According to the dictionary, the word “culture” refers to a set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices. Culture is certainly become a bit of a corporate buzzword as organisations try to create environments that will induce productivity and profitability for their businesses and dress this up under the umbrella term “culture”. But are restaurants missing something?
In 2016, staff turnover rate1 for the restaurant industry was 70% – a clear indicator that dining establishments have a worrying disparity between the hospitality service they aim to provide and the values, goals, and practices that go on behind closed doors in the kitchen, i.e. their “culture”. Getting your restaurant's culture right is an all-encompassing effort, meaning the message that you give to your customers at the front of the house, needs to be the same as the message you give to your employees and suppliers at the back of the house.
Why do you need a restaurant culture?
Creating a positive culture in your establishment will be beneficial in many ways.
For your customer:
Dining out is a multi-sensory experience for the individual; their decision on whether or not to eat in your restaurant will, at least partially, be based on some emotive reasoning:
- Do they agree with the ethics practised within your establishment?
- What is the “vibe” of your restaurant?
- Are employees both happy and satisfied to be working there?
No one wants to spend their money eating somewhere that will make them feel harrowed, uncomfortable or concerned with the level of hygiene or the way ingredients are sourced and prepared. These aspects strongly impact your restaurant culture and whether your practices are congruent with how you present yourself as a business.
For your staff:
From an employee perspective, working in the restaurant industry is seen as a high-stress profession due to the anti-social hours, the time-sensitive nature of service delivery and the elevated emotions that can often arise in the kitchen. Without a positive culture within the restaurant, you leave yourself exposed to the potential of creating a very negative atmosphere, very quickly, and for this to negatively impact your reputation.
How to improve kitchen and restaurant culture
The right-fit staff: Do the frontline representatives of your business convey your brand message and your core business values to the customer? Experience and skills are crucial when it comes to ensuring that you have a capable individual for the task. But do they have the personality and passion for serving and ensuring that your customers feel welcomed and looked after?
Actions speak louder than words: If you’re marketing yourself as an ethical, vegan restaurant, for example, then make sure that your business activities reflect your environmental and social ambitions. Your customers will get confused if your actions don’t line up with your promises, so make sure that your culture translates into how you really conduct yourself as a business.
Transparency: This may sound like a restauranteur’s worst nightmare, but many establishments are now choosing to have an “open-kitchen” – meaning that guests can see chefs preparing their meals. The benefit is that it increases accountability, enhances professionalism and helps staff to take a more tempered approach to high-stress situations.
Establish respect: The kitchen brigade system is a natural hierarchy, and if left to its own devices, it can breed a lot of tension. As cliché as it sounds, respect is earned. Establishing early on, that everyone, regardless of rank, has to be respectful and supportive of their colleagues will help to create a positive kitchen culture.
Create opportunities for growth: Your restaurant can become a stifling place to work if there is nowhere for employees to progress to. Creating career paths or offering training and support encourages your employees to continue improving their skills and feeling the benefits of their intellectual development.
Restaurant culture should not be neglected when formulating your business strategy. Equally, if it’s an entirely new concept to you, it’s not too late to review the current state of affairs in your restaurant and start implementing changes that will create a more cohesive workforce and a happier customer. Interview your staff, as well as your customers, to get a thorough understanding of where things currently stand. And don’t be afraid to completely re-imagine how your business should operate and how staff and employees should interact.
Great restaurant culture is not only an essential ingredient for delighting your customers and employees, but it will also leave your competition scratching their heads, wondering, “How do they do it?”