Food information wholesaler."
  • Does not limit itself to a simple web-based sales approach. Gourmet Navigator has a sales force, GPC (part timers who visit restaurants), and a call center to support restaurants.
  • Does not rely on consumer-generated contents/information.

Profitability

Both return on invested capital and return on sales exceed the industry average. Their gaps with the industry average are expanding.

Return on invested capital (ROIC)   (Unit = percentage point)
Difference from industry averag
over 5 year period
Difference from industry average, by year
2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
32.0%P 19.9%P 7.0%P 32.0%P 39.3%P 40.5%P
Inter quartile range (IQR) = 12.8%P
Return on invested capital = Operating income / Average invested capital

Return on sales (ROS)   (Unit = percentage point)
Difference from industry average
over 5 year period
Difference from industry average, by year
2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
13.2%P 9.6%P 3.9%P 14.9%P 14.5%P 15.2%P
IQR = 8.0%P
Return on sales =Operating income / Net sales

Activity System Map

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