'Company culture is the real recipe for restaurant success'

Jack Lander, founder of Bristol-based pizza chain Pizzarova, emphasises the importance of aligning values with customer expectations, fostering genuine connections and nurturing a positive workplace culture

A group of friends decides to eat out and excitedly scrolls through the available options. A few places have caught their eye – but there’s just one that stands out. The menu looks good and the place looks inviting, radiating both positivity and Insta-worthy vibes. The reviews are great – plus it’s accessible, inclusive and clearly cares about the environment. Exactly what they wanted.

But why must companies work so hard to get their image, values and messaging right? Surely, their catering skills and professionalism should be enough to attract and maintain custom?

Honest values
Nowadays, customers crave more than just a tasty bite – seeking an experience that not only aligns with their personal values but also allows for genuine connection. Social media experts, Sprout Social, have confirmed that as many as 84% of consumers limit their interactions to brands they feel an emotional connection with, whilst 71% choose companies that align with their ethics and beliefs, according to 5WPR.

Your ethos and values enrich the flavour of your restaurant. You must therefore communicate them clearly and consistently, especially as the ongoing cost-of-living crisis has made eating out a rare treat, with consumers limiting their spend to restaurants they deem worthy of the occasion.

Clear communication
Engaging directly with customers in an accessible, jargon-free way ensures there’s no room for error when it comes to understanding what your business is about. A 2021 article published in the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management found that, while 45% of those surveyed had dined at a green restaurant, 37% struggled to define what green dining actually is. Don’t assume that customers know you and automatically understand what you represent. Instead, take the time to connect with and educate them, showing them what you value first-hand to facilitate a genuine, organic connection.

Hospitality hurdles
Restaurateurs must equally consider the culture they create among staff. Hospitality lost a lot of talent after Covid, with the ONS revealing that there are now 170,000 vacancies across the UK. Ipsos has estimated that a further 45% of existing workers could quit this year too, making it more important than ever to hold onto good team members – especially given that staff shortages experienced throughout 2023 forced 45% of operators to cut their operating hours and/or capacity to avoid closing down completely, according to a joint UKH, BII and BBPA survey.

Happy team, happy customers
By offering value beyond pay – be it through training, extra time off or private health insurance – companies can boost their team’s skills whilst bolstering retention. The more rewarded, appreciated and seen staff feel, the more commitment and loyalty they will show – something that will ultimately be reflected in the service provided to customers.

Jack Lander, founder and director, Pizzarova

A 2022 study published in Frontiers in Psychology actually confirmed that company values have a direct impact on employee ethics and behaviour. So, if company values are strong and carried through well into the employee experience, staff are more likely to act in ethical ways, attracting new customers and providing much better service.

It’s therefore important to ensure that staff know exactly what your company values are. According to a 2015 Gallup Panel survey, just 28% of hospitality employees feel sure of what their company stands for and what makes it stand out. Restaurant leaders need to change this if they want their business to perform as best it can.

Involving staff in core decisions from the outset can improve staff value understanding. Plus, by giving everyone a seat at the table, you’ll create a sense of genuine team spirit, accompanied by unrivalled enthusiasm for the brand. Remember, your team members are your biggest advocates after customer reviews.

Other key stakeholders
When businesses look at their company culture, they often forget about other stakeholders like suppliers and vendors. However, it’s important to engage all those involved in your entire process for true restaurant success. Choosing suppliers and vendors carefully allows you to shape a culture that’s more consistent with your values – be it sustainability by choosing local ingredients or clean eating by opting for vegan or organic produce.

Good restaurant culture
More than just a basic transaction, modern hospitality is all about company culture, from ambience and décor that suits your clientele through to the core values, systems and behaviours that define your operations.

Restaurant culture is your story. It’s your reason for opening up in the first place. It’s the way you treat your staff and the way they treat your customers, essentially forming your business heartbeat. And it may just be the secret ingredient you need to transform the average eating experience into warm and welcoming memories people want to come back to.

You may also be interested in…