In an age when culture means so many things that it often means nothing at all, brands are going back to their roots to build a strong organization from the inside out.

In "Cultures That Work," an education session featuring leaders from around the industry—including BJ Stone, founder and CEO of Stone's Cove KitBar; Kerry Kramp, CEO of Sizzler USA; Michael O'Donnell, president and CEO of Ruth's Hospitality; and Richard Rivera, chairman of Craftworks Restarants & Breweries—executives shared the importance of a strong company culture and how to communicate it in every move a brand makes.

Tom DeCotiis, founder and partner of Corvirtus—a firm that creates science-based measurements and services that tie a company's culture and core values to the hiring process—led the session and said that any brand's culture comes down to a leader's beliefs about success and how it should be achieved. When a company's culture isn't on track, he said, success will inevitably be off track, too.

Both Stone and Kramp expressed the importance of trust when it comes to both employees and guests. Stone said, upon hiring, leaders should put full trust in employees in order to foster a culture that's comfortable and safe.

If an employee is late, for example, managers and leaders shouldn't jump to the conclusion that he isn't responsible or doesn't care about his position. Instead, find out the why of the matter—was the bus late?—and work to create a schedule that better fits the employee. This shows employees they are "loved and cared about" and, in turn, they'll make the guests feel loved and cared for.

Kramp also said this trust must translate to guests; don't assume, he said, that guests want to take advantage of the restaurant or make a mess in the store. 

In addition, Kramp said a meaningful culture comes down to tapping into a brand's roots; when he took the helm at Sizzler, for example, the concept made a switch back to the scratch-made food that customers from the brand's early days knew and loved.

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By Mary Avant

Employee Management, News, Outside Insights, Restaurant Operations