Building Great Restaurant Culture

Chefs in a kitchen talking

Your menu can be flawless and your staff can be talented, but a strong culture truly helps keep your restaurant unique and successful. From inspired employees to a fitting atmosphere to your overall vision, a culture is made up of different parts which you need to help define. Here’s what to think about when building a strong culture.

Treat Your Employees Well

A sturdy culture means employee retention, but workers today are picky with where they work—and will happily move to places that better suit their needs.

Good incentives will help you keep employees while showing that you’re in it for them too, and not just for your customers. A long-term staff also means you won’t have to constantly onboard and train. Here are a few tips to help retain good labor.

Keep communication open between management and employees, and make changes based on the feedback that’s most important to them.

Include service charges, add auto-gratuity, or increase prices when necessary to help cover costs for things like competitive wages, healthcare and uniform expenses.

Offer special projects to your staff during shutdowns or lulls in business as a way to keep them engaged in the business and earning a paycheck. Try offering renovation work, marketing projects, or simply see what skills your employees have that can be useful outside of their role.

Beyond these, consider boosting employee satisfaction by offering guaranteed hours, free meals, or discounts for family members.

Stay Proactive on Health and Safety

Setting precautions for employee health and safety can help build the trust needed to create a strong culture. And it’s more than just supplying the right PPE for the COVID era. Look at all aspects of wellbeing, like making sure your restaurant follows safety regulations, and teaching employees how to lift or move heavy objects using the correct equipment.

Don’t ignore mental health, either. Keeping a pulse on burnout and potential hostile work situations will help your staff feel comfortable.

Define Your Vision

Every restaurant should have a purpose beyond serving delicious food. What do you want your restaurant to be now and in the future? What do you want it to mean to the people in your community?

For example, a Colombian-focused restaurant might say: “Our vision is to introduce Colombian fare to the people around us, and as a result, be a place where they can experience and learn about the beautiful culture of Colombia.”

Having a clear vision or purpose helps set you apart from your competitors while inspiring your staff. Your vision should be embodied by management and shared with employees so they know what they stand for and why your customers walk through your doors every day.

Create a Compelling Atmosphere

Once you have a defined vision, use that to craft your restaurant’s atmosphere—the decor, the music, even staff attire. While the ambiance is a key part of the dining experience, it’s also important for attracting labor and creating a place where they want to spend their working hours.

In addition to the physical vibes, the demeanor of your employees is an important part of the atmosphere. A welcoming, knowledgeable, communicative staff is a big draw for customers.

That Colombian restaurant might have vibrant-colored walls, a playlist of Colombian artists, and a menu full of authentic Colombian ingredients.

Hear More of the Conversation

We talked about building restaurant culture with Chef Mike Issa in our latest episode of In The Kitchen With Sterling Silver. Listen to the full episode here.

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