If you think mission statements are irrelevant mantras penned by overpriced consultants, you’re probably hanging out in the wrong lobbies. A good mission statement uses simple language to express a company’s essence, helps employees stay on target and lets clients know what to expect. Consider Walt Disney’s stated purpose: To make people happy.
“The mission statement should guide the culture,” says Luke Saucier, author of Cooking with Gas: The Official Guide to Restaurant Startups and Operations. “It should be posted all over the place so that employees can refer to it. They’re not idle words; they need to affect you and your business every day.”
That means coming up with concise language that clearly describes your goals and what makes your company unique. If your mission statement could work for a lot of companies in various industries, you need to start over.
To develop a mission statement, gather people from all over the company. Saucier says it’s important for the founder to be involved, but don’t be surprised if others have differing ideas of what the mission is. “When that happens, it’s an opportunity for everyone to come together,” says Jeffrey Abrahams, author of 101 Mission Statements from Top Companies. “The process can be the most important part.”
Look at sample mission statements online, then toss out a few of your own. As you get close, start refining the language.
We asked the experts to grade the mission statements of four restaurant companies.
Our Mission is to provide fresh, healthy, nutritious and great tasting food at reasonable prices in a clean, friendly and convenient environment.
Saucier: “Nice statement, but all I know is they serve healthy, fresh food. But what kind of food? Chinese? Hot or cold?” Grade: B
Abrahams: “It’s very clear. It’s quite successful.” Grade: A
Cameron Mitchell Restaurants
What we want to be: An extraordinary restaurant company.
Who we are: Great people delivering genuine hospitality.
What is our role: To make ‘raving fans’ of our associates, guests, purveyors, partners and our communities.
What is our mission: To continue to thrive, driven by our culture and fiscal responsibilities.
What is our goal: To be better today than we were yesterday and better tomorrow than we are today.
Abrahams: “This is about 80 percent there. Their mission doesn’t get specific enough—to ‘continue to thrive’ just isn’t enough.” Grade: B
Saucier: “This one looks good at first glance. But does it tell you anything at all about what they do?” Grade: C
Granite City Food and Brewery
Our mission at Granite City is to develop and operate highly successful restaurants by consistently exceeding our Guests’ expectations in product, service and overall dining experience. We are committed to consistent, long-term growth in unit and overall company earnings and to superior returns for our shareholders. We will be committed to the company’s vision and be guided by our stated values. We will be recognized as the leader in the casual dining industry.
Saucier: “It’s full of legalese. It could be shortened and also speak directly to the customer.” Grade: C
Legal Sea Foods
To define trends in our industry with our dedication to “Return of Guest” through our active passion in all endeavors to which we as an organization commit ourselves to continually teach and learn, and be driven by a humble but ambitious demand for operational excellence throughout our organization to be precedent-setting in our responsibility to sustainable fishing, the seafood industry, the environment, and the communities in which we do business.
Saucier: “If a child can’t understand it, you are missing the point. And there’s no way a child would understand this.” Grade: F
Abrahams: “This is the most perplexing statement I’ve ever seen. I have a feeling that they tried to put too much into one long rambling sentence; it’s basically a fish stew with too many ingredients that don’t belong.” Grade: F.