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Winners

Plan-Do-See Bridal Services Business Unit

2011 11th Porter Prize Winner Wedding services
A place to revisit ― The bridal services business as a repeat business

Industry Background

Hotels and restaurants offer wedding services. The third category is specialized wedding service providers who have their own facilities. This category changed its operating style―instead of using a large wedding hall, it offers a "House Wedding," which consists of a wedding ceremony followed by a reception conducted in a large "guest house-style" building. It has a chapel, a restaurant, and a garden.

In the industry, barriers to entry were low and differentiation was not easy to achieve. However, the facilities had to be rebuilt every five or ten years in order to keep attracting customers. They also had to spend considerable amounts on advertising to keep attracting new customers. It is reported that House Wedding providers spend 5% to 15% of sales on advertising.(※1) At the same time, factors for inhibiting competition are at work too. Since the majority of customers do not arrange their own wedding receptions more than once, they have no way of comparing the quality of service, and they tend to be satisfied with the service they get. Also, even if a wedding services provider improves its service quality, it is difficult for customers to tell the difference.

According to Zexy.net, the website of Zexy magazine (the dominant wedding information provider), the distribution of facilities was as follows: hotels (31.2%), specialized facilities (28.3%), guest house weddings (21.8%), and restaurants (8.6%).

(※1)Shukan Diamond, 2010/12/04.

Executive Summary

The Plan-Do-See Wedding Services Business Unit (hereafter, Plan-Do-See) provides wedding planning and production services at seven facilities: three hotels (two in Fukuoka and one in Kobe), and four restaurants (three in Nagoya and one in Kyoto). The actual operation of these restaurants and hotels are handled by the company's other business units.

Plan-Do-See defines wedding services as a repeat business, and therefore puts a priority on satisfying all its customers, who include the people who are attending the wedding reception as guests. It provides a higher quality of food and drinks, as these details directly influence the guests' level of customer satisfaction, offers customized menus, and has developed both a unique organization and a system of human resource management that enable seamless operation. Wedding facilities are always adjacent to hotels and/or restaurants, and this factor is also what helps the company to sustain a long-term relationship with customers.

Unique Value Proposition

Plan-Do-See's value propositions to its customers are; 1) a high-quality, customized menu, 2) seamless service, and 3) a place that customers may revisit. Its aim is the establishment of a life-time relationship with its customers. None of the three different models (restaurant weddings, hotel weddings, and weddings at specialized facilities) can provide all of these three value propositions.

1) High-quality, customized menu: Customers can customize a menu for their own wedding. To discuss the menu, a chef meets with the customers, which is rare in the industry. Also, Plan-Do-See will accept a request for changes in the number of guests up to two days before the wedding, while the industry standard is 10-14 days before the wedding.

2) Seamless service: The same wedding planner takes care of the customer from the initial visit to the wedding day, while the industry standard is to have a division of labor among the sales staff, the wedding planner, and the operator. All Plan-Do-See's employees, including individuals who work in administrative positions within the company, interact with wedding customers by helping out at bridal fairs. Sometimes people are moved from the kitchen to become wedding planners. Such first-hand experience in interacting with customers and flexible job assignments facilitate discussion among the different functions, and help make operations seamless.

3) A place to revisit: Plan-Do-See considers the wedding business as a repeat business, rather than a series of one-time transactions. Guests who have attended a wedding reception frequently choose Plan-Do-See for their own wedding receptions. Customers of the hotel or the restaurant will often become customers of the wedding business. Couples who have used the wedding services will often return to stay at the hotel or enjoy dinner at the restaurant. At the hotel and restaurant, customers can enjoy an experience similar to their wedding reception because these facilities are operated by the same company. Consequently, Plan-Do-See relies less on advertisements to obtain new customers than its competitors.

Plan-Do-See's target customers are couples in their twenties and thirties, especially those who live in large cities, who want high-quality service, and who want to show hospitality to their family members and guests.

Plan-Do-See's average sales per wedding were 3,651,000 yen in 2010, which was 12% higher than the industry average of 3,257,000 yen.

(※2)Zexy Kekkon Trend Chosa 2010.

Unique Value Chain

Procurement
Plan-Do-See carefully chooses facilities that blend in with the region's history and culture. It aims is to contribute to the attractiveness of the region so that customers will want to revisit. For example, the restaurant in Kyoto was the residence of a famous Japanese-style painter; one of the restaurants in Nagoya has a 400-year-old history and was used by the Owari Tokugawa family; and the hotel in Kobe is located in a historic area where foreigners originally settled and is one of the oldest in Japan.
Plan-Do-See sources from multiple suppliers such services as flower arrangements, photography services, hair and make-up services, and gifts for guests. Each facility selects its own suppliers, except for flower arrangement services. It does not ask for a security deposit from suppliers. (If a wedding facility operator asks for a security deposit, this would make it difficult to change suppliers when service quality fails to meet expectations.) Plan-Do-See lets suppliers compete with each other; at the same time, it provides educational programs in order to share the concepts behind its weddings. Plan-Do-See does not enter this part of the value chain except for bridal gown and dress rentals.

The company limits the customers' choices in order to assure service quality. Plan-Do-See allows customers to bring in their own dresses and other items only when they are irreplaceable. In such cases, it does not ask customers to pay an additional fee (a corkage fee).

Plan-Do-See directly procures food and drinks. It carefully selects the location from which the food items are procured, as well as the means of processing, and the site for food processing, in order to assure high levels of freshness and hygiene. For certain kinds of fish, which is often used for wedding dinners, it hires a fishery operator, who cuts up the fish the same day it is caught. Plan-Do-See receives the fish the next day. For wine, it searches for wineries and buys directly from them, rather than from wine importing companies. This way, it saves on the middleman's margin and buys more expensive wines.

Operation
Wedding planners, who work as case managers for couples, are in charge of acquiring customers, then undertaking service registration, consulting, contracting, delivery, and follow up.

Plan-Do-See has an arrangement with a service company, whose employees are responsible for serving the food at all Plan-Do-See's facilities. Plan-Do-See has a long-term working relationship with this company, and together they have developed seamless operations.

On the wedding day, details are carefully planned so that each couple may feel that they have received special treatment and that their wedding was unique - a one-of-a-kind wedding. For example, although Garden Oriental Kyoto has four reception rooms, even if four brides were to have their wedding receptions at the same time, they would never meet each other.

Marketing and sales
Plan-Do-See decides when to introduce a campaign discount based on the data collected in the management system.

Wedding planners at each facility decide the schedule, the medium, and the contents for advertising. Many competitors centralize this function at the headquarters. Plan-Do-See spends 4% to 5% of sales on advertising, which is the lower end of the industry average.

Wedding planners carefully explain the details of the wedding reception they can offer, enabling customers to imagine what the event would be like and helping them to make choices.

Customer feedback from couples will be sent to the headquarters. This feedback is passed on to each facility. Wedding planners follow up with customers and collect questionnaires, often achieving very close to a 100% rate of collection. For guests, when the couple agrees, Plan-Do-See asks for their feedback on a tiny card left on the dining table. These cards are collected and analyzed at each facility immediately after the event.

Wedding planners are evaluated based on their contract conclusion rate, the number of couples they handle, customer satisfaction, and complaints, as well as their capabilities in planning bridal fairs and advertisements for wedding magazines.

After-sales service
Plan-Do-See issues membership cards and provides points that are shared with its hotels and restaurants. It sends invitation cards for anniversary dinners, etc.

Human resource management
Plan-Do-See entrusts to its employees full responsibility for a project regardless of their years of experience on the job. At the same time, employees work in a team beyond functions.

For seamless operation and employee development, Plan-Do-See moves people among different functions, rotating them between the kitchen, restaurant, and planning. It also has employees from the other business unit (which includes the restaurant, banquet operations, lodging, accounting, and general affairs) to serve potential customers at the bridal fairs.

"I am one of the customers" is the mind-set that Plan-Do-See is asking its employees to share. In order to develop its employees' capabilities to judge what is good and what is not from the customer's perspective and to come up with proposals for services and amenities that go beyond what the customers are requesting, the company encourages its employees to experience luxury hotels, restaurants and entertainment facilities, and pays half of their expenses. It also plans overseas trips for its employees, and the company also pays some portion of their expenses. According to the Great Place to Work Institute Japan, Plan-Do-See ranked fourth for educational expense per employee.

Plan-Do-See does not recruit people for the position of wedding planner. It chooses people who like to be organizers and individuals with a strong sense of responsibility.

According to the Great Place to Work Institute Japan, it was ranked 5th in employee satisfaction in 2011.

Firm infrastructure
The founder and CEO has a vision to provide service with style and Omotenashi (hospitality in the Japanese way) through its hotels and restaurants. He aims to apply them in overseas markets to let the world know about Japanese Omotenashi and make more people happy.
The company intends not to go public to avoid growth pressure. It wants to spend time developing people and carefully choosing facilities.

Fit among Activities

At Plan-Do-See, activities are selected and coordinated around the key strategic choices, namely, custom-made services designed for each couple, a unique concept and design for each facility, service development that does not rely on suppliers, the building of long-term relationships with customers which start before the wedding day and continue after it. (Please refer to Plan-Do-See's activity system map, which appears at the end of this report.)

Innovation that Enabled Strategy

  • Views the wedding business as a repeat business.
  • Gets customer feedback from guests, not only from the bride and groom.
  • Developed a management system that covers customer relationship management, sales management, and planner evaluations.
  • Uses a plate-warmer set under each dinner plate.
  • Makes sure that all staff members engaged in the wedding services eat the new full-course menu, which includes drinks, four times a year.

Consistency of Strategy Over Time

Since its foundation in 1993, Plan-Do-See has viewed wedding services as a repeat business, emphasizing the satisfaction of the guests as well as the marrying couple. This key concept has remain unchanged, although the operational format has changed from wedding services offered at rental halls at the time of its founding to a "house-wedding" format adopted later on.

Trade-offs

  • No platform stage for the bride and groom. Plan-Do-See considers the wedding reception to be a place where the bride and groom offer hospitality to their guests.
  • No corkage fee from customers, no security deposit from suppliers. No dominant supply contract with one supplier.
  • Does not accept wedding parties beyond a certain number of guests. By setting this rule, Plan-Do-See does not have to keep extra chairs and tables, and can thereby keep non-business property at a minimum.
  • Does not own facilities. Plan-Do-See specializes as an operation service provider.
  • Does not accept reservations for the entire restaurant in order to keep it open as a place for others to revisit.
  • Does not rely on media exposure to attract customers, as it does not want to turn off self-confident customers who tend to avoid fads. Hence, it does not use such tactics as buying menus from famous chefs, having movie stars use its services, making a planner famous through publicity, or having the company founder serve as spokesperson for the company.
  • Does not provide services to outside facilities to ensure that it can offer customers a place to come back to.
  • Does not produce "theme" weddings that would offer a non-routine experience, such as "a princess in a white mansion" concept. The experience PDS creates should last beyond the wedding day, and should be part of the past and future of the couple.
  • Does not respond to requests for discounts from customers if such a discount would make it difficult to meet the quality standard for food, drinks, and gifts.
  • Does not copy the same designs from facility to facility.
  • Does not go public in order to be able to put customers ahead of shareholders.
  • Does not propose wedding services as a package with a choice of modular components. PDS develops a customized wedding plan, based on consultations. This process requires more time for selling the service, but leads to higher customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction.
  • Does not have a position for a chef, but it does have a position for a kitchen manager. The head of the kitchen is not someone who lords over the staff but who manages the kitchen team. The kitchen manager leaves the kitchen to develop plans with customers and wedding planners.

Profitability

Both return on invested capital and return on sales exceed the industry average by a wide margin.

Return on invested capital (ROIC)   (Unit = percentage point)
Difference from industry averag
over 5 year period
Difference from industry average, by year
2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
32.1%P 71.7%P 51.3%P 22.5%P 35.5%P 16.5%P
Inter quartile range (IQR) = 18.6%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
2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
13.0%P 16.3%P 16.3%P 11.4%P 13.8%P 11.5%P
IQR = 6.9%P
Return on sales =Operating income / Net sales

Activity System Map

Winners PDF

PAGETOP