front of house staff

Not a day goes by where restaurateurs aren’t either strategizing or stressing about three hard-hitting, ongoing issues: employee engagement, employee retention, and staff burnout. The numbers don’t lie: historically, restaurant staff don’t stick around long (less than two months, in fact), which means managers have a small window to make a big impression.

The good news is that, actioned correctly, a healthy restaurant culture (with the helping hand of a proper business strategy) can and will address all three of these issues.

But before we share the secret sauce to building a restaurant culture your employees will love and stay loyal to, let’s start by tackling an important question: what is restaurant culture?

Put in a business context, the concept of “culture” has proven pretty controversial, especially in recent years as thought leaders challenge the value and utility of hiring based on “cultural fit.” While most agree the word has roots in a set of guiding or shared organizational values, a growing number feel it has all but lost its meaning, and drop it in a business jargon bucket alongside “synergy” and “blue-sky thinking”.

Fear not—there’s still hope for restaurant culture in America.


Put in a business context, the concept of “culture” has proven pretty controversial, especially in recent years as thought leaders challenge the value and utility of hiring based on “cultural fit.”


We’re going to let you in on a little secret that is changing the way restaurants (and businesses) around the world are creating and practicing culture. Ready?

Why is turnover is so high, what is the actual cost, and how do you fix it? Find the answers in our Staff Management ebook.

Download The Guide

Don’t just tell people what you stand for—show them what you stand for.  

Yes, your restaurant culture stems from a set of values, but these values should be as lively and dynamic as the team you’ve grown around you. Invest the time and resources to think on how your team today will propel your business forward and secure its growth tomorrow. What is most important to make that happen? Chances are it’s about more than a handful of dusty, ambiguous words like “respect” or “customer service.”

Global design and innovation company IDEO not only leads the charge in design thinking, its entire C-suite stands behind what they call cultural contribution. (And it’s important they do, because culture starts at the top and is only as strong as the people who believe in and bring it to life.) When hiring, instead of evaluating against a rigid checklist, the team considers how a prospective employee’s personality and skills will further IDEO’s culture.

At 7shifts, we make sure to practice what we preach. Our action-based culture is about more than a neat and tidy list with fun iconography; these values (and the actions that prove them) guide the way we hire, work, and innovate.

So how can you transform all this into an actionable, authentic restaurant culture? Start by having a think about the kind of experience you want to create—for your guests and your staff. Next, list out actions or behaviors (big and small) that make this experience possible. From there, it’s all about embedding these values into your day-to-day operations (presenting potential hires with hypothetical scenarios and asking them to walk you through how they’d respond and why is a great screening tool) and finding ways to show your staff just how valuable their work, opinions, and ideas are.

Let’s revisit the example of “customer service”—on its own, it’s not much to write home about.

Reframing this value as “Treat our customers like rockstars” is much more animated and action-focused. In your restaurant, ‘rockstar treatment’ might mean showing up to every table with a smile on your face, or dropping off an extra ramekin of guac “just because”; either way, your staff will see how their individual efforts help the group towards a bigger goal, which is both validating and empowering.

We want to know: what’s your secret to success when it comes to good culture in restaurants?

Written by   |  
Jessica Reimer is the Content Producer for 7shifts, an employee scheduling app designed for restaurant based in beautiful Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. She works with the rest of the 7shifts marketing team to help their customers all over the world save time scheduling, reduce labor costs, and improve communication in their businesses. Jessica has authored feature pieces and blog posts for a number of provincial, national, and international publications and specializes in psychology, community engagement, lifestyle, and business communications.
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