Learn how to write a killer restaurant mission statement to be among the select few that can.
Restaurant mission statements matter whether you’re opening a restaurant or refreshing your brand. They provide insights into business strategy, guide business decisions, and are a reminder of why you started.
If mission statements are that important, you’d think more restaurateurs would spend time creating theirs. Unfortunately, not all restaurateurs recognize the value of a well-thought-through mission statement. Some don’t know what mission statements are. And others have no clue how to write one.
Your mission statement is the “why” of your business strategy and captures why your restaurant exists. It articulates what you do for customers, employees, and owners (your goals) and clarifies what you offer a specific market segment (your strategy).
The result? Poorly written mission statements, littered with cliches, buzzwords, and business jargon.
Indeed, according to mission statement expert and Entrepreneur contributor Tim Berry, 90% of mission statements in business plans fit this description and are, in his words “wastes of time, paper or digital space.”
The good news? You can learn how to write a restaurant mission statement that drives business success and be among the 10%. Here’s how.
Understand What You’re Creating (And Why)
As humans, we connect well with what we understand. We connect even better when we know the “why” behind the “what.” So, writing a strong mission statement starts with understanding what they are and why they're beneficial.
Restaurant Mission vs. Restaurant Vision Statements
Mission statements are often misunderstood. They’re not slogans which are designed to grab attention. They’re also not value statements which describe what you believe in. And they’re certainly not vision statements which define where you’re going.
Rather, mission statements are strategic and precise. They're the “why” of your business strategy and capture why your restaurant exists. They describe what you do for customers, employees, and owners (your goals) and clarify what you offer for a specific market segment (your strategy).
What Makes a Strong Mission Statement?
Besides either defining goals or strategy—or better yet, doing both—, strong mission statements embody the following six characteristics:
- Brief. They should be brief but comprehensive, and no more than four sentences.
- Transparent. The best statements avoid business jargon and clichés. When writing one, write it as if you were writing for a close friend.
- Accurate. They include realistic goals and are an honest reflection of what you do.
- Achievable. We’ve all heard companies claiming to offer the best service, the most delicious food, or the highest quality products. How often is this the case?
- Unique. What makes you different from your competition? If your mission statement sounds like it could be written by any company, revise it.
- Actionable. Strong statements don’t just list goals but define how to achieve them.
What Are the Benefits of Mission Statements?
Well-written mission statements:
- Act as a useful reminder of your core strategy, long-term goals and reasons for starting
- Provide direction for your restaurant and inform decisions. Have a grand idea or plan for your restaurant? Not sure if this plan is a fit? Consult your mission statement to see if the plan or idea aligns. If not, “can” it
- Ensure all the elements of running and growing your restaurant—marketing, customer service, sourcing suppliers—align under one, coherent message
- Give investors a useful summary of the goals and strategies of your business (applicable when writing a business plan to get outside funding for your restaurant)
How to Write an Effective Mission Statement for Your Restaurant
Now that you understand what mission statements are and why you need them, it’s time to learn how to write yours by answering five simple questions. Answering these questions and writing your mission statement may be hard at first—that’s perfectly normal.
After all, writing any mission statement requires brutal honesty and concision that is often difficult to achieve the first time around, especially if you’ve never heard of a mission statement before or even taken the time to ask yourself the big “why” behind your restaurant’s purpose.
But know this: Most restaurant owners don’t have it all figured out. By simply thinking about what your mission is and working on it, you’ll be miles ahead of other restaurant owners.
Now, let’s get to it.
5 Questions to Help You Write a Killer Restaurant Mission Statement
As you work your way through this section take note of the examples of mission statements. Each example aims to demonstrate what certain companies and restaurants do for their employees, customers, and owners.
You’ll notice that the examples don’t always meet all the criteria of a strong mission statement. This demonstrates how hard they are to write, that it’s okay to bend the rules, and that you should view your mission as a work in progress.
Question 1: What Is Your Market-Defining Story?
This first step is not directly part of your mission statement but will help you craft one. View this step as the building blocks, where you begin to think about what your restaurant does, who your target market is, what their needs are, and how you’re filling that need.
Tim Berry refers to this as your market-defining story and explains: “A really good market-defining story explains the need, or the want, or—if you like jargon—the so-called “why to buy.” It defines the target customer, or “buyer persona.” And it defines how your business is different from most others, or even unique. It simplifies thinking about what a business isn’t, what it doesn’t do.”
Here’s an example of a fictitious market defining-story for a coffee shop called Sublime Brew:
Jane is a young go-getter who runs her own business. She loves coffee and not a day goes by without her grabbing a cup. Because Jane is acutely aware of supporting local businesses, she chooses to avoid large chains. She also supports coffee shops that value sustainability and partner with suppliers that use organic farming methods. While the local coffee shops satisfy her craving for a tasty cup of coffee, Jane craves something new. She wants to learn more about coffee—the different types of brewing methods, how this affect flavor profiles, what makes the perfect cup— and longs for a coffee experience.
Enter Sublime Brew. Sublime Brew serves quality coffee, made from the finest quality beans sourced locally, and works with suppliers that support sustainability. Sublime Brew offers genuine coffee experiences by providing guided tours of their roastery and an online resource, in the form of ebooks and blog posts about coffee, to satisfy Jane's desire (and people like Jane) to learn more about coffee. Sublime Brew is more than just a coffee shop offering tasty coffee. It’s an experience.
See how we’ve defined the market and need above? And how we’ve explained what Sublime Brew does and how they’re filling that need. Is it perfect? No. Is it a start? Yes! If you’re struggling with this first step, write down what your restaurant does and doesn’t do. Then, keep this information in the back of your mind as you move on to the next steps.
Question 2: What Does Your Restaurant Do for Customers?
Now, write down what good you do for your customers. It doesn’t have to be something world-changing. It can be something as basic as delivering dependable service or offering locally sourced food from sustainable suppliers. But remember that what you write should be unique and accurately represent what you do for customers. Be honest.
Fast casual chain Sweetgreen’s missions statement has helped it exapnd to 75 locations since it's founding in 2007. Sweetgreen's restaurant mission statement is a great example of understanding customer needs:
"Our mission is to inspire healthier communities by connecting people to real food. We know that Sweetgreen is a critical link between growers and consumers, and we feel a responsibility to protect the future of real food. To that end, we’re committed to supporting small and mid-size growers who are farming sustainably, to creating transparency around what’s in your food and where it came from, and to creating more accessibility to healthy, real food for more people.
Because here at Sweetgreen, impact is not an arm of our business, it is our business, and it permeates everything we do, from what we source to who we hire and how we support local communities. We want to make an impact and leave people better than we found them, and we tailor our approach in each market to reflect the needs of the community.”
Notice how Sweetgreen also spoke about what they do for the community and the world? These are two extra elements you can infuse into your mission.
Question 3: What Does Your Restaurant Do for Employees?
Articulating what you do for employees and living by it is essential. It helps attract the best talent and reduces staff turnover—all of which have a direct impact on your bottom line.
When crafting this part of your mission, it’s easy to write something every restaurant claims to do. “Empowerment,” “encouraging diversity” and “training” are among the many initiatives that most restaurants claim to care about.
So, try to find a differentiator that makes you unique and explain what and how you do it. If what you do is similar to what other restaurants, then so be it. In the end, it's more important that you do what you say you do.
Shearwater Restaurant in Australia has a mission statement that does an excellent job capturing what they do for their employees:
“To sell remarkable food and beverage to match our world class location, to consistently provide our customers with impeccable service by demonstrating warmth, graciousness, efficiency, knowledge, professionalism and integrity to our work. To provide all who work with us the tools to be their best in a friendly, co-operative, and rewarding environment. To keep our concept fresh, exciting and on the cutting edge of the hospitality industry. To be a giving member of the Coffs Harbour region and use our Restaurant and to improve the quality of life on the Coffs Coast.”
Shearwater also manages to capture what they do for their customers, community, and owners (discussed below). And while delivering “impeccable service” is not unique, they manage to differentiate themselves by explaining how they do it through efficiency, knowledge, and professionalism.
The statement could do with some refinement—cutting use of jargon like ‘world-class’ and ‘cutting-edge’—but this is an example of a mission statement that has all the right ingredients.
Question 4: What Does Your Restaurant Do for Owners?
Not many missions statements mention what they do for their owners. Instead, they focus on the customer, employees, and the community. However, some good ones do. Take global fast food behemoth McDonald's brand mission, for example:
“McDonald's brand mission is to be our customers' favorite place and way to eat and drink. Our worldwide operations are aligned around a global strategy called the Plan to Win, which center on an exceptional customer experience – People, Products, Place, Price and Promotion. We are committed to continuously improving our operations and enhancing our customers' experience.”
But the massive, old corporations aren't the only ones responding to owners needs with their mission statements. Check out the online retailer Warby Parker's mission statement from 2010:
“Warby Parker was founded with a rebellious spirit and a lofty objective: to offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially-conscious business.”
Both are perfect examples of mission statements that manage to speak to employees, customers, and owners.
Question 5: Is This the Best Restaurant Mission Statement Possible?
Once you’ve written down your responses to the above questions, formulate and review your mission statement draft to see what you can improve to make it the best it can be. Use the core elements of any strong statement as your guide:
- Cut unnecessary words for conciseness
- Remove superlatives and business jargon
- Use simple words instead of complex ones
- Check that your statement accurately reflects what you do
- Ask yourself: Is this unique compared to my competition?
To help you during the review and editing process show your first draft to your family, friends, and colleagues for feedback before doing final edits. You can also conduct a simple test to see if your mission statement is useful. Give your mission statement to a total stranger who's likely never heard of your restaurant and ask them if they can infer from the words alone what you do, for whom, and what makes you unique. If they can’t by reading those few sentences, your statement likely needs work.
Wrapping it up
Many restaurant owners don’t fully understand how mission statements can help them. Some have never heard of them. And those that have, often struggle to create ones that have any tactical business value.
But you don’t have to struggle in the same way. The key is to get started: Create your market-defining story, define what you do for employees, customers, and owners, and review ruthlessly. We can’t promise that it will be easy—writing a mission statement is hard especially if you’ve never thought about the big questions.
What we can promise you is that if you take just a little time to answer these questions and craft your mission statement, you’ll be ahead of so many others. And remember: The final statement you produce is not set in stone. Your goals and restaurant will change. And your mission statement should too.
- Brown, Douglas Robert. The Restaurant Manager’s Handbook: How to Set Up, Operate and Manage a Financially Successful Food Service Operation