Cameron Mitchell’s restaurant empire is based on a ratio. 49% of his company’s job is to make a profit. The remaining 51% — a majority — is to maintain the values and culture that Mitchell started out with 25 years ago.
“I wanted the company to be built by its people, for its people,” Mitchell told Ladders.
As founder and CEO of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, Mitchell has made unconventional choices that differentiate him from his colleagues in the hospitality industry. Usually, hotels and restaurants try to ratchet up profits whenever they can, which means employees are often working no matter the day. But during the biggest moneymaker days of the year, Mitchell actually shutters his restaurants, losing out on major profits for the benefit of his workers.
Among other holidays and Super Bowl Sunday, Mitchell closes on both Christmas Eve and Thanksgiving; he estimates his company would make a million dollars in revenue each day if they stayed open. But he’s happy as a clam to keep the policy if it means staying in touch with his values.
When Mitchell first started his company, people worked during holidays — including himself, because he felt he couldn’t ask his employees to do so if he didn’t. But then, he had an epiphany: If he couldn’t make enough money from working 357 days a year, he probably shouldn’t be in business, he said.
His values-first model has proven successful. Cameron Mitchell Restaurants makes a reported $300 million in annual revenue, according to CNN Business, and has lasted decades in a volatile industry.
But even more impressive is how many of his employees stay onboard. Mitchell said his company only experienced a 5% manager turnover rate last year, partly because his policies promote loyalty.
“What it really does is helps with retention. You know, our people feel like they’re family,” Mitchell said. And when people stay on, that’s a good thing: It saves the company money and means there’s more experienced staff.
Mitchell’s success is enviable, and other companies might choose to replicate his strategies. So Ladders asked what he would tell business owners who want to be more like him.
His answer was simple: “My advice is to think about what’s really important with your people.”