Building Brands: Lessons on branding and business from The Bear

Like most of America, I am a huge fan of the TV show The Bear. I only started the series last weekend, and was immediately hooked, binging two seasons in three viewings.
Note: This column is full of spoilers so if you haven’t seen the series, I’d encourage you to save this column until you have.
The show follows Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto, a world-renowned chef who inherits his brother’s hot beef sandwich shop in Chicago following his brother’s suicide. He also inherits the rag-tag kitchen staff, who, through two seasons, a lot of blood, sweat and tears he turns into an elite team of chefs.
It didn’t take long for me to see that the fast-paced, highly entertaining show, which also has an amazing soundtrack, was full of lessons on branding and business. I’m not alone in that discovery as there are many articles on that topic. Below is my take on a few of those lessons. Something to note: The Bear is a TV show, not a documentary on success. So, while it’s full of great examples of leadership and perseverance, it displays — at times — a toxic work environment and a group of people who have no concept of a work-life balance. It’s a TV show. It would be boring if it didn’t include those aspects. I mention it here so that you keep in mind a method to implement these lessons in a healthier way. Now, grab your spoon and dig in.
Mutual respect is a must: “Yes, chef” is the most common phrase on the show. Every person in the kitchen responds to each other like this, no matter the request or the person asking. This shared language shows shared respect, ultimately leading to a well-oiled teamwork machine heavy on communication. It also shows respect to leadership. “Yes, Chef” doesn’t mean that the team blindly follows the leader, instead it shows that they’ve “heard” what leadership has asked and will ultimately execute. Once a chef has immediately acknowledged a request with “Yes, Chef” he or she can follow up with “may I ask why.” No matter the industry, leaders have earned their position and deserve to be listened to, and team members deserve insight into the bigger picture.
Work with a sense of urgency: Early on, Carmy writes “Sense of Urgency” on a piece of green tape and places it where his team can see. Later in the series the phrase “every second counts” gets used a lot. These are concepts we can all implement in our business. A reminder to hustle to get the work done in a timely fashion. Don’t work so fast that you lose your attention to detail, but work like you’ve got hungry people on the other side of the wall.
Get out of the kitchen to eat: During the show we see the chefs take culinary journeys— both in their home town and abroad — to expand their palate, experience new flavors, re-experience old flavors and, most importantly, be inspired. Whether developing a menu, writing a column or designing a logo, the lesson is that not all of the work can be done “in the kitchen.” It’s important to walk away. Take a breath. Take a look around you and come back to the project with fresh eyes, a new perspective and inspiration.
86 the phrase “That’s the way we’ve always done it.”: Our team at View Newspaper Group hates this phrase. While we always look back on how we’ve accomplished a task in the past, we never assume it’ll be done the same way the next time around. This ensures our team is constantly looking for ways to improve creativity and efficiency, ultimately leading to bigger successes. As The Bear demonstrates, this isn’t an easy habit to kick. Change is hard. If it were up to the team at the restaurant, they would still be serving hot beef sandwiches instead of running a world-class restaurant. The impetus to the massive transformation started when Carmy refused to do things one way just because that’s how it’s always been done.
Customer service is key: One of the best episodes is when Richie “Cousin” is sent to intern at a fancy restaurant. Resistant to the experience at first, once Richie sees the results of the above and beyond customer service offered at this restaurant, he realizes the payoff is more than worth the effort. No matter your industry, excellent customer service means researching your customers, listening to your customers and delivering an experience that exceeds expectations. If you only watch one episode of The Bear, it should be this one. You’ll walk away with a million ideas on how to excel in customer service.
If you watched The Bear, what business and branding lessons did you learn? Email me at

Emily Caswell is the Brand Manager for VIEW Group, the branding division of View Newspaper Group.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.