How Some of the Biggest Restaurant Chains Define Their Missions

Cheesecake Factory Cake display
••• Jiahui Huang/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

In a crowded and fiercely competitive retail restaurant industry, what differentiates one restaurant brand from another is essential to a chain’s survival. Each company must have a clear vision of its unique dining experience that can be communicated and duplicated in every company-owned and franchise location.

The most successful U.S. restaurant companies have distinct mission, vision and values statements to guide their operations. These statements define their brands, culture, and customer experience. Each is as unique as the individual restaurant company. Here are a few of the most notable. 


Applebee’s International, Inc. says it's all about contributing to the "growth, joy, and enrichment of all the lives we touch." Launched in 1980 in Atlanta by Bill and TJ Palmer, Applebee's changed hands a few times before going public in 1989. There are now more than 1,500 Applebee's locations worldwide. The corporation has offered free meals to veterans in the U.S. every Veteran's Day since 2008. 

Boston Market

"To create awesome food, served quickly, by warm and friendly people." At least, that was the company's initial mission statement. It was later tweaked to change "food" to "rotisserie meals," the food that Boston Market is known for. Arthur Cores and Steve Kolow opened the first Boston Market in Massachusetts with a spit, a fire, and a chicken. The concept worked. The company now has more than 450 locations and employs about 10,000 people. 

Buffalo Wild Wings

Buffalo Wild Wings doesn't just want to offer you good food. Its mission statement is to wow you. The chain began in 1982 in Columbus, Ohio, and was originally called Buffalo Wild Wings & Weck. A weck is a beef sandwich concoction beloved by folks in the Buffalo, New York region. These days, the company says it's about three things: wings, beer, and sports. 

Cheesecake Factory

The Cheesecake Factory got its start in the 1940s when Evelyn Overton created her cheesecake recipe. She opened her own bakery in Detroit and kept baking even when she had to relocate the operation to her own kitchen while she raised her kids. The family relocated to Los Angeles in 1972 and her son launched their first restaurant in Beverly Hills in 1978, featuring Evelyn's cheesecakes.

The chain has gradually expanded beyond cheesecake. Its restaurants serve full-blown meal menus, although the focus remains on desserts. The Cheesecake Factory's mission statement says "Our mission is to create an environment where absolute guest satisfaction is our highest priority." 

Famous Dave's BBQ Restaurant

Famous Dave's mission statement is short and sweet: "Outstanding barbecue combined with outstanding hospitality." The barbecue recipe was the creation of Dave Anderson, a young Ojibwe Native American who opened his first barbecue shack in Wisconsin in 1994 to pursue his goal of offering his customers the best barbecue in the country, if not the world. 


IHOP says simply that it wants to provide "good, quality food for breakfast." It's been owned by parent company Dine Equity since 2008. Dine Equity is the original IHOP Corp. with a name change. The restaurant stresses "integrity, excellence, innovation, responsibility, recording, trust and community" in its franchisees and employees. 

Little Caesars

Little Caesars wants to be "the best take-home pizza chain by exceeding customer expectations with extraordinary value, great tasting products, and outstanding people."

Founded in 1959, it was a happy result of the marriage of Mike Ilitch and Marian Bayoff, who dropped their life savings into opening a pizza store just outside Detroit. It eventually became the fastest-growing pizza chain in the country. 

Papa John’s Pizza

Papa John's aims to create "raving fans" through "authentic, superior-quality products, legendary customer service, and exceptional community service." And, of course, it gives customers this by delivery or pickup.

The company says its first pizza was created in a broom closet in. The original John sold his beloved Camaro to save the family business, a tavern, from bankruptcy. Then he converted a broom closet, installing a pizza oven in there, and began making and selling pizzas in the tavern in 1984. 


The Starbucks mission statement is low key. There's no raving or wowing here, just commitment. "Our mission is to create an environment where guest satisfaction is our highest priority." The coffeehouse franchise grew from a single store in Seattle in 1971, selling custom coffee beans, ground coffee, and spices. Today it boasts more than 25,000 stores located around the world. 

Subway Sandwiches

“To provide the tools and knowledge to allow entrepreneurs to compete successfully in the fast food industry worldwide, by consistently offering value to consumers through providing great tasting food that is good for them and made the way they want it." That's Subway's mission. Founder Frank DeLuca began making subs in 1965 to fund his education. He borrowed $1,000 and opened his first shop in Connecticut. Now with over 44,000 stores, the company remains privately owned.