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How to Create and Maintain the Culture of Your Restaurants as you Grow in the Food Service Industry

By February 4, 2013 No Comments

Many restaurants start out with exciting concepts and ideas, but as they grow they lose the culture that made them successful. Other restaurants manage to continue growing and keep the culture they created. What separates one type of restaurant from the other?

One of the key factors is to define the culture you want to create, and integrate that in how you hire people, how you treat employees, the type of customer service you provide and the general environment.

Steve Kline is the owner of Typhoon!, a restaurant concept that celebrates the “Art of Thai Cuisine” that presently consists of four properties in Portland, Oregon, and in the Seattle, Washington area. The quality of the food, customer service and décor has remained consistently high. He and his wife Bo who is originally from Thailand refuse to compromise on quality to save time, or money. They have worked hard to recruit executive chefs from Thailand to maintain authenticity and train their employees to understand Thai food and culture. “Our staff is primarily Thai, Westerners, and Hispanics. They all have different ways of working, so we spend a lot of time talking about culture and finding ways to draw on the strengths from that diversity, and make everyone comfortable. People in our restaurants become like family. To maintain our culture, as we open new restaurants we bring our top team in to train the new people. Typhoon! is hip, upscale Thai food. Part of our mission is to show people that Thai is not just food but a whole culture” Their restaurants reflect that culture from the art and Thai antiques to the way the meals are served and the suggestions that the staff makes to customers. If the server notices that a table is ordering dishes that are out of balance, like too sweet or too much curry, they will suggest changes even if it means suggesting less expensive items. That service and respect for employees and customers has helped Typhoon grow and keep many of the same employees since the first restaurant opened 11 years ago.

As your restaurant grows, it is important to integrate old employees who understand your values, concepts, and culture with the newer employees who will learn to implement them and bring some of their own culture.

Brian Gavin is the managing partner of Roys’, which serves Euro-Asian cuisine and has 19 properties in Hawaii, Tokyo, Manhattan, California, Colorado and Washington. When Roys’ opens new restaurants they have old employees train the new ones. He said, “We have long range retention in our organization because we hire and grow from within. We define our culture as serving creative bold flavors from Asia cooked in a European style. We develop a sense of family, and have what we call Aloha customer service; professional and technically correct, but very friendly. Ever since Roy Yamaguchi opened the first restaurant in Hawaii, we have made a conscious effort to maintain our culture.” By growing from within, many employees have gotten to experience working in different positions, and have helped to create the culture at Roy’s. As they move up and to different properties they bring those values and ways of working with them. Roy’s has a strong training culture.

For new and emerging chains or multiple property restaurants in order to maintain culture there are several key things that must be done.

Define the culture and how it is different from other concepts.

Develop a strategic plan for implementing that culture.

Senior management must implement that culture in all they do including hiring, compensation, rewards and incentives, creating the environment, and marketing.

Make sure employees at all levels know what the culture is and that they buy into it.

Have seasoned employees train new employees and develop a system where new employees learn the written and unwritten parameters of the culture.

Constantly evaluate progress and success as you grow.

Be open to change and inform employees and customers of any changes and how they will benefit.

Simma Lieberman

Author Simma Lieberman

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