A Core Value Walks Into a Bar

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So, a core value walks into a bar. There should be a witty punch line here, but there isn't. The real joke is the number of restaurants and bars that don't know their core value. Not knowing your core values is so wrong that it should actually be criminal. Maybe your restaurant or bar is in a predicament, struggling with understanding why you need to know something that may seem trivial.

Sit down – we need to have a heart to heart.


Core Values are a Beacon

If you don't have a sense of who you are as a brand, why would anyone want to work for you? If you said, "For a job," okay, you might have that one. How about this question instead: "Why would they stay with your brand?" Now, we have a topic of conversation.

Yes, most people need to work. Most people like getting a paycheck. Most also like to be around people who are like themselves. Like attracts like and your core values send that message out to the world. When you know your core values it is like a powerful light cutting through the night. When you don't, it's more like a cheap flashlight that keeps turning off so you have to shake it and slap it to make it work again.


Core Values are a Marketing Tool

In today's increasingly competitive industry, standing out from the pack is more critical than ever. You might be able to differentiate yourself with signature food and beverages. That will put you slightly head. If you can connect with your guests on an emotional level and share what values you stand for you will win brand loyalty.

Remember that old saying that people don't care how you much you know until they know how much you care? In marketing that phrase would be more along the lines of, “People want to know what you stand for and what you believe in.” Is community a core value? Family? Do you post pictures of your team and their families? If you say family is a value, you need to tell it to the world.

Do you support not driving under the influence? Most restaurants and bars do, yet few market that value. Rockit Ranch Productions based in Chicago operates six concepts in the city. They will take patrons from one of their concepts to another of their locations, on them. That's brilliant. Transport people from one of your locations to another to keep the roads and other drivers safe, and make sure your guests get home safely. This service keeps people immersed in your brand and communicates safety and responsibility as a core value. That’s a win in anyone’s book!  

Is diversity a core value? Does your marketing reflect that? Is health a core value? Show off your partnerships with yoga studios, for example. You have to understand that at its essence, marketing is about emotions. The core values you have are that set of human emotions which allow you to stand out from the competition. Celebrate them. Share them. Talk about them.


Core Values are a Training Tool

Surely, you have a long list of rules and regulations that you inundate your staff with during orientation. That is the standard in this business. But if you do what is standard, you get standard results.

Rules tell people what they can't do. However, many people believe that rules are made to be broken. What if you had a set of values that they take an oath to uphold? Now, you have something personal and more compelling. Now, you have buy-in. Now, instead of saying, “You violated rule number 32 in the employee manual,” you can say, “Was what you did in line with our core values that you took an oath to uphold?” Rules are compliance; core values are commitment. Compliance is what your employees do for you; commitment is what they do for themselves.

Core values speak to what is known in psychology as identity. We go out of our way to protect the image of who we are. If you identity as either a republican or a democrat, your behavior will reflect that; you are not really born one or the other. You choose your identity. If your core values are solid and you live them everyday, you will send a crystal clear message to your team about you and your brand’s identity.


Core Values Have to Be Lived

The key is that core values have to be more than mere words that sound good. Just like all emotions, they have to be lived and reflected in your actions. This is where many restaurants and bars go wrong. They pick core values that sound good on the surface, just things they want others to follow. Surface values have no chance of survival in your culture – they need to come from deep inside where they have roots. That means that you must be an example of real core values.

Actions speak louder than words. If your actions and words are in congruency then you become a living example. If not, you become a symbol for hypocrisy. People don't follow hypocrites, they avoid them.

If you claim honesty as a core value yet your team sees you filling up high-end vodka with cheap stuff, you'll have a hard time getting them to believe and buy into any of your other core values. Your words tell them who you say you are and your behavior tells them who you really are. Choose your core values carefully because they do become a reflection of you and your brand.

If you can discover and live your core values every single day, the joke will be on your competition who is struggling to live theirs. Be an inspiration and not the punch line to a bar joke.

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