Lone Star Steak House Culture Shift Attracts New Diners

Employee recognition programs are helping build sales at Lone Star.
Employee recognition programs are helping build sales at Lone Star.

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:

  1. People First—I respect and treat people the way I want to be treated.
  2. Stand Tall—I proudly serve the team, the guest, and our brand.
  3. Live Trust— I demonstrate integrity and cultivate an environment of trust 
  4. Get involved—I stay above the line and choose to make a positive impact on our key results.
  5. Crave Feedback— I value all feedback to grow and improve.
  6. 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.

Employees First 

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.


News and information presented in this release has not been corroborated by FSR, Food News Media, or Journalistic, Inc.


As a former manager with Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon in it's early years, when there were only about 60 locations, the corporate culture as I lived was centered on The On Minute Manager and Greenwood philosphies. But as  for a "brand" or identification - we were a destination where people loved to eat in the Western Saloon atmosphere. The wooden floors, country and western music playing and line dancing. Choosing your own steak and enjoying the peanuts in an exciting atmosphere during the peak hours. It was a place that most people enjoyed, visit after visit, with so many regulars on the "wait list".  The lack of national advertising was the downfall of this brand ! The corporate line was that word of mouth would do all the avertising one would need to drive sales. Why are McDonald's, Outback and Darden brands constantly on the television?  It's ensuring that when you want to go out and eat- you are programmed to drive to their locations. After leaving the company, the local store that I worked at was "upgraded" in the front of the house, what a disaster !   The atmosphere was gone. So were the peanuts, the loud music, the brithday song, and excitment. Its actaully sad for me to think about a once very promising brand be overtaken by rivals and copycats. The original spirit and soul of Lonestar Steakhouse and Saloon, to quote Al Pacinio "is dead". Not sure who used to run this joint, by their spirit is gone ! "  Best of luck reinventing yourself, and by the way when your employees are happy, they perform.  We had some very happy employees. The motto used to be: Are you green and growing or are you ripe and rotten?  Another note, ten years later I still can't get the original Happy Birthday song out of my head.  Best of Luck, I switched sides- its Outback for us now when we decide to eat out.       

Jaime Coulter was the original CEO and him and his cheap a## Vice Presidents is what killed the brand, they where so cheap that we could not give out 10 cent raises without corp. approval. I opened 13 of the first 40 units the stock doubled and split twice in two years and they made millions in stock options. Then when it came to rewarding the managers the raises where ridiculously small! Then they found some big time money guys and cashed out!

Back in the early to mid-90's, Lone Star was unique with all of the key western saloon elements mentioned in Mlipovsik's comments.  The brand was unique and differentiated.  Unfortunately it was mis-managed for a number of years and during that time other brands came along and did the peanuts and country thing bigger and better.  In my view, it has nothing to do with national advertising.  Houstons, Cheddars, PF Changs, Cheesecake Factory - none of them are on national TV or radio yet they do exceptionally well.  It is more about having a brand that consumers want and need in their life.  Lone Star became irrelevant and must re-invent itself in order to compete in the future Steakhouse category. 

I have been working at Lonestar for the last year and a half and have been recently promoted to Shift Leader with the hope of making salary. When I first started there wasn't a huge emphasis on the cultural beliefs . As time went on and we really started integrating the cultural beliefs into our daily lives the impact was to me amazing. It's a way to work and it's a way to live. I'm always so proud when I go to work and see smiling faces from not only our guests but from our employees. There is a real "Guests Win" mentality that I think a lot of restaurant lack. If a guest is unhappy make them happy no matter what. Our number one goal isn't profits it's guest satisfaction. We are all super stoked about the new remodel scheduled for May. I hope to have many more happy years at Lonestar.

Not likely... I had a bad experience at Lone Star recently, and two attempts at contacting managment ended with zilch.  NO response, nothing.  They just don't care.

I'm just a customer.. but I loved Lone Star in its old version.  I used to take various foreign delegations around the U.S.  Lone Star always got raves, and it was a favorite of mine.    A few weeks ago I tried one near Asheville, NC.  It was a shock.. I can't even begin to understand what they're doing with the theme, the service was poor, and the food was ho-hum.  Give me back the old Lone Star -- I knew what I was getting, and I like it. The new version is some kind of Ruth's Chris wannabe... nothing I'd ever try again. 

I worked as a General Manager for Lone Star Steakhouse for 13 years, 15 years total with the company. It was an AMAZING place to work, and our clientele was second to none. Work was fun, our staff loved what they did, quality was key and upper management was active in day to day operations. Change is never easy, but when the company was bought by Lone Star Funds, the atmosphere changed. What used to be inspirational leadership became "pound down, leave alone and zap" mentality. It sounds like the new leadership has the right idea...getting back to basics, team recognition, and fun. Good!


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