2 Secrets to Great Culture in Restaurants

September 2023

We’ve talked a lot about the nuts and bolts of running a great restaurant – everything from construction plans to supply chains and more. But one part of a well-loved restaurant that’s often overlooked, and sometimes difficult to define, is great culture.

But make no mistake, culture can make or break the success of your restaurant. At Barrel House, we’ve built great culture into the foundation of our business model. It starts with our trademark We CARE Culture, which lays out our standards for customer service that stuns our guests. But our culture is only as good as the employees who embody it, which is why hiring and staff retention are such a big part of our training for new franchise owners.

Starting a Restaurant with Great Culture

Open a restaurant with great culture“Culture” is a vague word, and it’s sometimes overused. What’s the difference between a business’s culture and its values? Its culture and its atmosphere? It can be easy to lose track, especially in this post-pandemic labor crunch, where “company culture” is a buzzword for hiring!

Put simply, company culture is a broader category than just ‘values’ or ‘atmosphere.’ It is, as Investopedia says, “The beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions.” In short, it is the standard a company sets for how everyone – managers, employees, and guests – will be treated.

Building a great culture from scratch, on top of all the other things you’ll need to build when opening a restaurant, is a huge challenge. This is one of the major advantages of opening a Barrel House franchise – we’ve laid the groundwork for you.

Restaurant Franchises with Good Culture

Investing a franchise reaps a lot of benefits, from real-estate acquisition to supply chain management. But one often-overlooked aspect of choosing a franchise to invest in is the company’s culture.

We recommend that all our potential franchisees look into the culture of the brands they’re considering. Many of the early resources you’ll receive as a franchise owner will help with setup, but company culture will dictate much of your day-to-day quality of life as a new restaurant owner!

At Barrel House, culture is something that comes ‘built-in’ to our business plan. It’s not an afterthought or a buzzword, it’s an essential piece of our brand, and we’re deliberate about ensuring all our locations – corporate or franchise-owned – are a good representation of that culture!

Barrel House’s “We CARE Culture”

We CARE Culture is the bedrock of every Barrel House location’s success. This corporate mantra has four simple pieces:

  • Create a positive experience
  • Attention to guests’ needs
  • Respond appropriately and politely
  • Exceed guest expectations

As you can see, We CARE Culture is designed to deliver the best possible experience to guests, whichever Barrel House location they may visit.

Creating a Positive Experience

A positive experience begins even before a guest walks through the door. Barrel House locations are designed to be inviting, modern, and accessible to all.

Once inside, guests’ happiness is the first priority. We’ve built our business around bringing guests old favorites alongside the latest trends, so we cater to everyone who comes through the door!

Attending to Guests’ Needs

Great service = great cultureIn our years of experience, we’ve found ways to anticipate what guests may need. Whether it’s a high chair for parents of a young child, or changing the channel to ensure guests can watch their favorite team, it’s all about accommodation.

Responding Appropriately and Politely

This particular point comes down to staff training. Our confidential operations manual covers staff training extensively, giving even first-time restaurant owners the tools needed to prepare staff.

This is an especially important skill in today’s atmosphere, when your staff may face increased rudeness from guests. Knowing how to train staff to respond appropriately – and how to advocate for them, as a manager – is paramount to keeping everyone happy.

Exceeding Guest Expectations

This is a broad goal, but also the most important one. A guest’s expectations may seem difficult to anticipate, but the formula is simpler than you think!

Consider your own basic expectations for a restaurant, from beginning to end. When you’re trying to get to the restaurant, you’ll want it to be easy to find, with plenty of parking. When you arrive, you expect to be greeted warmly, and have a table ready in a reasonable amount of time. Once seated, you expect comfortable seating, friendly service, and decent wait times. Your food and drinks should be worth what you pay for them, and your experience while dining should be pleasant.

These are simple expectations, and at Barrel House, we aim to not just meet, but exceed them every time.

This is a multi-faceted goal. It starts with site selection for good location and parking, to building a great space, hiring excellent staff, and managing operations well. Every step of the franchise owner experience, from opening the restaurant to managing it in year 10, is planned to exceed guest expectations – and that’s why our guests are so loyal!

How To Build a Restaurant with Great Culture

After opening so many locations, we’ve learned a thing or two about great restaurant culture – and we’ve distilled those lessons into training for our franchisees. Our training for new franchise owners includes remote and in-person training, including training on location at your new Barrel House location!

There, our dedicated training team will help you learn the ins and outs of We CARE Culture. But of course, a restaurant’s culture is only as good as the staff that supports it.

What Makes Restaurant Staff Great?

To us, it all comes down to guest experience. Our best staff know what guests expect, and how to meet and exceed those expectations consistently. Part of this is instinct, but a bigger part is training, which is why staff training is covered in detail in our franchise operations manual and training.

Part of the process is retaining staff. The restaurant industry’s turnover rate is notoriously high, and no matter how well you train staff, experience makes a big difference, and keeping good staff members around is always a priority.

However, some hiring is inevitable, especially as you open a new restaurant, and Barrel House’s hiring guidelines are here to help!

Hiring Great Restaurant Staff

One of the most crucial stages in a new restaurant’s debut is hiring the first round of staff. As with all businesses, you’ll continue to hire throughout your restaurant’s lifetime, but if you play your cards right, the first team at a new location can help set the tone for success – and stick around for longer than you might expect!

Our comprehensive operations manual covers best practices for hiring in great detail. But we also provide on-site training for all our new franchise owners, where we can help you strategize about choosing the best hires.

In general, we always support looking for staff who have the traits you can’t train for – it’s easier to teach a new employee how to roll silverware than instill them with dependability, attention to detail, and people skills.

Retaining Restaurant Staff

Turnover in the restaurant industry is no joke, and the last few years have been dominated by staffing shortages that leave many restaurant owners shaking in their boots!

There’s a lot of great advice out there, and our operations are designed to retain the best staff members, but a few quick rules of thumb are:

Recognize Good Employees

This may seem like an obvious tip, but it’s easy to overlook when trying to manage the day-to-day operations of a restaurant!

Raises are, of course, always appreciated by staff. But if the budget doesn’t have room for more money, there are always other options.

Things like employee mentorship and restaurant-specific perks can make a big difference in employees’ quality of life, and keep them around for longer.

Root Out Problems

As much as we’d like to believe that every restaurant is perfect, there will always be issues that crop up from time to time.

One common problem is toxic employees – it may seem more difficult to hire someone new, or even be potentially short staffed, if you have to let a problematic employee go. But in retrospect, you’ll often be surprised by how much harder toxic staff members make everyone else’s job. Work often goes faster without someone sandbagging, and filling schedules is easier when everyone gets along!

However, employees aren’t the only source of issues. That’s why, as a franchise, we’re constantly investing in the latest and greatest to improve processes, and keep things running smoothly throughout each Barrel House restaurant.

Read the Room

Great staff members are hard to come by, and at the moment, guests can be more difficult to serve well than ever. 62% of restaurant workers report being subject to disrespectful, or even abusive, behavior from guests.

Knowing the difference between a mistake that needs to be corrected and a good worker who’s been serving an unreasonable table, can save you from losing staff who are consistently excellent.

What Makes a New Restaurant Great?

Fantastic culture affects every aspect of a restaurant’s success – it makes guests loyal, keeps staff happy, and raises your quality of life as the owner, as well. When things are running smoothly, everyone’s happier, which is why culture is such a crucial part of our business plan.

That being said, an owner or brand can’t create great culture out of thin air – it’s up to each and every member of the staff to embody those values and bring the best possible experience to guests.

As a result, great culture is a two-pronged approach – you need a detailed plan, like our operations manual for franchisees, and dedicated, talented, well-treated staff to carry it out.

If you have questions about whether Barrel House’s We CARE Culture might be a good fit for the way you run a business, reach out today to learn more!