I recently interviewed Cameron Mitchell, founder and CEO of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants. His 60 restaurants are recognized for more than just good food; they also feature an amazing level of service. His mantra, as I call it, is actually the title of his recent book: Yes is the Answer! What is the Question? Since customer service is my passion, I thought our interview would focus on that. Instead, he surprised me with the simple story of how he created his culture. Before we dive into that, let me tell you more about Mitchell.
Mitchell spent the first part of his career in the restaurant industry working for someone else. Not unlike most successful restauranteurs, he started at the bottom as a dishwasher. He became a line cook and eventually attended and graduated from the CIA (Culinary Institute of America). He worked for a small chain of restaurants before venturing out on his own. These experiences he had working for others set him up for success.
The first thing Mitchell did was write out his company culture and values, which are rooted in five questions – we’ll get to those in just a moment. More than anything, he knew that the culture had to be focused on people. “I wanted to build a company that was built for its people by its people … a restaurant company wrapped around a great culture and set of values. I’m still doing that same thing 27 years later.”