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The Effects of Culture and Fermentation

Culture and fermentation are generally positive words in the culinary world. However, in the workplace, it can be totally different.

The word “fermented” is interesting because it can either be good or bad. In a good sense, it refers to the chemical change that’s used to produce chemical changes in juice or food products. Juice, for example, can be turned into alcoholic beverages. The negative connotation is a state of agitation.

I wrote an article recently about a very negative experience we encountered in visiting what had been one of our favorite spots to eat. So as to not embarrass anyone and because I assumed it was an anomaly, I omitted the restaurant’s name but did email the restaurant’s head office to inform them of our experience.

To my surprise, I not only didn’t receive a response. I didn’t even get an acknowledgment of my note. To give them the benefit of doubt, I emailed again since some emails sometimes end up in a spam folder or get lost. But yet again, I never received any acknowledgment, much less an answer.

What a revelation of a company’s culture! The restaurant is Bob Evans, which is based in Ohio and has nearly 500 locations throughout the state as well as in Florida, West Virginia,, the Carolinas, and thirteen other states. I could only conclude that the manager in training with whom we had the negative experience was simply a mirror image of that culture.

This is why the “trickle down” effect that management exudes is critical to the culture expected throughout any workplace system. In today’s work environment with so many businesses desperately seeking workers, it’s even more critical that they portray the kind of employer applicants admire and are seeking.

Bob Evans launched his business in 1948, starting with the delivery of sausages from his farm I doubt that he ever envisioned such an explosion of his business. Based on his earlier values, Bib Evans’ marketing staff pitches bringing “the values of the farm to our table.´ They go on to add, ”We treat strangers like friends, and friends like family.” That may have been practiced in 1948 but is certainly not the case today.

Studies have shown that applicants in today’s job market are seeking employers who care about their employees as well as their customers and clients. Many, especially, Gen Z, left employers they didn’t respect during then pandemic. A human-centric approach, diversity, and inclusion are important more than ever. Engagement and empowerment are also critical.

The Equality Act of 2010 protects people in the workplace but equity has yet to be covered. Managers at Bob Evans receive full benefits while others, like servers, do not. These kinds of facts are not top secret and knowledge of the inequity affects employee morale as well as turnover.

As another old saying goes, “Practice what you preach” and, where it’s absent, set the gold standard for your industry by treating all employees as equals. Of course, Bob Evans gave all its employees Christmas Day off but only managers received a paid holiday.

What Lies Ahead?

The adage about doing things the way the way it was always been done before has been history ever since the pandemic. But for astute marketers, 2023 is promising, especially for those catering to clients with higher incomes.

Several lessons have been learned since the pandemic. Consumers are now more leery of and moving away from companies they no longer trust or who’ve been loose with their data and information. An earlier article discussed the hordes of previously loyal customers who left vendors they had been with for years. Subsequent surveys have shown that very few return once they decided to switch brands.

Another discovery is that consumers saved as much as six times more than they had in the pre-recession period sixty years ago. Cambridge-based Forrester Research predicted that household cash flow will increase by more the 6% in the second half of next year.

The research arm of luxury brand, Saks Fifth Avenue, is even more optimistic. They reported that in a recent September survey, more than three-fourths of customers polled (76%) said they expect to spend as much, if not more, this holiday season than they did last year which was down 50% from 2021. And a whopping 68% revealed that they expect to holiday shop before Thanksgiving.

What this all means is that brands need to be more alert to good customer service and be ready right now. Not only is it critical to protect customer information, but it’s also vital to keep customers informed about what’s being done for them in that same regard.

Tailoring communications to customers will continue to be important. Sending the same message to all without regard to personal preferences and sometimes even gender can be fatal. Consider the reaction of a gourmet market sending attractive meat sale offers to a vegan. Double-check how you’re acquiring and using customer data. Personalize messages as much as possible. Consider investing in a customer-data platform.

Similarly, if you use AI as a partial or total service for customer queries, be sure that it is programmed to identify questions that need to be forwarded to a living being sooner than later. There’s nothing more frustrating than repeatedly trying to explain a problem to AI. Such calls often result in returned items or a future loss of business or both.

Something else that rose in popularity since the pandemic are OTT platforms or “Over the Top” streaming media services. What’s good about that for marketers is that ads can and should be personalized. Learn more about the power of OTT and take advantage of it before your competition.


On a recent morning visit to one of our favorite neighborhood dining spots, we at first thought we had entered the wrong establishment. Why?

There was a line of diners waiting to be seated but it wasn’t any busier than many previous visits. Then, we thought a staff shortage contributed to the delay. However, we saw many of the same familiar and friendly faces we’ve seen for years…except for one.

That foreign face turned out to be who we later learned was a manager-in-training. After waiting several minutes and getting to our turn in line, she never even acknowledged us or our having to wait. We were happy though that she accommodated our request to sit in our favorite server’s section. She seated us, dropped a pair of menus on the table and left. Not even a warm smile. We subsequently learned that that’s how she always is and that several employees had quit because of her management style.

Hearing that saddened us because we love the staff there. On the other hand, it wasn’t a surprise because a recent survey by Salesforce, a leading multinational tech company, reported that employees who feel they’re being heard at work are four time more likely to deliver their best performances and stay.

Unfortunately, many organizations don’t ask their workers for candid feedback and those that do, aren’t sure how or what to ask. Companies seeking to retain good workers and boost morale should consider= the following two steps.

Step one: what does the company hope to learn and implement from the survey? Who will be polled? How often should this be conducted? If the organization is earnest in improving, confidential surveys should be done on a regular basis to track progress to not only gather feedback but as to measure any progress on changes made.

Step two: How will the survey be conducted and promoted? How will employees be informed about the results and what happens next and in the future? The survey must be confidential and any action steps and changes coming from that must be clearly communicated.

Oftentimes, other good things besides turnover result because of a transparent and caring corporate attitude. Employees who feel their company cares and listens are more loyal and can even be credible ambassadors in their community. That kind of positive environment encourages productive teamwork and positive social encounters. At the very least, employee surveys offer an introspective look and another avenue for feedback that can oftentimes be filtered if it’s only coming from managers.

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