Restaurant Core Values: How to Identify and Develop Them

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5 min read

Jan 26, 2023

Restaurant Core Values: How to Identify and Develop Them

What does your restaurant stand for? What do you want its legacy to be? How do you want to treat guests and staff? 

The core values of a restaurant aim to answer these critical questions. When implemented strategically, values serve as a north star by guiding business decisions and attracting like-minded staff and customers. 

In this guide to the values of a restaurant, we’re giving you a rundown on what you need to know to establish values and exemplify them through every aspect of your business: from your menu and marketing to your tech and team.

Why Are Core Values Important for Restaurants?

Internally, these core principles help you implement values-based hiring. Unlike hiring just to find someone who has the experience and skills you’re looking for, values-based hiring strives to find someone who also shares your restaurant’s core values. In an industry known for high turnover, values-based hiring helps you find like-minded staff who will stay with you longer because they’re more engaged with their work and teammates.

Beyond hiring decisions, values also guide business decisions more generally. For example, if one of your restaurant’s values is treating animals with kindness, you’ll likely create a vegan menu. If you value sustainability, you’ll probably source ingredients as locally and as seasonally as possible.

Externally, your restaurant’s values help you attract like-minded customers. According to findings by Forrester, 51% of Gen Zers research brands to ensure they align with their values before supporting them financially. When you publish your values, you show customers what you stand for. 

How to Develop Your Restaurant’s Core Values

The key to developing the values of a restaurant is to think about what you believe in and what’s important to you.

What do you want your restaurant to achieve? 
How do you want to make your customers feel? 
How do you want to treat your employees? 
What do you want your dishes to say about your restaurant?
What do you want your restaurant’s brand identity to look like? 

Brainstorm these critical questions with your team. Then narrow these ideas down to several core values, which you’ll epitomize through everything you do (more on that soon). 

If you’ve already written a vision statement or unique selling proposition for your restaurant, borrow from them while writing your values.

Examples of Restaurants With Core Values

Let these examples of core values from well-known restaurants inspire you and give you direction as you create your own values.

Union Square Hospitality Group

New York City’s Union Square Hospitality Group, founded by famed restaurateur Danny Meyer, has made a name for itself in luxury dining. The hospitality group constantly innovates, such as when it eliminated tips and experimented with paying staff living wages. USHG’s core values are as follows:

“At USHG, what we do (our purpose) is to Extend Enlightened Hospitality, and how we do that is guided by our beliefs:

Hospitality is a team sport where everyone deserves an opportunity to thrive and belong. We play to win with humble confidence.
Center the salt shaker with an unwavering commitment to the excellence and the values that matter most.
Bring a charitable assumption and err on the side of generosity.
Turn over the rocks and always be connecting dots to build uplifting experiences and relationships.
Write a great next chapter. The road to success is paved with mistakes well-handled.
Leave our campsite better than we found it; always responsible for the impact of our wake.”

José Andrés Group

Spearheaded by celebrity chef and activist José Andrés, Washington, DC-based José Andrés Group’s mission is to “change the world through the power of food.” José and his team work on this mission by living these core values:

“Authenticity: We are storytellers, always seeking to share cultures with truth, compassion, and enthusiasm. 
Innovation: Creativity is at our core, as we push ourselves every day to explore new ways to cook, serve, and share. 
Passion: Our team is deeply driven by our mission and the desire to do what they love, and to be the very best in the industry. 
Service: Our guests are at the center of our business, so we are dedicated to the art of personalized, genuine hospitality. 
Profitability: We must sustain our business in order to continue to be a successful employer and a strong pillar in the industry. Profitability leads to possibility.”

Fire & Vine Hospitality

Fire & Vine Hospitality is responsible for some of the most iconic restaurants in the Pacific Northwest, including El Gaucho and Aerlume. The restaurant group’s purpose is to “revel in celebrating life.” They do this by embodying the following values:

“SERVICE: We provide every guest with a unique, unparalleled experience. We revel in celebrating lives.
QUALITY: Our mission is to source the best in the world for our guests to enjoy.
COMMUNITY: Building a strong community through financial giving, sharing time and resources, is a core company value.”

Villa Restaurant Group

Villa Restaurant Group, whose national portfolio includes restaurants like Villa, Far East Asian Kitchen and the Black Horse Tavern & Pub, has the following core values:

“INTEGRITY – Being truthful, sincere, and upfront with everyone you interact with.
FAMILY HOSPITALITY – The Scotto Family’s vision to ‘treat everyone in a warm, friendly, genuine manner, as you would Family.’
PASSION – Love and believe in what you do.
INNOVATION – Challenge the status quo, think creatively, and constantly evolve.
SUCCESS – Create a memorable experience for our Guests and each other.”

Thomas Keller Restaurant Group

Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, which is behind New York’s prix fixe Per Se and multiple hotspots in Napa Valley, operates around the following core values:

“MODESTY – Work toward achieving greatness, but maintain humility.
INTEGRITY – Use our best judgment; perform our work selflessly, honestly and caringly.
RESPECT – Show respect for our peers, our supervisors, our industry and our guests.
RESPONSIBILITY – Recognize and embrace the responsibility we have to our peers, our supervisors, our critics, our industry and ourselves to uphold the success we have achieved.
CONSISTENCY – Maintain our standards of quality moment to moment, day to day and year after year.
AWARENESS – Keep an open mind. Recognize innovation and realize inspiration, which will result in evolution and growth.
INITIATIVE – Have the courage to take initiative and the conviction to follow through. Search for new ideas and means of improvement.
TRUST – Have the confidence that we are all looking out for each other’s best interest.
COLLABORATION – Work together to achieve results that are greater than those we can achieve alone.
IMPACT – Make a positive difference in the experience of our guests and those around us.
SUCCESS – Create fond memories for our guests and each other.
LEGACY – Establish a benefit to the guest, the restaurant or the company that outlives us.”


Fast-food pioneer Chipotle’s values center around its belief that food has the power to change the world. Chipotle’s tagline, “be real,” exemplifies this value. For Chipotle, being real means using fresh food (no freezers, can openers, or shortcuts) and avoiding artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. The chain’s bags often boast about its use of “real” ingredients that you recognize and can pronounce.

Beyond food, being real extends to “treating people right.” Chipotle claims to do this by “supporting people who live our values with real culinary training, career opportunities and great benefits.”

Finally, sustainability is part of Chipotle’s values. The chain committed to diverting half of its waste from landfills in 2020, recycles its plastic gloves into trash bags, and publishes an annual sustainability report.

How to Integrate Your Core Values Into Your Restaurant’s Culture

It’s not enough to just write core values and forget about them. Instead, restaurants need to live their values through their culture. This is important for both employee retention and the guest experience.

Integrate your core values into your internal culture through values-based hiring. Doing so will help you find like-minded team members who will be the best fit for your family and more likely to stay with you for the long haul. Publish these values in your employee handbook and exhibit them throughout the onboarding and training processes.

To attract like-minded customers who see your business as a brand, rather than just a restaurant, you need to publish your values on your website and let them guide your branding and marketing strategy. Your values should be the driving force behind every marketing asset, from your logo to every Instagram caption you write.

FAQs About the Values of a Restaurant

1. Why Are Core Values Important For a Restaurant?

Core values help restaurants internally and externally. Internally, values guide business and hiring decisions. When published externally, values help restaurants attract like-minded customers who will want to keep coming back for more.

2. What Are Some Common Core Values Restaurants Should Consider?

Some popular restaurant core values include maintaining a high level of hospitality, implementing sustainable practices, making a positive impact and being authentic.

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