An example of business ethics made real from an Alberta small business owner
Business ethics is rooted in being socially responsible and supporting local for Ram Khanal of Water Tower Grill & Bar in Lethbridge
By ATB Financial 26 January 2021 4 min read
When Ram Khanal, owner of the Water Tower Grill & Bar in Lethbridge,was invited to the 2020 Business of the Year Awards with the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce, he wasn’t too surprised. As a board member of the Chamber, he knew he’d attend the virtual event that celebrates outstanding businesses in the community.
But winning an award?
“That came as a surprise to me,” says Khanal, who owns two other restaurants called Telegraph Taphouse and Picture Butte Hotel and Tavern. “It was a great honour to win the award in the first year of operation.”
What are business ethics?
Khanal’s Water Tower won the 2020 Business Ethics Award, which is presented to a company that best demonstrates a commitment to advancing marketplace trust through ethical business practices. Types of business ethics principles can include personal responsibility, corporate responsibility, loyalty, respect, trustworthiness, fairness, and community and environmental responsibility.
Khanal incorporates these practices into his approach to The Water Tower as well as his other two restaurants. For him, running an ethical business is rooted in being socially responsible by prioritizing employees, getting to know your customers, supporting local and giving back to the community.
"Being an ethical business is part of who we are. I strive to be as socially responsible as I can be."
Owner, Water Tower Grill
Business ethics best practices
Khanal credits his incredible success as an Alberta entrepreneur to his open and honest approach to his customers and employees. When it comes to business ethics, he follows these best practices:
Investing in employees and keeping them safe is a key part of how Khanal runshis restaurants.
For example, when he took over The Water Tower in 2019, he offered to keep any of the employees who wanted to stay.
When hiring new employees, his interviews start with a series of questions about the applicant’s core values for work and daily living to ensure they align with how he and fellow employees approach the world.
“If they only focus on getting a paycheque, they are not the right fit for us,” he says, adding it’s important to hire the right kind of people and that starts at the very beginning of the process.
Keeping employees safe—especially during the COVID-19 pandemic—is another key part of Khanal’s approach. In the summer months of the pandemic, one employee had close contact with someone who contracted COVID.
“We shut down all three operations and got everyone tested. We underwent a thorough cleaning and sanitization process before reopening,” he says. “We wanted to make sure we were okay. We didn’t want to put any employee or customer at risk.”
This focus on employees can transform them into brand ambassadors for the restaurant, he says, which creates a better experience for customers.
Get to know customers
Khanal says getting to know your customers can help you be a more ethical business. By learning more about their values and what is important to them, you can ensure your business meets and exceeds their expectations. For example, he knows his customers are environmentally conscious, so the restaurants use recyclable paper products to reflect this shared value.
“People don’t go to restaurants simply because they are terribly hungry. You go to a restaurant that you have an emotional connection to,” he says. “People go because they know the owner, or know there is great local food. Getting to know customers allows you to align with their needs and values.”
At The Water Tower ingredients are locally sourced whenever possible, says Khanal.
“I work with local ranchers and farmers to support them, so it’s the kind of business that we want people to be proud of and know that it is not all about money. It’s all about how we work together and how we can showcase the whole of Lethbridge,” he told Lethbridge News Now.
He says it is important to be able to tell customers the sources of his ingredients and how the food is transported so they feel more confident eating at the restaurant.
This includes beer too.
“Our craft beer comes from 50 kilometres around the restaurant. Our customers know where our money goes when we support local,” he says.
Supporting local goes beyond the food and beer too. “One thing I always keep in mind is hire local people,” he says.
Give back to the community
Supporting community efforts is a big part of Khanal’s approach to ethical business practices.
Every year Khanal hosts a fireman’s dinner to raise money for local firefighters. He also supports community food banks whenever he has the chance. The company sponsors a minor league hockey team, baseball team, curling team and volleyball team, to name a few.
Khanal’s next charitable initiative is to sell branded water bottles in The Water Tower. The revenue from these sales will go to a non-profit organization that provides reliable water projects to communities in sub-Saharan Africa who lack of access to clean water.
The benefits of business ethics
“[Being an ethical business] is not an easy way, but it is rewarding,” says Khanal. “Once customers see and experience your business, they will reward you.”
Khanal says that running his restaurants like this felt like it was expensive at first, but in the end he knows he’s saved money.
“We’ve saved money on advertising because word of mouth helped us,” he says.
Through his ethical business practices and delicious food, Khanal has built a loyal customer base who have enthusiastically supported his locations.
“A satisfied customer will share with colleagues, friends, and family,” he says. “I always think about the long-term relationship because customers are for life.”