Codify Restaurant Ownership Style to Imprint Your Unique Culture

Culture dictates behavior, but it also allows what I call “codifying ownership.”

This means that, even in your absence, your restaurants feel like you want them to feel – so you’re able to open more units without killing what made the first ones special.

Plus, you get a ton of personal freedom and flexibility.

Learning from a Basketball Team

I’m a Dallas Mavericks fan – a season ticketholder, actually. As a bit of a history lesson, the Mavericks played the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals twice, winning against them in 2011 but losing to them in 2006. 

On top of all that, I’m also a born-and-bred New York Knicks fan, which makes me feel even worse about Miami. Why? Multiple playoff series and a coach who went from one team to the other back in 1995 and faxed in his resignation.

Long story short, I’m no fan of the Miami Heat, but even I have to admit there’s one thing they do that’s extremely admirable: Their current City Edition jerseys – which rotate in usage with their regular jerseys and pay homage to each community – include the word “culture.”

And not in a small font. It’s even bigger than the word “Heat,” so players wear jerseys that say, “HEAT CULTURE.”

And on the court, in big type in the painted area around each basket, are the words, “HARDEST WORKING. BEST CONDITIONED. MOST PROFESIONAL. UNSELFISH. TOUGHEST. MEANEST. NASTIEST TEAM IN THE NBA.” 

On the court!

Making Everyone Understand Culture

Locker room culture permeates the arena, where the 19,500 fans at the Kaseya Center (and everyone watching on TV at home) stare at a culture statement for 2.5 hours during these games.  

That’s a great example we can learn from: Not only do you need a vibrant and active culture to attract and enroll today’s guests and employees, but you must be able to talk about it in a simple way everyone can understand and repeat. 

My codification process creates a concise, memorable way to talk about culture and allows you to measure it. Critically, we do this with unique terminology (a test I would argue the Miami Heat failed vs. other teams they compete with).

Because employees have heard it all, your words must be different than other restaurant companies. 

If the words remain interchangeable from their last stop or the stop before that, watch them roll their eyes and tune you out, like you do when you interview a manager who tells you they identify as a “people person.”

Often when I approach a client to do culture work, they initially don’t see the value. 

But we codify their essence so everyone in the organization understands the aspirational culture – and we measure it every day.

Then, very good things happen like guest count, revenue, profit and retention increases and the client’s mind is changed.

One operator I know identifies culture as responsible for 100% of their profits. That’s a lot! 

What about you?

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A good restaurant company?

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