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How to Establish a New Kind of Restaurant Company Culture

Many people believe that when you choose a career in the restaurant business, you are choosing a career of long hours and low pay, with a poor quality of life. At CMR, we could not disagree more. We are truly invested in our associates’ wellbeing not only at work but also at home. I have always said you cannot be successful at work if you are not successful at home and if you cannot be successful at home you are not successful at work. We always believe these two are incredibly intertwined.

Here are just some of the ways that we promote our associates’ well being and work-life balance.

  • Enjoying the Holidays. I never wanted to work on Christmas, so why would I ask our associates to do so? We are closed seven major holidays each year, plus Super Bowl Sunday. These days are a time for family, friends, and relaxation. My brethren in the restaurant industry can never get over this one.
  • Paid Time Off. A manager who is with CMR for five years is entitled to three weeks paid vacation and three personal days. Those who are with us for twenty years are entitled to five-weeks paid vacation and five personal days. In total, they have thirty-eight days or about eight weeks off each year. When I was going up the ladder, I remember how antsy I felt going on vacation — that I’d be fired or somehow criticized when I returned for some unknown reason. So many people have that feeling because bosses don’t make it clear that you’re entitled to your vacation and should enjoy it and benefit from the relaxation. I make sure to encourage people to have a good time on their vacation and feel confident that they can leave work behind.
  • Supporting Family Time. One of my favorite lines is “You will never make it to all of your kids’ events”. But, I insist and we practice using the rest of this phrase “but you will make it to more games and events than you miss.” We want you to see your kid play in the recital or soccer tournament every chance you can.
  • Three Weeks Notice. We would never want associates to quit without giving notice, so why would we quit them without extending the same courtesy? When we close a restaurant, and we have closed a few, we give all associates three-weeks’ notice. Any associate who stays through the closedown process gets an additional three-weeks’ severance. We share stories, hugs, and tears and many thank us for being a class act all the way to the end. This stands in stark contrast to the common industry practice of letting associates arrive to a padlocked door with a sign on the door and find out their workplace is closed with no notice, no severance, no communication. That absolutely appalls me. It is just plain wrong. This is a case in point that integrity takes years to build and days to ruin.
  • Making Up for Renovation Time. When we close a restaurant temporarily for renovation, the process can take anywhere from two weeks to two months. We communicate our plans and of course, our associates are paid until we reopen. Servers make lower hourly wages than other associates, but almost always make up for the shortfall on the other end because the reopening spurs a wave of new business.

We create pathways for upward mobility, filling eighty-percent of our management positions by promoting from within. This gives our associates the opportunity to double, triple and even quadruple their salary as they rise through the company ranks. I always tell our people that all they have to do is look to their right or left and they’ll see an example of someone who is building their career with the company. We want everyone to know that the more they put in, the more they will get out.

The culture of our company unshackles people from traditional norms. Once they believe they are truly cared for, respected, empowered and can go as far as they want, they are essentially hitching their wagon to our horse. I describe this phenomenon as an atmosphere of intrapreneurship. The results are spectacular and the sky is the limit.

Adapted fromYes is the Answer. What is the Question?. Copyright © 2018 by Cameron Mitchell. Published by IdeaPress Publishing.

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