Norms is expanding like crazy. How a SoCal institution is staying the same to get ahead (2023)

It’s four hours into Ruthie Krocker’s morning shift at Norms in West Hollywood and the seasoned 70-year-old waitress seems to have sprouted tentacles. One arm is picking up a carafe of coffee, the other is clearing a plate of pancakes, another arm drops a check and another wipes down the counter.

There’s a rhythm, a chaos and a crushing tempo to the morning shift that Krocker has come to love in her 44 years as a waitress at the longtime diner. The grease stink of the griddle, covered in a jigsaw puzzle of hash browns and bacon. Hurried scoops of butter onto waiting stacks of pancakes. The camaraderie with the regulars who fill the entrance, waiting for a seat in her section.

The name tag affixed to her blouse reads “Mama Ruthie.” On this morning, Krocker’s tight curls of jet-black hair frame a round face with eyes that smile behind bedazzled rhinestone glasses. This is the face you want to see first thing in the morning.


“I’ve been coming here for 22 years,” actor Peter Stormare, 66, seated at the counter, said during one of his weekly breakfasts of three eggs, home fries and four strips of bacon. “It’s pretty much always the same here and I think that’s what people like about Norms.”

Norms is expanding like crazy. How a SoCal institution is staying the same to get ahead (1)

Actor Peter Stormare has been coming to the Norms at West Hollywood for 22 years. A big reason is familiarity with the food and people like Ruthie Krocker, who has been a waitress at the location for 44 years.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

For the record:

10:21 a.m. Jan. 31, 2020A previous version of this article said there are 19 Norms locations. There are 20. Also, the test kitchen is in Bellflower, not Lawndale. The story also said CapitalSpring bought Norms six years ago. The sale was in December 2014. The story also said Norms has been benefiting from the company’s international purchasing arrangements; it is only using its domestic purchasing power. It also said CapitalSpring had bought stakes in restaurant chains such as Denny’s; it invested in franchises of the brands.

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For its first 65 years, Norms was a family business founded and run by Norm Roybark, who opened the first location in Hollywood in 1949. Over time, the chain became part of the collective Angeleno culinary consciousness, today with 20 locations all in Southern California, each built in a futuristic Googie style punctuated with Norms’ distinctive sawtooth pennant sign.

The expected familiarity, reliability and consistency are among the reasons Norms has cultivated a loyal fan base of regular diners at its tables and lifers on its payroll. It’s a recipe the company’s new owners hope to replicate as part of a major expansion plan currently underway for the venerable chain.

Five years ago, the Roybarks sold the Bellflower company to CapitalSpring, an investment firm that has invested in franchises of restaurant chains including Denny’s, Coco’s, Taco Bell and Hardee’s. After the sale, some longtime customers fretted that the quality of the food might decline or prices might rise. Instead, things seem to have remained largely unchanged, and now the new owners appear to be doubling down on the Norm-ness of Norms.

“It’s a very fine line when you take over a heritage brand that was doing pretty well,” Norms Chief Executive Mike Colonna said. “We always felt we could make Norms better, but the term I used is evolution, not revolution.”

Part of that plan involves rapidly expanding the company’s footprint. When Norms was sold in 2014, there were 17 restaurants. Two more opened in 2018, in El Monte and Carson, and another last year in Inglewood. This year will see the biggest growth in the company’s history with new locations slated for Encino, Rialto, Northridge, Ontario Mills at the Mall and Hollywood.

“We could not have expanded before because the former ownership was Norm’s children and his wife,” said Jerry O’Connell, the company’s vice president of operations and a Norms employee since 1979. “They were somewhat conservative and didn’t want to go into debt.”

Norms is expanding like crazy. How a SoCal institution is staying the same to get ahead (2)

Norms’ distinctive sawtooth pennant sign at its West Hollywood location on La Cienega Blvd.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The company is in the process of submitting letters of intent to bring Norms to downtown Long Beach, Chino Hills, Santa Monica and Pasadena, and plans to open at least 10 other restaurants in Southern California in the near future, according to Colonna.

And down the road, Norms might find its way to other states.

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“There’s no reason why this couldn’t be very successful in Arizona or anywhere else,” O’Connell said.

Norms traffics in a classic diner experience that smacks of post-World War II Americana.

The meatloaf, served under thick, glossy gravy with two slices of bacon, comes with soup, salad, vegetables and your choice of mashed or baked potato. At $11.49, you don’t have to be a returning G.I. to know that’s a value.

There are some 150 different items on the expansive shiny menu, with sections devoted to burgers, steak dinners and fish. The bestselling item, the Bigger Better Breakfast, is a behemoth of a meal: two eggs any way, ham, two strips of bacon, two links of sausage, hash browns and a choice of hotcakes or toast. It will set you back $8.99.


Norms is expanding like crazy. How a SoCal institution is staying the same to get ahead (3)

Norms’ Bigger Better Breakfast: two eggs any way, ham, two strips of bacon, two links of sausage, hash browns and a choice of hotcakes or toast. The cost? $8.99.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)


Norms is ‘where life happens.’ Thus, this meatloaf is life

This classic meatloaf is sliced and griddled at Norms, which gives it crusty edges.

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David Cox, vice president of food and beverage at Norms, said he tries to improve the menu where and when he can, without fracturing the Norms that many Angelenos hold in their memories.

“It’s about keeping it comfortable enough where customers might want to take a chance,” Cox said.

To that end, Cox said he and his team are constantly trying out new dishes, using the Norms in Bellflower as a test kitchen. It typically takes about six months for something new, such as chicken fingers with Sriracha honey and waffles or a chorizo breakfast burrito, to make it onto the menu, and a staff majority vote is needed to take something off.


“People come to Norms pretty much knowing what they want to have,” O’Connell said, adding, “We don’t want to be cutting-edge.

“The Sriracha honey chicken and waffles is really just to tell the world that we’re not asleep.”

Norms is expanding like crazy. How a SoCal institution is staying the same to get ahead (5)

Cooks prepare orders at Norms in West Hollywood.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

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Norms is expanding like crazy. How a SoCal institution is staying the same to get ahead (6)

Hostess Hope Voedisch goes to greet customers at Norms.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Norms is expanding like crazy. How a SoCal institution is staying the same to get ahead (7)

Waitress Maria Mundo serves a family at Norms in West Hollywood on a Monday morning.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Since coming under new ownership, Norms has been tapping into CapitalSpring’s purchasing arrangements to buy goods in bulk at lower prices and to pay less for services like credit card fees, Colonna said.


“We run the company lean and mean,” he said. “We don’t have tremendous overhead. Our offices are in Bellflower. We’re not in Beverly Hills.”

That strategy appears to be paying off. On CapitalSpring’s website, Colonna is quoted as saying that with the investment firm’s involvement, Norms has “doubled our profitability.”

Not all of the changes have gone over well with Krocker, who retired in January. Before leaving, she said things feel more corporate at Norms these days.

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“The old owners, they really cared about their employees,” Krocker said. “The new owners, I don’t really know them well because they just started, but it’s a lot of changes.”

But Krocker, who met her husband of 32 years at the restaurant, said she loves the job.

“Everybody is happy here,” she said. “You can come and leave your problems at home.”


How does norms maintain social order in society? ›

On the other hand, social norms also explain how social order can be maintained since they define an individual's roles in a particular situation. These norms, or mutual relationships, draw a line between what we perceive as right and wrong and are based on adopting specific ways.

What is the concept of norms in sociology? ›

Social norms are the perceived informal, mostly unwritten, rules that define acceptable and appropriate actions. within a given group or community, thus guiding human. behaviour.1,2,3 They consist of what we do, what we believe. others do, and what we believe others approve of and.

What are three factors that cause change in social norms and culture over time? ›

What are the three factors that cause change in social norms and culture over time? Invention, discovery, and diffusion. How is real culture different from ideal culture? Ideal culture are cultural guidelines publicly embraced by members of a society .

Who stated that social institutes promote social folkways and norms? ›

Wood ward and Maxwell: An institution is a set of folkways and mores into a unit which serves a number of social functions. Horton: An institution is an organized system of social relationships which embodies certain common values and procedures and meets certain basic needs of society.

How can social norms be changed or maintained? ›

An effective tool to change social norms are “community discussions,” where members of the same group identify local harmful practices and the norms that sustain them, eventually renegotiating both to achieve greater health, well-being, and empowerment for themselves and others in their group (Linos et al. 2013).

How do norms control social behavior? ›

They are often based on what people believe to be normal, typical, or appropriate. Social norms can function as unspoken rules or guidelines for how people behave, and for how people are expected to behave. People generally follow social norms because they want to fit in with the people around them.

Why are norms important in society? ›

Norms provide order in society. It is difficult to see how human society could operate without social norms. Human beings need norms to guide and direct their behavior, to provide order and predictability in social relationships, and to make sense of and understand each other's actions.

Why are norms important in sociology? ›

Norms are a “social contract” that supports a group's collaborative work. Norms that are explicit and visible to the entire group can provide a framework for addressing behavior that might be distracting from the goals of the group.

What are examples of social norms? ›

Social norms are unwritten rules of behavior shared by members of a given group or society. Examples from western culture include: forming a line at store counters, saying 'bless you' when someone sneezes, or holding the door to someone entering a building right after you.

What factors influence social norms? ›

Social norms vary not only depending on with a specific culture but also with age, gender, social roles and situations that people find themselves in or engage with.

What causes social norms to change? ›

The changing strength of norms is linked to fluctuations in societal levels of innovation and risky behaviour. The United States is not what it used to be. The rules for behaviour in US society today look quite different from what they did in the late eighteenth century at the country's inception.

What factors change social norms? ›

Social norms are influenced by belief systems, perceptions of what others expect and do, and sometimes by perceived rewards and sanctions. In some situations, norms can perpetuate practices that potentially undermine health and well-being and/or disadvantage certain social groups.

Who controls social norms? ›

Society uses certain sanctions to enforce a standard of behavior that is deemed socially acceptable. Individuals and institutions utilize social control to establish social norms and rules, which can be exercised by peers or friends, family, state and religious organizations, schools, and the workplace.

What are the 4 types of social norms? ›

The four types of social norms are: folkways, mores, taboos, and laws.

Who sets the norms in society? ›

Social norms are created through a process called socialization. We learn about these norms from our family, schools, and society as we grow up. These behaviors become so ingrained in us that they seem natural to us without realizing their origins or how much of an impact they have on our lives.

Are social norms always changing? ›

As a result, while our biases may be slow to change—they're based on long-standing stereotypes, and we have been learning them since birth—our norms can shift at the speed of social life.

Do norms change behavior? ›

A norms approach attempts to change what people think others like them are feeling and doing. As a result, changing perceptions of group norms can have an impact on their own behavior(s).

What is the power of social norms? ›

When we follow norms, we get social approval; we get to fit in, and we feel comfortable. When we violate norms, we may be penalized socially. As social animals, we have a strong desire to fit in and not to be left out of the group. That's why norms so powerfully influence our behaviour.

What would happen without social norms? ›

If there were no social norms, then everyone would be doing whatever they felt like, neglecting what needed to be done, and people would be acting with no sense of respect whatsoever for anyone except themselves, and we would quickly arrive in a State of Nature in which there was a war of all against all and life was ...

Are social norms good for society? ›

Social norms are a powerful tool for improving lives—they have helped people get healthier, save more money, and take positive environmental actions. Descriptive social norms are what most people actually do. For example, most Americans brush their teeth twice a day.

How important are the norms and values in today's society? ›

Values show what persons and communities hold as important. Norms say what has to be done in order to realize values. Without a reference to underlying values, rules lack motivation and justification. Without corresponding norms, values lack specification and concrete direction.

Do social norms matter? ›

Social norms matter because they govern and uphold behavior and reinforce social inequalities and inequities, including gender inequities. When sustaining or changing behavior is a program goal, practitioners need to understand how, when, and under what conditions behavior is governed by social norms.

What are the most important social norms? ›

Everyday social convention Norms
  • Shaking hands when greeting someone.
  • Saying “please” and “thank you”
  • Apologizing when one makes a mistake.
  • Standing up when someone enters the room.
  • Making eye contact during a conversation.
  • Listening when someone is speaking.
  • Offering help when someone is struggling.
  • Respecting personal space.
Apr 20, 2023

What are norms of social life? ›

Social norms are shared standards of acceptable behavior by groups. Social norms can both be informal understandings that govern the behavior of members of a society, as well as be codified into rules and laws.

What are the social norms in the United States? ›

Defining Social Norms In The United States

These norms include respecting personal space, being punctual, being polite and using polite phrases such as “please” and “thank you.” However, it's important to note that these norms can vary by region, age group, and cultural background.

What are norms in culture? ›

Social and cultural norms are rules or expectations of behavior and thoughts based on shared beliefs within a specific cultural or social group. While often unspoken, norms offer social standards for appropriate and inappropriate behavior that govern what is (and is not) acceptable in interactions among people.

How social norms and values develop? ›

The values and norms of individual persons derive from the social environments to which they are exposed. Through socialization, individuals become aware of and internalize social values and norms, which then become important internal determinants of action.

How do social norms evolve? ›

Social norms regulate and coordinate most aspects of human social life, yet they emerge and change as a result of individual behaviors, beliefs, and expectations.

Is norm a social control? ›

Sociologists define social control as the way that the norms, rules, laws, and structures of society regulate human behavior. It is a necessary part of social order, for societies could not exist without controlling their populations.

What norms control behavior? ›

There are four types of social norms that can help inform people about behavior that is considered acceptable: folkways, mores, taboos, and law.

How are norms and social control enforced? ›

Social control may be enforced using informal sanctions, which may include shame, ridicule, sarcasm, criticism and disapproval. Social control may also be enforced using formal sanctions. Education may maintain social control through various mechanisms, such as indoctrination, informal sanctions and formal sanctions.

What are the two main types of norms? ›

Two types of norms are relevant to a social norms approach: injunctive norms and descriptive norms:
  • Injunctive norms reflect people's perceptions of what behaviors are approved or disapproved by others. ...
  • Descriptive norms involve perceptions of which behaviors are typically performed.

What are the 3 norms in sociology? ›

Sumner identified three basic types of norms: folkways, mores, and laws. These three types of norms vary in their importance within a society.

What are the characteristics of norms? ›

The norms are based on social values. Norms are social rules which define correct and acceptable behaviour in a society or a group to which people are expected to confirm. They prescribe the way the people should behave in particular situations. They determine, guide, control and also predict human behaviour.

Which one is an act that violates a social norm? ›

The act of violating a social norm is called deviance.

Where do norms and values come from? ›

Functionalists believe that all members of society are socialised into these norms and values, first through the family and later through institutions such as education, the media and religion.

How do norms develop? ›

Defining Norms in Groups. Because people in groups come together for a specific purpose, they develop shared norms to help them achieve their goals. Even with a goal in place, random interaction does not define a group. Group interaction is generally guided by norms a group has established for acceptable behavior.

How do social norms create order? ›

They provide order, predictability and harmony in any social group by creating an expected idea on how one should behave within their community – like arriving to lessons on time with completing work assignments properly (as this would be considered mature).

What is the role of social norms in maintaining harmony in the society? ›

Social norms are used to maintain harmony as they tell us how to behave in a specific way that aligns with the way society behaves at large, making it the socially acceptable way. One of the most important factors to look at when discussing social norms is perception.

What is the purpose of social norms? ›

Social norms are rules of behavior. They inform group members how to construe a given situation, how to feel about it, and how to behave in it. They exert social influence on group members by prescribing which reactions are appropriate, and which are not (Abrams, Wetherell, Cochrane, Hogg, & Turner, 1990).

Why is it important to have norms? ›

Norms help to clarify the expected behavior of individuals on the team and prevent unnecessary conflict. Norms matter to a team because they lead to: • Effective decision making. Clear expectations for how the team interacts and performs. Effective assimilation of new team members.

Do social norms change over time? ›

Social norms change drastically over time. Even just a cursory review of the previous 25, 50, or 100 years can give us a decent understanding of how societies have changed over time—for better or worse.

What are social norms as an element of culture? ›

Norms are the formal and informal rules regarding what kinds of behavior are acceptable and appropriate within a culture. Norms are specific to a culture, time period, and situation. Norms are often divided into two types, formal norms and informal norms.


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