10 Harvard Business School Research Stories That Will Make Your Mouth Water

The food industry is under intense study at Harvard Business School. This story sampler looks at issues including restaurant marketing, chefs as CEOs, and the business of food science.
by Sean Silverthorne

Food used to be just sustenance, but now it's news. The president of the United States falls for McDonald's and KFC. In Portland, resentment is growing over white street vendors who sell ethnic foods. Ikea is starting a food incubator for entrepreneurs. Food, it seems, is trending.

The food industry is at the heart of much research at Harvard Business School. Here is a sampler of stories about restaurants, chefs, food science, and more.

D’O: Making a Michelin-Starred Restaurant Affordable

Under the leadership of Chef Davide Oldani, the Italian restaurant D'O balances Michelin-star-level quality with affordable prices. Gary Pisano and Oldani explain how.

A Bank That Takes Parmesan Cheese as Collateral: The Cheese Stands a Loan

Nikolaos Trichakis discusses the Italian regional bank Credito Emiliano, which accepts young Parmigiano-Reggiano as collateral, and then ages it in climate-controlled vaults.

How Grocery Bags Manipulate Your Mind

People who bring personal shopping bags to the grocery store to help the environment are more likely to buy organic items—but also to treat themselves to ice cream and cookies, according to new research by Uma R. Karmarkar and Bryan Bollinger.

Starbucks Reinvented

Nancy Koehn's case study on the rebirth of Starbucks under Howard Schultz "distills 20 years of [her] thinking about the most important lessons of strategy, leadership, and managing in turbulence."

How Restaurants in Lima and Copenhagen Became Best in the World

Harvard Business School professors Anat Keinan, Mukti Khaire, and Michael I. Norton deconstruct ground grasshoppers, upscale Peruvian cuisine, and other surprising elements that create the perfect culinary experience.

The Paradoxical Quest to Make Food Look 'Natural' With Artificial Dyes

Research by Ai Hisano looks at how industry players and regulators collectively decided what butter, oranges, and other foods should look like—and how they redefined the meaning of “natural.”

Clay Christensen's Milkshake Marketing

Clayton Christensen explains how a fast food chain improved milkshake sales by deducing the "job" that customers were "hiring" a milkshake to do.

KFC’s Explosive Growth in China

In China, Yum! Brands opens a KFC restaurant every day. But this is not the KFC you know in America. A case study written by David Bell and Mary Shelman reveals how the chicken giant adapted its famous fast-food formula for the local market.

Customer Feedback Not on elBulli’s Menu

The world is beating a path to Chef Ferran Adrià's door at elBulli, but why? In professor Michael Norton's course, students learn about marketing from a business owner who says he doesn't care whether or not customers like his product.

In This Classroom, Beer Can Improve Your Grade

The Strategic Brew computer simulation puts MBAs in charge of their own breweries, rising or sinking based on the popularity of their pseudo suds. Ramon Casadesus-Masanell explains lessons learned from a beer game.


How do food and business mix in your world? Add your comment below.

Post A Comment

In order to be published, comments must be on-topic and civil in tone, with no name calling or personal attacks. Your comment may be edited for clarity and length.