Great Restaurants Thrive on Cultural Diversity

To say that I have been fortunate to be part of several great restaurant teams would be an understatement. Diversity was a characteristic of all of them. Restaurants are commonly raved about for their food, decor, location, and drinks. What truly sets apart the great from the good is the people. The team that delivers the experience is what the architects of the best restaurants spend the most time focused on.

The more diverse the team, the more likely that future stars, great ideas, and ability to overcome obstacles is present.

Diversity is fun.
Diversity means a new perspective for everything.

Innovation, stability, creativity, and future leaders are born of diverse teams.

I spend a lot of time working on team building, looking for greatness, weeding out bad seeds. All these activities are done in the name of trying to create depth and a pathway for people to advance. When I examined the best teams I have been a part of I noticed that the stars of our organizations today were frequently someone who joined us from a disparate background. They were a source of diversity, and brought a fresh perspective. Now they are a leader, and an integral part of who we are. A restaurant is the product of the people who are working there today, no more, no less.

Diversity can help you achieve higher highs, but it also helps you avoid pitfalls. This concept is simple in theory as Seth Godin wrote about a little while back:

About half of all the bananas consumed worldwide come from the same tree.

Not the same type of tree. The very same tree. The Cavendish, which has no seeds, is propagated by grafting or cloning. Which means that they’re all identical. If you’re a mass marketer, pushing everyone to expect and like the very same thing, a thing with no variation and little surprise, this is good news indeed.

Until, of course, a fungus comes along and wipes out the entire monoculture.

It’s tempting to want all your bananas to be the same. To have all your employees be clones of one another, your products to be indistinguishable commodities, each conforming to the dominant narrative of the day.

But variation brings resilience and innovation and the chance to make a difference.

What is Diversity?

We typically think about racial diversity as it is a dominant theme in our culture and news these days.  But diversity in it’s full sense comes in many forms. For an intellectual, case study based read on the ways that diversity helps an organization; make sure you have read The Medici Effect. For many it is the definitive book on these topics. Frans Johansson, the author, even has some references to the success of diversity in restaurants. Here is his take on diversity:

Cultural diversity does not only imply geographically separated cultures. It can also include ethnic, class, professional, or organizational cultures. The mere fact that an individual is different from most people around him promotes more open and divergent, perhaps even rebellious, thinking in that person. Such a person is more prone to question traditions, rules, and boundaries—and to search for answers where others may not think to. ― Frans Johansson, Medici Effect: What You Can Learn from Elephants and Epidemics

Think about your restaurant, how diverse a group is there, what can you do to increase diversity?

Innovation and greater success are there for you if you can.