Developing a Winning Culture in Your Restaurant

One of the biggest factors in recruiting and retaining top talent is a company’s culture.  This is especially true of our restaurant industry.  In fact, a cultural misfit or lack of culture is often cited by restaurant workers as a reason for their leaving, even edging out complaints about pay or hours.

What is It?

Merriam-Webster defines culture as the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterize an institution or organization.  The origins of the word “culture” comes from the Latin ‘cultus’, which means ‘care’.

Of course, it is guaranteed that if you do not care about your restaurant’s culture, no one will.

Why It Matters

A strong culture engages and motivates your employees.  Employees feel more connected to the business and to each other knowing the “why” of why they do things a certain way, rather than just knowing the “how”.

Not only does this philosophy impact staff retention and morale for your employees, it also drives business.  Customers notice the difference when employees are happy and motivated.  They will feel drawn to your concept, knowing that you are operating with purpose.

How to Get It

Establish core values.  Decide what core values are most important to you.  Typical restaurant values include great customer service, dependability, teamwork, family, fast service, consistency, quality, community, etc.  No restaurant can be everything to everyone, so decide on approximately 3-5 that you want to really concentrate on.

Once you decide on your core values, be sure that every decision you make for your restaurant adheres to them.  Remind employees of these values in every meeting and (most importantly) lead by them.

Reward and recognize.  You can establish a simple reward program where, each week or month, one employee gets a small reward for exemplifying your values.  This can be as simple as a free meal on their next shift, parking close to the door for the week, or a $5 gift card for coffee.

Simple recognitions should also be given daily, even if it is just a shout out to an employee “caught in the act” of living the culture.  “Great teamwork for running those salads Alex”, or “Great customer service on table 7 Laura” goes a long way in reiterating your values and boosting morale; and it’s free!

Establish a core culture team.  Some companies like Google have a Chief Culture Officer, but odds are that most of us just aren’t there, and that’s ok.  You can be extremely effective by establishing a core “culture team” of star employees who live and breathe your culture – and have them be the constant reminder to their peers.  In most cases, this is ideal because 1) you can’t do everything alone, and 2) employees’ peer appreciation is just as important as manager recognition.  Train these key employees on the floor, or in the kitchen to give employee shout outs, and let you know the behind the scenes superstars.

Share ideas.  To keep your employees involved and your culture practices fresh, be sure to ask your staff questions and listen to their ideas; especially if you have millennials on staff.  Employees want to take ownership in the process of creating your culture.  They may be able to help you find new ways of getting your culture to permeate throughout your business in ways that you have never thought of before.

Be sure to give credit to those who come up with new ideas, as the positive reinforcement may inspire others to share their thoughts as well.

The Ctuit Guide Restaurant Human Resources outlines strategies for effectively hiring, training and managing employees to help you build a team that makes your restaurant thrive. HR requires a lot of time, and can leave you facing legal issues due to the constantly changing laws and regulations at both the federal and state levels. Ctuit highly recommends outsourcing and/or using a consultant when you can, especially on complex issues such as payroll and taxes, so those topics will not be covered in this series.

Read the complete series:

  1. Human Resources Basics for New Operators
  2. Hiring the Right People
  3. Building a Strong Team with Behavioral-Based Interviewing
  4. The Restaurant Employee Handbook
  5. Training Restaurant Staff
  6. Managing Restaurant Staff
  7. Developing a Winning Culture in Your Restaurant