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The River of Culture: How Great Restaurants Control the Flow

Posted by Donald Burns on Mar 13, 2017 8:30:00 AM

Culture. It’s a word we throw around in the restaurant industry quite often. Maybe a little too often. It's one of those popular buzzwords we tend to use to sound cool, but many of us don’t know what it actually means.

Let’s take a journey down the river of culture to better understand where culture starts, how it grows, what blocks it, and how you can keep the flow going. Culture is truly like a river in the sense that its final destination is the guest. You always want to begin with the end in mind.

The River of Culture- How Great Restaurants Control the Flow.png 

The Source


At the start of the river is you. The owner, operator, or chef running the restaurant. You are the creator and source of culture in your brand. Now, if that statement does not make you feel a little uncomfortable, then you don't understand the power that culture has.

So what exactly is culture? If we were looking at a textbook definition it would say:

Culture is a system of shared beliefs, values, customs, and behaviors that members of a group used to cope with their world and with one another that is passed down from generation to generation through learning.


Yipes! Sounds a little intense and boring. How about this:

Culture is emotional energy that is created and nurtured through habits, learning, sharing, structure, and connection.


Write this down… Culture is learned.

All restaurants have a culture, whether they know it or not. You see, when you get a group of people together, a culture within that group will develop. It’s like a natural law. If you don’t take an active role in the creation of that culture you’re very likely to get one that you don’t want. To take no action is an action.

The strength of any river is dictated by its source of water. In the case of your culture, it’s the energy that you put in. As the leader you set the tone and the tempo of the culture within your restaurant. Everything you are contributes to the energy source. Like it or not, your culture and your restaurant is a reflection of who you are.

How It Grows


As a river flows it constantly picks up more sources of water. Too many restaurant owners believe that creating a culture is a one-time thing. But without consistently controlling what sources are feeding into your river, it could soon get out of control like a flash flood. And once you lose control of your culture, it’s very difficult to get it back.

Civil engineers monitor rivers and take proactive steps to control the speed and force of the water. That’s your job as an owner or operator. Control the flow. Set the expectations. Monitor and make adjustments as you need.

"If you don’t take an active role in the creation of your restaurant culture, you’re likely to get one that you don’t want."
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You provide the energy and direction of the culture by being a living example of what your culture is. One of the traits of culture is that it is shared. The best thing you can do to ensure its longevity is quite simple: raise your standards and never ever compromise them. Too many people are afraid to do this in their restaurants and settle for mediocrity instead.

But think of it this way: it’s better to live one day as a lion than a thousand days as a sheep. If you truly want to improve your restaurant, start right now. You have that power. Determine what you will no longer tolerate. Make a stand for who you are and what your restaurant is all about.

Who Blocks It


Items will fall into your river and attempt to obstruct its flow. These 'items' are people who are resistant to change and comfortable with mediocrity. The funny thing is that when you try to change something, change will push back on you. Sometimes rather harshly. For some people, that push back is enough to get them to do the one thing they should never do… lower their standards.

What do you do when a tree falls into a river and blocks its flow? Get an axe and remove it! The biggest obstacle in the river of culture is negativity.

Negativity breeds complacency.
Complacency invites mediocrity.
Mediocrity is death to your restaurant.


If there are negative people within your organization who are affecting your culture, you need to remove them. Immediately. 

Now some of you might say, “I can’t. They are a workhorse.” Not if they are poisoning your culture. In business, you have assets and liabilities. Least you forget that your job as an owner or operator is to maximize and increase your assets while reducing or eliminating your liabilities. Which side of the equation do you think negative people fall on?

Contrary to popular opinion, it was Charles Dickens, and not Spock in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan who said, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” As the architect of culture, your job is to remove items that slow down the flow.

How to Keep It Going


Restaurants are very much like a living thing. They have good days and bad days. They grow. They mature. They undergo different phases of growth and change. Just know that every phase in your restaurant’s life will require a different you.

You are the catalyst for change and for culture. Restaurants get better when the people in them become better, and that starts with you becoming a better leader.

"Great cultures endure. Great cultures become iconic. Great cultures are built. Great cultures start with you."
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The Internet is such an amazing resource of information if you are willing to take advantage of it. There are online courses and resources that create learning opportunities 24/7. The true beauty is that most are mobile compatible, which means you can access them from any Internet device, so there’s no real excuse for not learning and becoming more of the leader you can be.

Resources like Typsy, The Restaurant Coach™ University, and Rock My Restaurant Pro (by Foodable TV) are setting the standard for online learning for restaurants that want to become better. You have to make a decision to be better and to maximize your potential. A lot of people know what they should do to build a stronger restaurant. Eat better. Sleep better. Read more. Communicate more. Learn more. However, few ever take action. Ego, pride, and denial keep restaurants stuck in the cult of mediocrity. You have the power to escape that if you choose to.

The End of the River


At the end of our river of culture is the guest. Great cultures transform guest experiences into memories. Great cultures create raving fans that are brand loyal. Great cultures have low turnover and higher employee engagement. Great cultures endure the ups and downs of economic markets. Great cultures endure. Great cultures become iconic. Great cultures are built. Great cultures start with you.

 


Donald Burns.png Donald Burns is The Restaurant Coach™. He is a leading authority, speaker, and international coach on how restaurant owners, operators and culinary professionals go from just good to becoming outstanding. His mission: Build your brand. Increase your profits. Strengthen your team.

 

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