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Let’s Talk about Culture

As business comes roaring back for the hospitality industry and companies scramble to hire enough team members to keep up with demand, the need to focus on culture is more important than ever before. 2022 is shaping up to be an incredible year for almost all the catering companies I’ve spoken with and the biggest concern I hear is the ability to retain and attract talent.  

A great company culture is essential to doing both of those things and is at the center of what will differentiate the experience of companies in 2022. There will be plenty of business out there for those who want it, but those who make culture a priority will find it much easier to navigate this recovery, while those who struggle with culture are in for a bumpy ride that will undoubtedly cause frustration, exhaustion, and the proverbial feeling of “spinning their wheels.”

See Anthony Lambatos at  Catersource + The Special Event. 
Don’t miss any of Anthony Lambatos’ sessions during Catersource + The Special Event this May. On Tuesday, May 3 at 4:00 p.m., he will present State of the Industry: Workplace Culture, where he will share the best ways to design culture in order to retain and attract top talent. He will also provide insight into where the industry currently stands, what employees want and what lies ahead.  Get all the details at

Thanks to the tech industry, most people hear “culture” and think ping pong tables and beer fridges. While those can be components of culture, they are miniscule in comparison to the things that truly make a great place to work. Culture is much more about the way in which your company operates, how people treat one another, how team members feel about their work, and the direction the company is heading. Here are a few things that companies are facing now and some suggestions on how to approach them.

Burnout is real, but it’s not about hours  

Have you ever worked on a project for hours and afterward felt energized, fulfilled, and accomplished? On the flip side think of a time where you worked for an hour on a project that absolutely drained you. Many employees are feeling burnout right now, not because they’ve had to work a ton of hours over the past couple of years, they are feeling burnout because they are having to do work that doesn’t fill them up. When companies were forced to downsize, the people left standing had to pick up the pieces and fill roles that they weren’t accustomed to doing. This was okay in the short term under the guise of “let’s all get through this,” but as business picks up and companies struggle to hire, there is a heavy workload on some team members that need to get back into the positions where they thrive. When we use our strengths, we are more efficient, happier, and more fulfilled. Companies must focus on making sure that their people are in the right positions that allow them to use those strengths and be diligent about hiring others that can fill the vacant positions. Otherwise, they risk becoming a statistic of the great resignation.

Are you consistent with your core values?

Core values are a critical piece of culture; having them is the first step, living by them is what really matters. Many things have changed because of COVID, and it may take some time for you to revisit your core values. Getting clear on what they are and what they mean will help you communicate to your team why decisions are being made and provide direction as to where the company is going. As new team members are brought on, they must be integrated into your culture and the best way to do that is through core values, so they understand what type of behavior is expected. As you do this, make sure you can be consistent with them. It is counterproductive and even detrimental to have a core value that you cannot live by. Actions speak louder than words and it undermines your credibility as a leader when you say one thing and do another. I do not think companies do this intentionally, but they fall into the trap of trying to do it all. At some point you must decide what is most important and draw a line in the sand. Take for example customers vs. employees; both are important and there is not a right answer here to which is more important; it is specific to each company. But if you say employees are the most important thing, then you must be willing to say no to customers in order to protect your team. I spoke to employees from one team who said their company promised balance to everyone and agreed not to take Sunday morning events so that their team could recover from the week and late Saturday nights. Then four weeks in a row they took on small events because it was for a “great customer.” I’m not criticizing the company for taking the small events, I’m just pointing out the inconsistency that causes frustration among team members. 

How do I find the time to focus on culture?

Culture is not something that you work on in the slow season and then put on the backburner when things get busy. Culture is something that you must work on and protect throughout the entire year. A mentor of mine once told me, “We have time for whatever we want to do, we make time for what is important.” If culture is going to be a focal point for you, then you have to be disciplined enough to carve out time to work on it each week. Start with something manageable, maybe it’s 30 minutes, it may be an hour, but do something to be intentional about where you want your culture to go. If you just focus on making it a little better every day, you’ll be well on your way to a much smoother 2022.

I’m looking forward to diving deeper into the culture discussion during my sessions at Catersource this year. I hope to see you there!.

Anthony Lambatos

Anthony Lambatos

Owner/CEO, Footers Catering, Denver, CO

Anthony Lambatos is melding the historic Footers name with new and exciting trends in catering. He grew up in the business, from scraping plates for his dad, founder of Footers Catering Jimmy Lambatos, to hosting his own concession stand at Parade of Homes in high school. He has worked full time for Footers Catering since 2004 as Vice President and became Co-owner and CEO at the beginning of 2010. Anthony is passionate about taking the knowledge he has learned from his father and putting a fresh spin on it.