Why Building a Productive Restaurant Culture Matters

  • It's time to start looking at your restaurant employees as assets, not expenses.

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    Business owners who respect and see value in their team invest in training, communicate openly with them and empower their team.

    Owning a business is tough. It is virtually impossible to get through a day without feeling like the world isn’t after you for one thing or another. Sometimes, the worst part of it all is that the people being paid to support the business growth and mission are even paddling the wrong way. Yet, sometimes a business comes along where the staff operates like owners and the energy throughout the business seems to be all positive and uplifting and there is a tone that reverberates throughout the company of leadership and vision. Why and how do some business owners generate this sort of culture and the rest of us seem to be fighting an uphill battle against our own staff?

    For one, it starts at the top. This paradigm is most likely even more relevant when considering the food service business and the stresses that are put on the people managing the daily grind. The leadership decides what the tone will be and dictates perceptions throughout a food service business. A restaurant owner can’t possibly directly oversee the hundreds of transactions that take place in their business every day, they need to entrust that the staff will carry this responsibility and execute. Great leaders understand that the people within the organization are their best instruments to accomplish the mission they have at hand and by nurturing, developing and leading the team effectively, the business will succeed. What elements of leadership will have a significant impact on company culture?

    First, the top management needs to lead by example. No one takes the boss seriously who isn’t practicing what they preach. If you want your staff to greet customers at the door with a smile and a company script, the leadership, managers and top people in the organization need to be doing the same. Much like following a general into battle, the staff will respect the ownership and managers more and be more willing to commit to the business practices as well. Leadership also needs to be present. Without a doubt, the foodservice business more than others requires active leadership where the owners and managers are in the store and working the business alongside the staff as frequently as possible. There is a reason why owner-operated units tend to outperform absentee owned locations.

    Second, look at your people as assets, not expenses. Assets are valuable and worth investing in to help them grow and become more valuable to you. Expenses are a burden and have a negative connotation. This small difference in perspective carries enormous weight in how a business owner treats their staff and what they are willing to do for their staff’s development and growth. Business owners who respect and see value in their team invest in training, communicate openly with them and empower their team. On the other hand, business leaders who look at their employees as an expense will trend towards a confrontational relationship with their team. After all, as an expense, these people are just taking the business owner’s profits away from them.  In this negative environment, the culture can be toxic, unproductive and difficult to accomplish any sort of growth. In order to create productive company culture in a restaurant, there needs to be empowered, positive relationships between the team and the leadersh

    Third, great communication goes a long way in the restaurant business. Excellent company culture comes with solid communication and if a restaurant is to have a productive culture, they need to open up the lines of communication. Too often in businesses, the leadership is afraid to open this two way street of communication for fear of negative feedback or opening uncomfortable conversations with the team members. The staff needs feedback from the leadership team and the management needs to hear from the staff what is working and what isn’t in order to effectively manage the business. Employee performance reviews and company leadership meetings will happen seamlessly if communication is happening freely. Why? Because the trust between the staff and the management is there with more frequent communication and both parties are able to address uncomfortable topics with one another in a productive format.

    Finally, have a vision for where the business is headed. In order to have a positive company culture, the people within your organization need to see a path for the future.  Not only for the business itself, but also for them and where they might go in the organization. By taking time to develop career paths and upward mobility for the staff members who excel and communicating with team members along the way, people will be energized and focused on accomplishing both company and personal goals. With a shift in perspective, all of a sudden being a business owner can be fun, rewarding and not so lonely. The food service business is tough, it’s better to have the support and backing of a team as opposed to going it alone.

    Christopher Conner is the president of Franchise Marketing Systems. Conner has spent the last decade in the franchise industry working with several hundred different franchise systems in management, franchise sales and franchise development work. His experience ranges across all fields of franchise expertise with a focus in franchise marketing and franchise sales but includes work in franchise strategic planning, franchise research and franchise operations consulting. Christopher has worked with multiple International franchise and licensed organizations throughout the United States, Middle East, India and Europe. He has an MBA in Finance and Marketing from DePaul University in Chicago and a Bachelors Degree from Miami of Ohio.