Patrick Droesch is reviving a tired brand by putting people first.
The president and COO of Lonestar Steak House, Droesch came on board in June 2010 to a situation, he says, “where the business results were clearly not where anyone wanted or expected them to be.”
And the problem was actually two problems, he says, since Lonestar incorporates a second brand, Texas Land & Cattle Steak House, which was suffering a similar fate.
What Droesch did was turn first to his employees.
“I fundamentally believe that the culture of any organization drives its results. So the first thing I did was identify the culture of our company. We had to align on what we wanted our results to be, and have all 7,500 employees aligned towards achieving those results. Then we had to look at how to get to those results.”
This would bring about an entire culture shift in the company, he says.
Droesch came up with six cultural beliefs, which are posted in every restaurant and are designed to be integrated into the company’s culture:
- People First—I respect and treat people the way I want to be treated.
- Stand Tall—I proudly serve the team, the guest, and our brand.
- Live Trust— I demonstrate integrity and cultivate an environment of trust
- Get involved—I stay above the line and choose to make a positive impact on our key results.
- Crave Feedback— I value all feedback to grow and improve.
- Win Now—I succeed when I consistently deliver balanced key results.
Droesch then traveled to six cities across the country (five for Lone Star Steakhouse and one for Texas Land & Cattle) to meet with general managers and area directors. At each he held a two-day ‘Culture Shift Roadshow’during which everyone gave input into the culture shift that was required for the future of the brands.
He also introduced and taught the new six cultural beliefs as well as the company’s new model for positive accountability, recognition, and feedback.
Under the former operating model, business was geared towards profits. Droesch has changed that so now there’s a large degree of recognition and feedback for employees.
Recognition of employees’ work is vital, he says, both for morale, and to allow the company to recognize top performers and see who needs more help.
“You can’t have too much positive recognition,” Droesch says. “People don’t understand how important and how powerful positive recognition is. We tend to think feedback is something we give when something’s wrong. But we believe it’s the opposite.”
General managers and district managers are recognized with a plaque and a financial reward. Servers and bussers participate in incentive programs like sales incentive contests—such as who can sell the most wine or who receives the best guest comments.
“We want everyone in our locations to know we value what they do every day. Much of this is about building pride and that impacts retention and it also works as a recruiting tool because people who are proud of where they work are more likely to tell their friends to come join them.”
As well as showing employees how much they are appreciated, Droesch says he’s tried to flatten the organization.
He speaks directly to all employees via what he calls Patrick TV—a YouTube clip sent every month to the restaurants with key messages. In them he talks about the brand’s culture, news, and employees who’ve been recognized for good work.
He also sends weekly and monthly e-newsletters to share stories about the great work the restaurants are doing, both internally and externally.
The idea of all this, Droesch says, is that “there’s a knock-on effect so the pride goes to the guest and excites them. The guest experience will never exceed the team member experience, which is a saying we have.
“So the better we do at making our employees feel valued, the better they do at making our guests feel valued.”
Changing the culture of the organization hasn’t been the only thing Droesch has tackled.
He’s also made significant investments in the restaurants, remodeling to create a new look and feel, and upgrading the menu with new items and plate presentations.
“We did extensive research in the past 12 months to understand what our guests like, and what our competitors’ guests like, so we can evolve the brand,” he says.
Lonestar was founded as a saloon and Droesch is changing it towards more of a casual steakhouse.
“Where we’re heading is still casual, but with a different atmosphere—more of a steakhouse, dinner house feel rather than a Western look, with warm, rich textures and colors, and a rustic, comfortable feel.”
So far seven Lonestar locations have been remodeled, all at the end of last year, and Droesch says that early sales results are very positive with more guests coming through our door.
Feedback so far from guests and sales shows that both Lonestar and Texas Land & Cattle are improving. It’s too early yet for strong financials for the former, Droesch says, since the company’s still in its honeymoon curve, but the latter has already grown topline sales by almost 10 percent.
But, at Lonestar, he says, “the sales are significantly higher—double digits higher in the remodeled locations. So it’s exceeding our targets on the topline and it’s far too early on the bottom line. But the feedback’s been positive and more guests are coming in, so we’re optimistic.”
By Amanda Baltazar