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Creating Quality Culture

Running a restaurant comes with it’s fair share of challenges – I think we can all agree on that. But let’s not forget about how truly rewarding it can be as well. From the customer relationships to the freedom in management decisions – there’s a lot of benefit that comes with restaurant ownership. I get the pleasure of working with restaurateurs every day and get to hear the challenges, struggles, and achievements they face.

When asked about their biggest struggles, restaurateurs point to staffing issues, marketing, and online reputation as their biggest challenges. And while these things can sure take a lot of time and dedication to master, one of the biggest struggles we see restaurateurs face is developing their culture. If you get the culture right, the rest of those things tend to be a lot easier to handle. As a good friend of mine says, “culture always wins”. It’s a bit trite but it’s true.

If your culture isn’t good, nothing else matters – you will always struggle to find and keep good staff. Great marketing may bring in customers. Solid online reputation may peak the interest of potential customers. But its your culture that keeps them coming back. In fact, a negative culture will really work against anything good you may already have in place. Your online reputation will deteriorate, and any marketing budget you have might even push you into a further slump as the increased traffic will spread the negative feedback even more through online reviews.

So how do you create a great culture in your restaurant? While I’m no expert at this topic, here are a few things I’ve learned from observing some great restaurant operators:

Culture is defined more by what you tolerate than what you preach.

If you have clear expectations for every member of the team (and have clearly trained on and communicated those expectations), then when someone is not living up to that, correction is needed as quickly as possible.  The rest of your staff knows when someone is not performing, and its extremely demoralizing to your ‘great’ staff when someone isn’t being held accountable – or even let go if need be. The best staff will hate that you won’t penalize the poor performers, and they’ll become frustrated for having to work twice as hard to pick up the slack. And guess what? You might even lose the good ones. When it’s not addressed, that simply communicates to the rest of your staff that the behavior is OK. You can’t, however, have high expectations without high rewards. Easier said than done, but in my opinion, the single most important thing.

Your customer doesn’t always come first, your team does.

Your team needs to know that they are the most important people in the building. If your staff feels that way, they’ll make your customers feel that way. Don’t automatically take the customers side and jump to negative conclusions with your staff, make sure your team knows you have their back.

The culture will go as you go. In your building, the way you handle yourself, your staff, your vendors, etc. speaks more to the culture than any mantras, mission statements, or plaques on a wall ever could. Every interaction you have with your team carries a large responsibility and your team will mirror the way you act. Remember that culture flows down, not up, and that a great restaurant culture really starts with you.

Finding ways to successfully incorporate great culture can be tricky, but hopefully you were able to find a few tips to takeaway.

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