How to Build a Healthy Restaurant Culture

Your culture is becoming increasingly important, and it’s only going to get more so.

Why? This may come as a surprise, but, when you look at the top line, you’ll realize your culture is actually responsible for 100% of your profits.

Without that special connection to your guests and employees, you have nothing.

Whether or not you can define it, your successful multi-unit independent restaurant company has a culture. It may not be serving you, but it exists.

So take the steps below to make it serve you — and be as good to yourself as you are to your guests.

Ask Yourself These Four Essential Questions

If you want to build a healthy culture, ask yourself these four questions.  I use these as a guideline every time I strengthen culture for one of my clients.

1. What is your single biggest focus that contributes to success — what do you lead with?
It is easy to say “the guest” or “quality.” So go into more depth. I have a client who is “associates first” — focusing on their team and knowing their team will be better at focusing on guests. Another aims to set an example for the entire industry.

2. How do you treat your guests and employees?
If you have true respect and caring for the people who enter your restaurants every day, you can define behaviors that are meaningful and will foster packed dining rooms and fully staffed units. I have one client who will not tolerate gossip (really!) or disrespect of people under any circumstances. Another measures success by fun and a sense of humor.

3. What do you contribute to your community?
One of my clients gives away more than 5,000 Thanksgiving meals every year to anyone who can show up at their restaurant — on top of all the charity work they do the rest of the year. Another is rightfully proud that they stand for the best-in-segment experience in the markets they serve.

4. What is the language you use?
Are you supportive or critical? I have a client whose people are trained to never criticize the competition — even when the guest asks their opinions. Another teaches people to balance every setback with a reference to a success – and never allows people to dwell on the negative.

Taking these four steps will help you build a healthy culture and identify where you can improve.

Working through this takes time, though. Don’t rush.

Once you know how you want your organization to behave, establishing your culture takes even more effort and discipline. It will not work if you fake it.

But remember: The rewards are great. Like protecting 100% of your profits!