How to Build Restaurant Core Values

How to Build Restaurant Core Values
D. J. Costantino

By D. J. Costantino

For the latest episode of the 7shifts podcast, we synced up with Kelly McCutcheon of Hopdoddy Burger Bar to discuss how they came up with theirs. With 20 plus locations across the southeast U.S., Hopdoddy looks to their core values as a sort of operating system for how they do business. From hiring restaurant employees to growth to the tough decisions, Hopdoddy looks to its core values every single day.

What are restaurant core values?

“Core values are that guiding light and vision for everybody to lead the way, says McCutcheon. If your restaurant doesn't yet have core values, or if you have a gut feeling and need a way to put them down on paper, McCutcheon shared how they came up with theirs at Hopdoddy in the latest episode of the 7shifts Restaurant Growth Podcast. Here's the simple process and tips on how to establish your core values.

How to develop restaurant core values: 2 steps

1. Look to the difference makers in your team

The first thing Hopdoddy did was to gather all of its key stakeholders. For a company of their size, it was around 8 people. For smaller restaurants, it may just be an owner and general manager. The most important thing is to make sure everyone is together for the conversation. You'll also want to choose a facilitator to write things down and run the session. Then the work can begin:

“We were each challenged to list 3 team members, and those team members had to be ones who were difference makers. The ones that, if we could only build out the team with these 3 people, who would it be?” says McCutcheon.

Then they each wrote them down (in secret) and shared them amongst each other.

“The first thing we realized was how much overlap there was. We already had 20+ locations when crafting these core values. We chose everyone from hourly, to managers, to regional and beyond. We had a lot of commonalities,” says McCutcheon.

“Core values are that guiding light and vision for everybody to lead the way”

2. Start a conversation

The next step is to start a conversation about the people that you chose. “What is it about the three that you chose that makes them difference makers, what makes them stand out, and what are those characteristics you want to see in others?” says McCutcheon, “We came up with a list of 50 to 60 different characteristics. You started to notice the similarities.”

[Our facilitator] didn't write a list, as we named things they started grouping them together. You can do this in one step, or two, says McCutcheon. Grouping like characteristics is essential. For example, they realized that “driven” and “hungry” are kind of the same thing (able). “We started grouping them together and initially had around 5 different categories. Then you have to do the really tough thing. You have to say what doesn't fit, and start crossing things out,” she says.

McCutcheon found that you may come up with things that may feel right, but not sound like. It may take some time to marinate, but sitting on it for a bit to see how it feels helps make sure you're not rushing the process.

Once you're settled on your core values, take some time to wordsmith them to fit your business.

For example, these are the values that Hopdoddy landed on:

  • Be Open-minded
  • Have the Hunger
  • Raise the Burger Bar
  • Do Right

Tips for creating core values

When you go to create core values at your business, here are a few tips that McCutcheon recommends you keep in mind:

  • Less is more. Your list of core values doesn't have to be ten items long. By narrowing in and focusing on three to seven things that drive your business, it makes them easier to remember and act on.
  • Keep them action-oriented. Speaking of acting, try making your core values verbs and action-oriented. For example, if one of your values is focused around kindness, expressing that value as “Lead With Kindness” is more action-oriented than something like “Kindness is Important.”

“It's not just about who we are, but what we do,” says McCutcheon.

For more about how Hopdoddy honed in and created these core values, and for how they influence decision making at every level in their business, check out the full episode of the Restaurant Growth Podcast featuring Kelly McCutcheon.

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D. J. Costantino
D. J. Costantino

Hi! I'm D.J., 7shifts' resident Content Writer. I come from a family of chefs and have a background in food journalism. I'm always looking for ways to help make the restaurant industry better!