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Teamwork, Restaurant Culture, Sales and Profitability

Bonded Leather Menu CoverA friend emailed me this week, and shared with me some news that he was quite excited about.    He was helping a restaurant with their menus and was amazed with the increase in profitability in its recent reports, not caused solely by a well-structured menu (as he was still about to revamp it), but by an overhaul of their internal company set-up.   The amplified profitability, it turns out, is exceptionally high, my friend just has to tell everyone about it.  While the menu has a lot to do with the big turn-around, the restaurant’s marketing director confessed that the increase in the company’s profits was more about the way management enhanced their restaurant culture.

Yup, restaurant culture.  Big word, really.  Something we have known all along, but a word we have forgotten and ignored in the midst of all the piled-up tasks required to operate a restaurant.  We often talk about organizational culture, that mysterious word that is said to make a difference in a company’s performance.  It is fairly complex to define, as it is something that is not seen by the eyes, except, perhaps through some of its physical manifestations.  It is that powerful component that shapes your employees’ (and yours) work satisfaction, your job relationships, and your work performance.

Culture, per se, is said to be the environment that enfolds you at work – in many ways, it is like a person’s personality.  It is made up of values, interests, beliefs, experiences, underlying assumptions, habits and upbringing that produce an individual’s behavior.  Hook that up with our discussion and we have a clearer definition of restaurant culture.  Restaurant culture, in effect,  are the values, interests, beliefs, experiences, underlying assumptions and policies that create a restaurant’s performance, generally unwritten and unspoken.

Restaurant culture is represented in your company’s decision making, interaction and day to day work practices, evident in simple things around your restaurant — like the interaction of your workers in meetings, the content of your bulletin board and the way your people help each other in going about their tasks.   A weak restaurant culture gives little guidance and direction to its employees, permitting all kinds of inappropriate acts and behaviors in its establishment.

One perfect example of a weak restaurant culture is rampant collisions in dining places.  Restaurant crashes result in a messy place, wastage of products, anxious customers and angry employees – a symptom of a larger underlying lack-of-teamwork within the organization.  The whole staff had gone down to a pattern of looking out only for themselves while they are preparing food in the kitchen, carrying trays of food for the customers, or even in handing out the menu in their elegant menu covers, making them completely unaware of their co-workers needs, or even their physical locations.  A developed team effort to avoid collisions is as easy as saying simple phrases like “behind you,” “coming around,” “coming in,” and “coming out.”  These simple phrases helped a lot in signaling other teammates of one’s actual location and announcing one’s intent for movement, thus keeping them away from possible crashes.

This simple policy also goes beyond the waiters and kitchen workers’ physical accidents.  When team members proactively update each other on their present positions and near-term goals, the team can make adjustments to better support the member’s efforts and in effect, avoid counterproductive disagreements.

Many consulting groups have developed sophisticated programs on restaurant culture building, which are all centered on the basics – defining the company’s goals, hiring the right people, modifying day-to-day work procedures, creating a close-knit team who works to support each other, communicating effectively on ALL levels and recognizing and rewarding employees.  Making the employees realize, and take to heart, the company’s one common goal, say customer satisfaction, brings magnanimous results not just in keeping the customers happy in the dining room, but even to the most remote places, like the constant cleanliness of the restaurant’s toilet.

A solid, clear-cut and respectable restaurant culture produces satisfied, motivated employees willing to make customers happy and bring the company to where it wants to go.  Happy customers mean repeat business, repeat business signifies higher sales, and higher sales lead to a company’s high profit margin.