Sneak Peek: Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen

Cheddar's Sneak Peek

Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen is a welcoming neighborhood restaurant featuring quality homemade food at reasonable prices. Founded in Texas in 1979, the brand now has 160 company-owned and franchise locations in 23 states. Their recipe for success seems to be working. We sat down with Lynne Bartusek, Cheddar’s Executive Vice President, Talent & Human Resources to learn about the strategy behind the brand’s exceptional guest experience.

What is so special about the Cheddar’s guest experience?

We give our guests something they don’t always expect from casual dining – simple and natural ingredients, scratch-based recipes and quality handmade food. And we make sure each guest realizes their food is being prepared with care and time.

How do your employees impact your guest experience strategy?

Our team members are integral to the guest experience. We need them to understand our differentiators and feel comfortable sharing them with each guest that comes into our restaurant. One of the ways we work to engage our people in Cheddar’s culture is by having them taste our food within their very first 30 minutes on the job. We invite them to see and taste our from-scratch, homemade difference. This establishes an early respect for the heart of the house …  and, it’s when the light bulb goes on. They can actually see and taste the scratch-made difference. Believing and understanding this difference is what allows them to create great experiences for our guests.

How do you share your scratch-based culture with your guests?

We focus on empowering our servers with the information they need to do their best job, so they have a great shift and ultimately make better tips by creating the best guest experience possible.

One of the ways we engage our team members in our scratch-based culture is through our Scratch Kitchen Sustain toolkit, which we worked with Root to create. Kits contain menu items flashcards. Before a shift, managers discuss a featured item with the servers, ask them to taste it and use the flashcards as a guide for how to describe the item. Servers are told ingredients, key steps in the recipe and the name of who is making the dish that day. We want guests to know there are real people behind the scenes mixing, chopping, cooking and baking just for them. And we want our servers to feel comfortable and authentic sharing this information. So we don’t expect them to memorize a script. Instead we give them the information they need, have them taste the food and trust they will deliver the messages in a way that feels natural and creates a nice rapport with their guests.

What are your thoughts on the relationship between a brand’s guest experience strategy and its culture?

At Cheddar’s, our culture is based on our brand differentiation, which is our scratch positioning – the level of homemade scratch cooking we offer – along with an unwavering commitment to high quality and high value. Our team members embrace this, believe in it and come to work because they appreciate this differentiation. This is more than just our brand mission and the basis of our culture – it’s the foundation of the guest experience strategy, too. Everything is linked together.

Is there a piece of advice you’d give a brand looking to elevate its guest experience strategy?

First and foremost – talk to your guests! Ask them for their opinion and feedback. And ask in lots of different ways. Our brand team is always seeking out ways to enhance the guest experience, so we’ll conduct surveys, hold focus groups. We want to hear from our regular guests. Potential guests. And even guests that have not decided to come back. We don’t stop asking – and we make sure we listen.

What is one of the best lessons you’ve learned during your career as it relates to guest experience?

If a brand wants to provide exceptional guest service, it’s critical to have established cultural beliefs that are integrated with your brand. For example, one of our Cultural Beliefs is “Right Stuff … Right Way.” This might be demonstrated by a server running someone else’s food or addressing a guest’s need in real time to offer a great guest experience. The behaviors that flow from the Cultural Beliefs are central to delivering the brand experience because they were designed to support the Brand as well as make Cheddar’s a fabulous place to work.