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how flame broiler created a culture 'rooted in purpose'

christian lee, head of operations at flame broiler, a rice bowl concept with locations in california, arizona, nevada, florida, oklahoma and texas, discusses how his father's passions for food and family have helped the family owned business thrive.

how flame broiler created a culture 'rooted in purpose'


by christian lee, head of operations at flame broiler

my father founded flame broiler in 1995 with the purpose of finding a way to provide for his family and do good at the same time. he believed that food has a profound impact on the health of our bodies and communities, but the majority of quick, affordable options weren't conducive to healthful lives. flame broiler was born on the idea of serving accessible, nutritious food to help people live the way we were designed. we serve healthy, korean-inspired bowls that also taste really darn good.

on this journey, my father discovered that food has power, and food is power. food is fuel, food is community, food is opportunity and, most personally to my father, food is family. for the past 27 years, he has been living and leading our values and sharing with the community. more recently, my two brothers and i have joined the company full time to lead alongside him and continue to build a deeply rooted culture.

our four core values are written as a narrative because it reads as the story of my family and the amazing people on our team. we exemplify love and help others win with fanatical excellence to feed communities. this is what we do and who we are. it's in our dna and informs every action we take as a company. ultimately, our purpose is to live and work for the restoration of holistic health in the world. it's lofty, but we so strongly believe the work we are doing is important and we have a responsibility to use our platform to share with the rest of the world.

this strong conviction for our work and culture has helped us get through the pandemic. living out culture doesn't just happen when it's easy, but especially when times get tough. it's in these difficult seasons the strength of the culture is revealed, sharpened, and deepened. when covid-19 hit, we decided to double down on our culture instead of focusing on maintaining our profits. we didn't lay off or furlough a single employee because our family wanted to continue our commitment to take care of them. the unexpected thing is, when we did that, they returned the favor twofold. the dedication and commitment to service our employees have showed are second to none and we couldn't be prouder of the people who define our company.

on top of that, we have increased our investment into leadership and appointed three new directors, including a director of people and culture to continue enhancing the employee experience. we saw the pandemic as a unique opportunity to slow down and build an even stronger foundation to our 27-year-old brand. we're gearing up for the next phase of growth and are beyond excited to continue bringing our menu to neighborhoods across the country.

through everything we experienced in the pandemic, we learned that a few practical steps in implementing our values had the greatest impact on our culture:

  1. clarity of values: we took time to know and define exactly what we value, because the existing beliefs of our family and team need to be consistent with our values.
  2. commitment to values: they live in everything we do from how we make decisions to what is celebrated, and to even how job descriptions are structured through them.
  3. communication of values: our values are what we talk about. we lead through them, start every meeting with them, and talk about what they mean to us on a consistent basis.


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