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Crafting the perfect mission statement

"Think different.” Apple’s simple yet brilliant mantra is what Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Old Chicago was chasing when it rewrote its mission statement as part of a rebranding earlier this year. Looking to best-in-class companies for inspiration, it discovered that an uncomplicated, experience-focused declaration packed more power than one detailing all the things the restaurant did. It illustrates a larger shift in how brands are articulating their purpose. Here, three tips for modern mission statements:

1. Keep it simple

“It’s got to be short, sharp and memorable,” says Mike Mrlik, president of Old Chicago, who helped pare down the original six-sentence statement to one. Restaurants in particular tend to have verbose, lengthy statements, Mrlik says. “It’s got to be simple and [easy for] the employee to understand, since they face the consumer day in and day out.”

Corey Winograd, CEO of North Palm Beach, Fla.-based BurgerFi, sees its mission statement (“BurgerFi is changing the way we think of the burger”) as a quick and effective way to explain the emerging fast casual’s vision not just to employees, but also to its growing base of franchisees and guests. It’s especially effective in communicating the brand’s goal up-front in the initial phase of the franchisee-vetting process, says Winograd.

2. Leave room to grow

“Because the mission statement is broad ... it’s stayed the same as we’ve grown and developed,” says Winograd. “[A broad statement] allows you to come up with strategies and tactics that fit within the mission statement without getting boxed in.” Lengthy statements, he says, lock concepts into details. Then, when it’s time to make changes to the brand, it strays from the core values in the statement and can easily go wayward.

3. Focus on the experience

A look at restaurants’ recent mission statement updates reveals a shift away from waxing on about the food. Old Chicago didn’t throw out its 40-plus year heritage with the revamped statement, but rather shifted the focus to the overall brand experience. The statment, in part, outlines a concept providing “a comfortable environment that simply says, ‘relax and enjoy a meal as good as the friends you’re with,’” alongside mention of its pizza and craft-beer programs. “It was a little more product focused before, but it’s about the experience and discovering and sharing now,” says Mrlik.

Chicago-based operator Mercadito Hospitality similarly revised its mission statement to be more experience-centered. “We’ve evolved. When we first opened, it wasn’t an experience-based restaurant,” says managing partner Alfredo Sandoval. Now, the statement includes language that speaks to that new focus. An excerpt: “It is important at all Mercadito Hospitality restaurants that every guest has a delightful dining experience by creating a welcoming ambiance and extraordinary service.” Says Sandoval, the new statement is “the philosophy of how we view customers and the experience … from food and beverage to ambiance to hospitality—that’s the message we try to get across.”

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