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    4 Culture Questions to Ask Your Restaurant

  • The summer is a perfect time to check in on your brand's culture.

    iStockphoto / scyther5
    Before you think about making any changes to your culture, it’s important to think about how your existing culture is affecting your guest experience.

    You’ve made it to summer! If you are like most restaurants, the summer business is starting to make the POS sing, and the labor market is ready to make some extra cash. As the temperature—and the kitchen—heat up, it’s tempting to stop focusing on culture in order to stay out of the weeds. The classic saying about sales fixing all problems is convenient, but it’s also not true. Sales won’t fix a broken culture; it only hides it while you focus on other things.

    Instead, savvy culture crafters will use this extra volume and energy to take stock and make improvements. This is a great time of year to check in on your culture and set some initiatives for making things even better in the second half. Give yourself (or even your management team) 30 minutes to document responses to the following questions, and then set some intentions for how to make 2018 the year you finally win at crafting culture.

    Does your culture support a positive guest experience?

    Before you think about making any changes to your culture, it’s important to think about how your existing culture is affecting your guest experience. Many people jump into “culture improvements” without a clear link to business results, which is a big mistake that leads to important culture gains being left behind as soon as things get busy.

    Instead, think about how your culture supports your guest experience. Is your team engaged and service-focused? Does your team feel like their coworkers and managers have their backs? Are they able to be themselves and do their best work, or do they have to play politics? All of these things get in the way of great service, so take some time to think of how your culture might be hurting customer service, or how it might be supporting a great experience for your guests.

    Are you keeping talented employees?

    One of the clearest signs of a culture in trouble is the hemorrhaging of talented people from your team. The culture should be one that supports your best people in doing great work. So think about the last six months; have you lost any great performers? Have you had top performers giving negative feedback about the work conditions, or have they shared that they aren’t learning and growing? All of these can be warning signs that you should make some fast improvements to your culture. Think about how feedback is shared, how training and growth opportunities are developed, and how your managers are learning about what your top performers are looking for at work.

    What’s improved?

    With a clear understanding of your customer and employee experience, it’s time to take a deeper look into what’s improved since you made those New Year’s resolutions. Have you made improvements by creating an inspiring vision for your team? Who have you added to the team that has made a positive impact? What have you been able to do to improve your training and new-hire experience? Were you able to improve feedback? This can be a great activity to do with your management team (or even with employees). Give everyone some post-it notes and have them each write three to five things that have improved since the beginning of the year. Then review these as a team to document progress and give you a little charge toward continuing the improvements for the next six months.

    What does success look like for the rest of the year?

    There isn’t a cure-all for improving your culture. No secret pill, recipe, or ingredient that will drastically make everything better if you can just find the right lever to pull. But I do know that culture won’t improve if you aren’t intentional about driving that change. The best way to do that is to set some clear goals for the rest of the year. Think about how your team works, makes decisions, gets things done together, serves guests, welcomes new hires, and supports each other. Take some time to define—in writing—exactly what success looks like.

    The first record of anyone running a mile in under 4 minutes was in 1954. Roger Bannister broke the “4-minute barrier” that had been the standard. Before his achievement, it was long believed that 4 minutes was the best that humans could do. Since that time, it’s been done by many other people, and the record has been lowered nearly 17 seconds, which equates to a 15-miles-per-hour rate. It took just one person to break the record for other people to be able to visualize doing the same thing. We need examples. We need a vision. We need to see that something is possible in order to achieve it. The same is true for your restaurant having a great culture. Get specific. Write it down. Share it often. Craft a radical culture.