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Using Purpose to Build High-performing Restaurant Teams

Updated: Jan 23, 2019



More often than not, the essence of a great restaurant visit is heavily dependent on three things:


  1. An enjoyable restaurant atmosphere;

  2. Knowledgable service and great hospitality;

  3. High-quality food and drink and good value.


Whilst other factors do come into play — such as who you’re with, whether you are celebrating a significant occasion or the number of *hopefully* inches between your table and that of your fellow diners; it’s indisputable that restaurant employees have significant power in creating great guest experiences.


High Performing Teams (HPTs) have been discussed many times within a restaurant context, however in fast-paced day to day operations, many restaurant owners and managers discover that HPTs are a challenge to achieve and maintain.


Here at Hospitality Mavericks, we have decades of experience building and being part of high-performing teams in restaurants and the broader hospitality sector. We sat down recently to discuss our personal experiences, as well as what we’ve learned from observing Mavericks who have cultivated their own HPTs. There are too many learnings to share in one blog, but we will start by highlighting the importance of purpose.



But first — What are HPTs?


Robin Bard defines a high-performing team as:


“A group of people with specific roles and complementary talents and skills, aligned with and committed to a common purpose, who consistently show high levels of collaboration and innovation, produce superior results, and extinguish radical or extreme opinions that could be damaging. The high-performance team is regarded as tight-knit, focused on their goal and have supportive processes that will enable any team member to surmount any barriers in achieving the team’s goals.”


Whilst this definition may appear technical, it indicates that there is a way in which HPTs do things; an inner team culture that is reinforced and protected by consistency and systems built around a clear sense of values and purpose. HPTs are therefore more than end result; they are an ongoing process that must be nurtured and maintained within the organisation.


We have all probably been part of hospitality teams that have possessed some of the central qualities of HPTs; knowledge sharing, strong team culture and aligned objectives for instance. But the world of hospitality is transient, with employee retention 21% lower than the UK average. Understandably, this can lead managers and businesses to question whether they should focus their resources on cultivating HPTs, especially if they may be fragile to the loss of a team member. In our opinion, this is where a shift in mentality can be extremely beneficial…


When you decide to see the formulation of HPTs as an ongoing process and not just your dream team of 5 people, investing resources into building effective, even high-performing teams doesn’t seem like such a roll of the dice. At Hospitality Mavericks, we believe there are a few guiding principles that you can follow to start this process, starting with creating a clear sense of purpose.



Be and Communicate Your Purpose


It starts with hospitality leaders ensuring that the purpose and values of their organisation are woven into every business decision and practice. Many hospitality leaders fail to recognise the importance of having employees bought-in to their organisation’s purpose and this likely to create a misalignment between employees’ perception of common purpose (beyond the trivial demands of their day to day job).


Let the team know why they are here and why it matters

As people occupy hospitality roles for a briefer period of time than they typically would in other sectors, leaders cannot rely on long employee interrelationships to drive the birth of HPTs. They must be visible in their organisation and actively inspire restaurant teams to get behind the business’s purpose and values.


With a compelling purpose behind them, restaurant teams will look to see how they can make a real impact and define what success looks like themselves. This will have a greater result than just having their business leaders assign some key metrics or targets that they believe reflect the organisation’s values, purpose and overarching business goals.


If you are a business leader, this is not to say that you should shy away from formulating some key indicators of success (as there is much value in this). But you must also encourage an environment where managers and employees can use their unique perspectives, circumstances and strengths to the business’s advantage.



Basically, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to celebrating and serving a compelling purpose and set of business values.


As employees come and go, new strengths and opportunities will present themselves. Employees will develop and grow over time — presenting your business with new ways to get the very best out of them. As a business leader, it is your job to foster a business culture that caters for that.



Struggling with bringing your purpose and values to life?


If you are having difficulty in seeing how your organisation’s purpose and values can be utilised to excite and engage your employees then maybe it’s time to forge more meaningful relationships with your stakeholders and broader communities.


As the data shows, and countless articles have articulated hospitality is a tough place to work. Unsociable hours, low pay and questionable career progression alone are key reasons why hospitality leaders must create a clear sense of values and purpose from within their organisation, something that employees are excited to get behind.


There are operators such as Bagelman who partake in extraordinary initiatives that bring their purpose and values to life. As a Bagelman employee or customer, you will know that they care about the environment. They are actually leading the way in Brighton when it comes to recycling and other eco-friendly initiatives. This is a prime example of how a clear purpose (that is brought to life by actions) can have a remarkable impact on the employees’ perception of Bagelman and therefore commitment towards their business goals.


Whilst we at Hospitality Mavericks understand that it takes more than creating a strong sense of purpose and values to build HPTs, we believe that through these is the best way to inspire your restaurant team towards forging more united working relationships. Whereby your employees collaborate their way to achieving goals, share valuable knowledge up and down the organisation and ultimately provide your guests with more genuine and powerful eating out experiences.



We will be back soon with another guiding principle on building HPTs. In the meantime, here are 4 Maverick questions to reflect on:


  1. Do your people know and understand your purpose and values?

  2. How well are these integrated into the daily operations and processes of running your business?

  3. Do all of your significant business decisions take your purpose and values into account?

  4. What can you do within your community to bring your purpose and values to life?



Oliver is a business graduate with over five years experience working for globally recognised restaurant chains. Besides when surrounded by food, Ollie is in his element when he’s rethinking operational systems with the primary focus of maximising employee and guest experiences.


Michael is a heart-centred operations pro, who believes and lives by building hospitality and restaurants businesses from the inside out. When your employees love your company, your customers will love you — brand nirvana. He helps leaders and operators to build unique blueprints and business systems that create strong employee and customer experience, which translate into improved sales, profits and positive impact.


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