Service 101: Defining the WHY of Your Business

What is it that motivates your organization? Beyond paying the bills and making a profit, why do people come to work? Research has shown that organizations that commit to a bigger reason for being are more successful at retaining great employees and in earning profits, than businesses that identify profit as their main motivating factor.

Defining the WHY

What is the mission of you business and why should people care about it? What is the WHY behind all the hard work and commitment?

Building a restaurant, a juice bar, a food truck, or food product with the goal to make money and look cool may be enough to motivate a founder or owner, but the profit end game doesn’t motivate a team to work hard or commit to the organization for a long time.

 Beyond Profit

If you want to attract great talent and keep them committed to your organization, you ought to give them a bigger reason than just paying their bills. Successful organizations that attract and grow great people communicate and live by a set of core values that inspire and motivate big and small business decisions every day.

Conscious Capitalism

What motivates you and your team to come to work every day? Does your restaurant dedicate its focus to solve a problem in society? Do your business’ food decisions protect a way of life or serve a need in the community?

Feeding the hungry, educating kids, clothing the under-privileged, or promoting a healthy lifestyle are all great reasons to come to work and work hard. Integration of aggressive sales goals with doing good are integral in creating a healthy culture in your business and encourage real talent to your business.

Consider how your business can stand by your core values in a meaningful way. For example, if helping reduce hunger in America is an important core value of your business, it’s important to do more than just donate funds to a great organization. Empower your team to think about ways to reduce waste, communicate the company mission, and think creatively about how their daily work can serve the mission to reduce hunger.

Why the WHY Is So Important

But beware of thinking that writing “help the hungry” in the mission statement will be enough to motivate great people to work hard and stick around. Restaurants that claim a particular commitment to a great cause but show employees the opposite through business decisions and leadership actions, reduces credibility and creates a culture clash that negatively motivates staff.

I have had the great pleasure of working for culinary leaders who motivate teams and attract great talent through an inspiring corporate vision. But I have also had a front row view of the negative impact of business owners who speak of valuing employees and the environment in their employee manuals, but are wasteful in the kitchen and treat hourly employees like throw-away commodities.

Being an Employer of Choice

The restaurant industry is evolving. Employees of food businesses aren’t coming to work just to pay their bills. Hourly and salaried employees seek employers who can offer tangible and intangible benefits such as health care, tasty food, discounts, opportunity for growth, cool swag, and a fun work environment.

Employers of choice like Starbucks, Sweetgreen, Shake Shack, and Whole Foods offer employees a competitive wage, a fun work environment, opportunity for growth, benefits for full-time employees, discounts, delicious meals, and the opportunity to contribute to making a positive difference in the world. Even fine dining restaurants in major food cities like Danny Meyer’s NYC restaurants offer hourly employees similarly generous wages and benefits.

When an organization’s leaders know, understand, and live the core values of the business, teaching and leading the team becomes more effective and robust. When employees believe in and live by the core values of the organization, the workplace has a better chance at being filled with great energy and excitement.

Everyone knows it takes a lot to build a great team. You need to invest a lot of time, money, attention, dedication, passion, intention, courage, conviction, and commitment.

So If you want to maximize your investments, it’s best to create a place where people want to keep coming back to work.

What is your business’ reason for being?


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Food Woolf Written by:

Brooke Burton is an Los Angeles-based restaurant professional and hospitality expert. She is a freelance food writer, speaker, and co-author of The Food Blog Code of Ethics.

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