The Role of Corporate Culture in Turning Your Restaurant into a Valuable Business Asset

Steven Morris

What is the “secret sauce” to creating a scalable and replicable restaurant concept that has the potential to create significant opportunity for founders, team members and
investors alike?

The single most important component that any organization must possess in order to create value is a committed team of competent restaurant professionals. But the right corporate culture is an essential factor for that team to thrive and execute on the concept’s business plan.

The best business, management, and operating systems cannot overcome an organizational culture that is not based upon a shared set of values, behaviors and assumptions.

According to the authors of a comprehensive article on corporate culture in the January/February 2018 issue of Harvard Business Review, culture can be described as follows:

“Culture is the tacit social order of an organization: It shapes attitudes and behaviors in wide-ranging and durable ways. Cultural norms define what is encouraged, discouraged, accepted, or rejected within a group. When properly aligned with personal values, drives and needs, culture can unleash tremendous amounts of energy toward a shared purpose and foster an organization’s capacity to thrive.”

The article also lists the following attributes of organizational culture:

  • Shared – culture revolves around shared values, behaviors, values, and assumptions
  • Pervasive – culture permeates multiple levels and applies broadly in an organization
  • Enduring – culture directs the thoughts and actions of team members over the long term and over time becomes a self-reinforcing social pattern that is resistant to change
  • Implicit – culture is often unspoken, unexpressed, or taken for granted and people act instinctively based upon the type of culture

While all of this may seem overly complex as it relates to a simple restaurant organization, I have found that when you work to develop a strong culture, positive results will follow.

Aligned with great leadership and a strategic plan that has been developed in a collaborative process, a restaurant organization can thrive and grow. It is much easier to address this issue in the early stages of development so that the initial team can lay the foundation for a growing organization. The unfortunate challenge of high turnover in our industry makes this process all the more challenging and more important to address early in the growth process.

So how does an organization embark on a process of assessing and crafting a commonly understood definition of its culture that can drive positive results? There are a number of resources that can be used to facilitate a collaborative process led by management or founders of organizations. Surveys, facilitated workshops, and training tools can all be utilized to drive the process.

Culture can be a powerful differentiator for a restaurant company and help it rise above the intense competition in our industry. Consistently providing amazing food, and outstanding customer experiences requires a culture and a mindset that emphasizes achievement, excellence, ownership and creativity. Developing future managers and leaders for a growing organization is made so much easier when culture has been addressed.

Culture will develop on its own if leaders don’t work to define a “target” or aspirational culture. As the authors of the article referred to here said “Leading with culture may be among the few sources of sustainable competitive advantage left to companies today. Successful leaders will stop regarding culture with frustration and instead use it as a fundamental management tool.”

Steven Morris

Steven Morris is a seasoned business owner, investor and non-profit leader with experience managing large organizations with multiple employees and operating sites. He has over 30 years of executive leadership experience building profitable and sustainable business operations and strengthening the viability and organizational vitality of non-profit organizations.

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