The restaurant industry is very demanding. Odd working hours, unorganized salary structure, constantly attending to guests (some of which are hard to please). Plus, the stress of dealing with an unhappy or rude customer – all of these can take a toll on the staff. This can affect your restaurant’s success as employee engagement impacts their work performance.
One of the best ways to tackle this and keep your staff happy is to create a good restaurant culture. A restaurant with a positive and healthy culture enjoys loyalty from its staff and is able to lower the staff turnover rate. Considering the costs associated with staff turnover are very high, creating the right restaurant culture is a must.
In this blog, we’ll be looking at why building a strong restaurant culture is crucial and what you can do to create it. But before that, let’s first dive into the basics.
What is restaurant culture?
In the simplest terms, an organization’s culture is a sum total of its values, systems and how it operates. A restaurant culture has a significant impact on the happiness of an employee which reflects in their performance. A happy and content employee will give in their best at work and stay dedicated to the restaurant’s growth.
On the other hand, a negative culture can lead to employee burnout and make it difficult for owners to expect optimum performance. The lack of organizational culture has always been an issue for restaurant job seekers and has resulted in staffing shortage.
Benefits of building a strong restaurant culture:
- Creates a positive and cohesive work environment
- Helps in establishing organizational values
- Makes staff members feel like a valuable part of the organization
- Reduces staff burnout
- Increases employee loyalty towards the restaurant
- Reduces conflicts amongst staff
- Reduces employee turnover rates
- Keeps employees engaged and productive
- Helps in offering a superior brand experience to customers
Now that you’re aware of the importance of a positive restaurant culture and its immediate benefits, let’s look at the best practices that can change your restaurant’s unhealthy culture into a healthy and strong one.
How to build a strong restaurant culture
1. Define culture
A lot of restaurants never even pay attention to building a culture, let alone a good one. But when you observe keenly, it plays an important role in improving your restaurant bottom line. It also heavily impacts a customer’s entire experience at your restaurant. So start by defining what culture means for your organization.
Defining company culture starts with defining what values the restaurant stands for, its goals, and mission. When employees know where their company is going, it keeps them engaged and motivated towards achieving the common goals. Help your employees get acquainted with your culture from the first working day. Make sure your HR professionals have meetings with new employees and share your company mission and culture through quick slides. This will ensure everyone is on the same page.
Additionally, make sure your company goals, values, and restaurant culture statement are visible. It can be on your website or employee training manuals so they are always in front of your employees. For instance, one of restaurant statement examples can be found on Subway’s website where they talk about their culture and highlight how they promote diversity.
2. Evaluate your current restaurant culture
To create something better, you need to first know what needs to be worked on. What is the ideal work environment you want to create for your staff? How would you like your guests to feel when they dine at your restaurant? Now compare the answers with your existing culture to identify the gaps and pick aspects that need to be worked on.
Look at everything from the Front of House to the Back of House. Next, set standards for your staff that emphasize the new culture you want to build. Communicate the importance of having the right culture and how sticking to it creates the ideal environment. This way, your staff feels responsible for their behavior at work at all times.
For instance, if you want to create a culture where employees don’t miss work without informing, help them understand how that will impact the restaurant. Share the ideal behavior so they know how to conduct themselves when they want a leave of absence. Don’t forget to convey the consequences of not following the set standards.
3. Walk the talk
Handing out a checklist of protocols or conducting training sessions for explaining how an employee is supposed to behave is not a long-term solution. It’s too easy to set up ground rules & systems and expect your staff to follow them. What’s important is to show your staff what you expect by doing it yourself.
Leave the talking and live by walking… It will yield an indelible impact! ― Israelmore Ayivor
To create an authentic culture where your staff imbibes company values and vision, make sure your actions are in line with the culture you are trying to build. Show them what you mean through your own actions. Unless you are willing to exhibit the same behavior you expect from your staff, you won’t be able to inspire any change.
4. Hire people who align with your vision
Working in a restaurant requires a diverse set of skills. You need to be able to coordinate with multiple people and work in harmony to deliver excellent end results. It can often get very challenging because of the chaotic nature of operations at the backend. In such scenarios, it’s best to have people who are capable of handling stress the right way.
This makes it crucial to hire the right people from the very beginning. Of course, training plays an important role in making them a right fit for your restaurant team. But skills are no substitute for values. So look for people whose values align with your business’s vision. Thoroughly screen candidates during the interview to understand how they handle conflicts or perform under pressure. It’s better to hire right in order to create the right culture from the start.
Want to know more about restaurant hiring best practices? Click here to read our guide.
5. Don’t be afraid to let go of people
Building the right culture involves certain harsh steps too. If there are employees who do not value the kind of culture you are trying to create, you will start noticing inconsistency in operations. When staff members are not willing to contribute in fostering the right culture, it is always best to let go of such people.
Now we know it sounds harsh; but this is not “hire slow fire fast”. This is only for staff members who have been trained and know what work environment you are trying to create and still don’t care enough to be a part of it. A bad employee’s careless attitude can affect your entire restaurant culture. For instance, even if one employee starts abusing restaurant policies and keeps missing work often, it can lower staff morale, or worse – encourage them to do the same.
6. Emphasize culture through visual elements
If words are falling short and you’re looking for better ways to communicate the importance of culture to your staff, switch to visual examples. This allows you to convey your message effectively to all kinds of staff members regardless of language barriers or their level of expertise. For instance, consider this image of the same food served at two different restaurants.
While both the restaurants are serving the same dish at the same price, you can tell from the presentation which one is going to appeal more to the customer. It also reflects the amount of effort a restaurant has made in creating a value-for-money output. Your food represents your restaurant culture, so make sure it aligns with your values and vision statement. Show your staff how to impress a customer through such visual examples.
7. Keep revisiting your policies
You won’t always get things perfect the very first time. It takes time to build a killer restaurant culture where employees not just flourish but also look forward to working towards the business growth. When you start laying the foundation for a healthy work culture, you will need to be clear about your vision for establishing the right policies.
But over time, it may need corrections or updates. You may notice some policies that were adopted initially no longer align with your company vision. Refining your policies allows you to absorb changes and stay relevant. Nobody likes working in a rigid work environment that has no space for change or growth. So revisit your policies and keep altering them for better work structure.
8. Keep communication channels open
The chances of a restaurant business flourishing with disengaged employees are next to zero. According to gallup.com, businesses with engaged employees have noticed 17% increase in productivity and a 41% reduction in absenteeism. It’s safe to say that engaging employees helps in building a better work culture.
But how do you keep restaurant staff engaged? By actively involving them in important work conversations. Seeking employee suggestions on work issues, keeping the floor open to their ideas, and staying approachable makes your staff feel valued. It makes them feel like an important part of the organization and ensures they stay engaged at work.
9. Plan team building events
In a restaurant setup, multiple people with different skill sets must work together to deliver results that can delight customers. This requires good teamwork. A team that works well together can increase your operational efficiency and profit margins.
Team events are a great way to build connections with your staff and foster better relationships amongst them. They also help in keeping your staff happy, engaged, and productive. A team building activity can be as simple as an indoor game or an elaborate field trip. Restaurants with a large number of employees can also host a sports league.
For instance, an interesting yet productive activity is testing new drink flavors with your staff. If you’re planning to introduce new cocktails on the menu, get your staff to taste them and give their vote to the best tasting ones. Ask them why they like it – it makes them feel involved in the process. This way you get the best cocktails on your menu and your staff gets free drinks!
10. Make employees feel appreciated with benefits
Let’s face it: perks and benefits make a job more appealing. Employees are more likely to stick to a restaurant if it offers exciting benefits in addition to the basic salary package. And naturally, they will spread the word about it and help attract good candidates whenever you need to expand your team.
The most common restaurant employee benefits are paid time off, health insurance and transportation stipend. These can also be termed as the bare minimum that a restaurant must offer. Go beyond the bare minimum and impress your staff with some creative work benefits.
For instance, Olive Garden offers benefits like critical illness and accident insurance, dining discount, pet insurance, paid vacation, employee stock purchase plan, and many more benefits to its management staff. Offering such great benefits increases an employee’s work satisfaction and strengthens a restaurant’s culture.
Creating the right culture & structure in a restaurant is an ongoing process. With time, you will discover better ways to function and better solutions to ensure employee engagement. Keeping your employees involved and making them feel valued creates accountability and ensures they stay dedicated.
Be open to change to keep the culture fresh at your restaurant. And lastly, don’t panic if the process takes time. Give it the time and attention it needs to ensure tangible results in the long run.
EagleOwl is a back of the office solution that’s meant to increase a restaurant’s profitability. With our software many restaurants are able to increase their profitability by up to 25%.