I was fifteen years old. It was another hot day in the kitchen washing dishes. The chef came barging through the doors and had “the look” we all grew accustomed to and dreaded. It was not long before plates started flying and barely missing my head. There was a complaint about service from a couple in the dining room. The overwhelmed server was in tears as the chef gave a verbal assault Gordon Ramsey would be proud of. I kept my head down and my sprayer active. I cannot tell you the server’s name, but I can tell you I never saw her at work again. This was a common theme in my first job in the industry I love so much. Even though this was over twenty years ago, this experience has remained with me. It was a little foresight into the various positions I would hold over the next twenty years. It was “the way things are done” that I have heard so many times. This never sat well with me and I vowed to be different in my approach when I began managing operations.
By no means was I free of any guilt from this process. It took me years of trial and error to provide a culture that extended directly to the guest in a positive way. Now more than ever, guests want to spend their money where employees are treated in a way that falls within their values.In fact, 48% of consumers said that this was a factor in where they spend their money. While that is a huge percentage, it does not compare to the 70% turnover rate most restaurants experience within a year. In developing a strong culture that values the employees’ needs as much as the customers’, it helps with retention of both. This is the case where you become morally and fiscally profitable. By no means is this easy to develop, and more importantly maintain. It takes constant observation and hard work in resolving the bumps that are sure to come. Here is a small list of benefits your establishment will receive if you develop a positive culture.
- Reduction of Costly Turnover
- Better Guest Service and Guest Retention
- Collective Mindset on What is the Right Thing to do
- Energy that Permeates in Both Back of the House and Front of the House
- Reduction in Waste and Theft
- Increase of Quality and Proper Sanitation
I can hear all of you saying that is all well and good Seth, but how do I improve my existing culture. Here are some small steps you can take to get things started.
- Create Your Core Values– Find out what values are important to your staff and what values are important to you and then set these standards in writing. Just creating them will do nothing unless you can consistently follow through on them. Nothing can be more frustrating than telling your staff these are our values and then throw them out the window when conducting disciplinary action or coaching with your staff. Mean what you say and say what you mean. I have told all my managers that follow through is what separates you from the managers that can talk a big game. Don’t be a talker, be a doer. That’s when you see the results roll in.
- Understand the Flow of Culture– This one is simple. Culture flows down, not up. It all starts from the top. It is up to you and you alone to dictate what culture you want for your establishment. Whether you are involved directly in your day to day operations or pay management to do so, you must be accountable or hold managers accountable to what happens in your restaurant.
- Coach Coach Coach– Develop and coach your staff within the boundaries that you have set. Using the power of observation, correct the small details before they become big ones. Being diligent every day along with consistency will never let your culture fall off the tracks. The employees you want to retain will appreciate this and respond appropriately. You get respect by giving respect.
- A House Divided– Both front of the house and back of the house working together with one focus is where the magic happens. When respect and positivity is the expectation between both staffs, the guest will reap the benefit.
I still go back to that day twenty years ago. My chef had created a culture. The problem was, it was the wrong one. A culture will exist at your restaurant. Now it is up to you to determine what that is.