Top Restaurants Strengthen Culture by Asking Tough Questions

People can work for years creating a healthy culture in their restaurants – then one false move destroys it all.

On a recent Monday morning, Texas Rangers President of Baseball Operations Jon Daniels called a press conference to announce he was firing his direct report: manager Chris Woodward. 

Two days later, Ray Davis, the normally reclusive team owner, called a press conference to announce he was firing Daniels – his direct report who had been running the club for 17 years – 48 hours after making him do the dirty work of firing Woodward. 

Davis said Daniels was surprised.

No kidding. 

As Levi Weaver wrote in The Athletic, Davis “showed a lack of common courtesy or decency.”

Right there the Texas Rangers culture dropped to the ground like a thud – stopping employees, players, and a large share of their fans in their tracks to wonder, “Wait. What?”

It Takes Courage to Identify Gaps 

You must have a system to make sure your culture remains strong.  

That includes the courage to test it by asking people to identify gaps between desired behavior and actual behavior. 

If you deviate from your stated culture, people will stop believing in you and, eventually, your brands. 

How to Avoid a Cultural Breakdown 

Culture directs behavior.

And, while a restaurant’s inventory of food, liquor, beer, and wine is important, my best clients also take an inventory of behavior to ensure it’s aligned with the stated culture.

The healthiest organizations have trust and respect, where people have an open conversation about where the culture is weakest, what is inconsistent, and how to correct that.  

No company is perfect. If you widen the net to catch gaps in your culture and all you get is crickets instead of examples, the trust you espouse is not as strong as you think. 

Which takes you back to how you live your culture – and the quality of the relationships you foster.

Have a system of measuring that culture that becomes ingrained so no one goes out and does a terrible thing – like asking the guy who’s unknowingly about to walk the plank to first push the person in front of him off the boat. 

When you do this, you may avoid creating a skeptical workforce and guests – both of whom might start looking around, going to competing restaurants, and the worst thing that could happen is they might like it better over there.

Over to you. Do you have the courage to ask your people to identify gaps between behavior and aspirational culture?

What steps will you take to activate that?