Your Business Isn’t about Food and Drinks - Your Culture that Matters

Your Business Isn’t about Food and Drinks - Your Culture that Matters

Culture is the fabric for everything that our businesses are, and I want to take you on a journey today in a way that’s outside the traditional restaurant and bar space, yet still within the hospitality industry.

So, if you live in the south, you’ve seen it— a company called Chick-fil-A.  It’s spread like wildfire across the U.S.

They are absolutely on fire!

I found myself going there almost on a daily basis—for a fast-food chicken sandwich!

Now, I love a good chicken sandwich as much as the next guy, but I can get a chicken sandwich almost anywhere, so why the fascination with this joint?

And the lines!

There’s no time of day when they’re not busy—it’s just a matter of HOW busy it will be!

During lunch and dinner hours cars are lined up, double and triple stacked in the drive-thru lanes—there’s even a traffic cop in the parking lot during the lunch hour!

It’s bananas!



So I’m sitting in line, and there’s— I don’t know—15-20 cars in line waiting for fast food that we’re not getting fast!

Meanwhile, right there, across the street is another fast food joint—with nobody in line.

No. Body.

You can go right there and get your food right now yet people are choosing to sit in line to get the stuff!

What’s the deal?

Culture Differentiates You from the Masses

When you’re sitting in that line, you’re not just sitting there—like with other drive-thru places—waiting to yell your order into a giant crackling speaker.

No. Chick-fil-A has people strategically placed to move you through the line.

Like, one of six people will personally take your order. Laminated menus and friendly smiles at the ready.

And then you drive around the corner and there’s a dedicated person to take your money. They’re in uniform, with a little credit card processor and a change belt handy.

In each of these transactions, they seem to capture this essence—like it is absolutely their pleasure to take care of you. And when you get to the drive-through window, some nice person hands you your bag of food and says, “Have a nice day!” and they seem to mean it.

People are happy—they’re authentic.

It’s absolutely amazing!

And then I look across the street. In my mind I’m thinking, “There’s a group of people over there, looking at these people, going ‘Thank God I don’t have to work that hard!”

Hence, there’s nobody in their drive-thru and nobody’s making the adjustment!

It’s almost un-American not to be making this adjustment!

I mean Chick-fil-A is absolutely robbing the fast food industry of its revenue!

They’ve cracked the code.

But wait—there’s more! Sometimes I decide to take a break and go inside.

Again, I’m always greeted kindly, always with a smile. People are authentically happy to serve. I get my drink— the food may not be ready because, of course, there are busy as all hell, and I go sit down, and then some nice old lady brings out my food.

She acts as if it’s the most awesome thing in her day! Five minutes later she comes by and takes my tray and asks if she can get me a refill of sweet tea!

I’m coming back over and over and over again. And for the longest time, I didn’t know why.

What Happens With a Shift in Culture

Chick-fil-A’s been around since 1946.

It hasn’t always been like this—there was a Chick-fil-A in the mall where I grew up.

There was no massive line there, so what’s happened?


Greenbriar Mall, Atlanta Nov 1967 – Credit: Chick-fil-A via Twitter @chickfilA

Culture has happened.

This is what happens when you really crush culture. And when the culture you create in your business is all about that guest experience, and it’s differentiated from anything else you can get out there, you win and you win big!

How Did Chick-fil-A Take Over the World?

S. Truett Cathy was the original founder. His son, Dan, is now the CEO with over 2200 locations.

Half the people that now work for Chick-fil-A were hired since Truett Cathey’s death in 2014, so this culture brand has taken off since his passing.

Here’s a quote from Dan Cathy:

“How can we distinguish ourselves not just with the taste of our menu items, but in terms of really being customer-centric and customer-focused, through honor, dignity, and respect?

People today are even more starving for that than they are for a Chick-fil-A sandwich.”

And that, to me, was the A-ha moment.

It’s not the Chick-fil-A Sandwich—even though it’s good.

It’s not the sweet tea, and it’s not the waffle fries.

That’s all good, but that doesn’t make you sit in line for eight and a half minutes when you could get fast food, over there, right now.

It’s how they make you feel.

It’s the culture they create.

“Culture is what happens and how your staff behave when you’re not there.”

What Does This Mean for the Bar and Restaurant Business?

All these same rules apply for us as much, if not more than Chick-fil-A.

You may want to ask yourself:

  • Do you have a culture?
  • Can you define it?
  • Does your culture represent your values?
  • Does the culture represent your vision for the business, or are those two separate?

There are a lot of owners out there who have a vision of what they want, but there’s a disconnect in how the business actually performs.

You’ve got to close the gap.

  • Are you able to cast your vision?
  • Are you able to enforce your vision and fight for the vision and culture that you want for your business?
  • How does your business behave when you’re not there?

What Will Be Your Legacy?

Half the people that work for Chick-fil-A now didn’t work there when Truett Cathy was at the helm. I can’t tell you how active he was in his later years, but look at how the business is performing since his passing.

What a powerful statement it is that the culture not only maintained but improved; that it magnified and amplified and is turning into this amazing experience with incredible business results.

The final question I would ask is:

What’s your legacy?

Bars and restaurants have lots of legacies, history, and memories.

What are you going to be known for?

I just found this to be a fascinating study. As I said, I’m in that drive-through almost on a daily basis, and I watch the lack of adjustment, and the lack of learning from the competitors, and what Chick-fil-A has done from a cultural perspective to really drive results.

It blows me away.

How the people behave in the business, to me, is a direct reflection of what their founder would have wanted for the business all those years ago so.

Are you doing that work?

If you need help doing that work, you can reach out to us.

That’s something that we do. We love culture building!

~Dave Nitzel

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