Have you ever seen a bucket full of crabs?
The strange thing is that they don't put a lid on top to keep them from escaping. Why? The crabs keep each other from getting out. As soon as one gets up above the rest, another crab will grab it and pull it back down into the group.
Sadly, I see this in restaurants way too often. People who are supposed to be a "team" that constantly fight each other so no one gets ahead of them. The mentality screams, “If I can't have it, neither can you".
How can you spot the signs of a Crab Culture? Here are a few:
Your restaurant's culture is the life force of your brand. It creates energy. That energy transcends and influences your staff. That trickles down to encompass the guest experience. To those on the outside looking in, it can be either a beacon or a warning sign.
A toxic culture is a symptom of a much deeper condition: the total absence of leadership. The good news is that toxic cultures can be spotted and treated. Determining how aggressive you need to be with the treatment will depend on how bad the toxicity has spread into your brand. Like cancer, toxic cultures have one mission and that is to destroy your brand one person at a time. Just like in the fight against cancer, early detection is your best chance. So, how do you spot a toxic culture? Do you have one?
Check out these warning signs and see for yourself.
1. Poor Modeling
Most restaurant managers run on principles and techniques from the 1970's. Why? Because most are just passed along from mentor to student year after year...
Look at any well landscaped garden and you will see careful planning, care, and maintenance. Those are the same elements you need to create a restaurant culture that surpasses the average.
Culture is that secret sauce that separates the good from the outstanding. Restaurants can have the same ingredients and even the same menu items. What separates them often is that one thing that is hard to copycat and that is their culture. Even famous rock bands that break up and go on to form other bands often do not find the same success they had from before. Culture is something more organic and alive. Just like that immaculate looking garden, you need to understand the planning and work that occurred to create such a masterpiece.
There are 3 key elements to cultivating culture:
You can’t just pick plants and flowers for a garden without thinking how they are going to grow together. Some have different growth cycles. Some require more attention. Some flourish in the heat...
Culture. You've heard that word before. Contrary to what some believe it's not an urban myth. Culture is the lifeblood of your restaurant and bar. It's a beacon that sends a vibe to those that like the message your culture sends out. It's like your own personal bat signal for your brand. So yes, it's a big deal.
Describe Your Culture
Here's where we run into the problem. Culture is hard to describe because it's more of a feeling. Even now as you think about how to describe your culture, you probably struggled or searched for the right words. The part of your brain (the limbic system) that handles those messy emotions has a hard time expressing them. That part is taken over by the Neocortex, which has an easier time rationalizing what you are feeling into language.
So don't feel bad if you have a hard time describing your culture. It's common. Look at those feelings and tap into those emotions. The key to culture can be summed up in two words: core values (are you having...
A year ago I had a challenge with a chef. He wasn’t open to new systems or following through on some projects he started. He basically just wanted to order high end ingredients and play with food. Didn’t care about food or labor costs because that would stifle his “creative genius”.
We had a coaching session one afternoon and I mentioned the challenge of our industry changing and that he needed to adjust his skill sets to focus more on business. His only comments were: he felt he worked his ass off, he deserved a promotion (a better title) and he wanted more money.
As he walked away, I felt frustrated, and a little pissed off.
How could he be so blind as to his real performance level?
How could he not see that he was focused on just what was in this for himself?
I knew unless something changed, we would be having a different conversation in the near future about him leaving the company (that conversation happened about 2 months later).
Whether you know it or not, your restaurant has a culture. Culture is one of those business elements that are created either by design or default. Culture can be like a subtle song playing in the background or it can be a booming cinematic soundtrack that blasts throughout your brand. It’s there. Have you noticed it?
Culture and your brand are in a symbiotic relationship, they cooperate and succeed (or fail) due to each other. Your culture is your brand and your brand is your culture. When you started your restaurant, you brought an idea to life. Along with that idea came the dynamic every business and society need to survive…culture.
Think of it like that song mentioned before. If your brand message is the lyrics, then your culture is the beat. You can have incredible soulful words to a song, however, if the music or beat doesn’t provide the right background your tune will not find an audience. Can you see how they need each other to be a hit? Can you see...
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