Training & Hiring
Can you reduce employee turnover simply by understanding how to communicate effectively in your restaurant?
Effective communication is so important in a restaurant. The hospitality industry has the highest turnover rate of any industry, and research has proven that organizations who invest in workplace communication reduce turnover and increase productivity.
Given this information, effective staff communication is one of the most important issues facing restaurants today. But if you think about it, this shouldn't be the case. We live in an age of constant communication and accessibility, be it the ubiquity of wireless internet access or the smartphone in our pockets.
So what can your restaurant do to help improve overall staff communication and learn how to communicate effectively?
Here are 7 ideas that you can easily implement to help ramp up your internal communication strategy, curb retention, and improve your bottom line.
Most managers have one-on-one chats with employees only when they are being hired or fired.
However, a quick personal chat with employees can do wonders to increase communication. You can use the time to:
You might be surprised by what you learn.
Set a weekly, recurring calendar reminder to schedule a check-in meeting with different employees 30 minutes before or after their shift. Consider holding the meeting in a neutral space like a nearby coffee shop so the employee feels like they can chat openly with you without the influence of the workplace or coworkers. Another idea to consider is a walking meeting! Research shows walking leads to more open dialogue with employees and leads to increased productivity.
Staff meals are a fantastic way to get everyone together in an informal setting and communicate without the stress of daily service.
In most cases, kitchens use the staff meal as an opportunity to get rid of all the ingredients that are about to expire, but staff meals can be used to experiment with future menu items or to give a cook a chance to shine. Here is a list of great staff meals for inspiration.
This idea is usually the domain of full-serve restaurants, but don’t let that deter you if you operate a QSR!
Institute a once-per-week staff meal for staff that is compulsory to attend. Use the opportunity to share information with your team and answer any questions they might have. Remember to have some fun with it too! You can use the time to play a quick team-building activity to get everyone communicating with one-another.
If you are not already, start using a Manager Log Book to keep track of your notes during shifts.
Besides kickstarting the habit of taking notes for yourself or your other managers, using a manager log book allows you to build an archive of observations, and these can be communicated to employees in the future (for example, what they can do to improve guest experience or how the kitchen can be optimized for greater efficiency). This information will help you understand how to communicate effectively moving forward.
First things first, start using a Manager Log Book that is built for mobile, allows you to share notes between managers and is easily searchable. Once you have this up and running, start looking for trends in the notes or for recurring situations that need to be addressed. You can communicate the issues to your staff and suggest ways to remedy it.
According to comScore, almost 80% of US adults now own a smartphone, so it’s a no-brainer to use mobile communication apps to foster staff communication. Push critical information to everyone such as as employee schedules, menu alerts & changes, kitchen status, event notices, and much more.
First things first, make sure you have the email address and/or phone number of all staff! There are fantastic apps out there to help with team communication, but a couple of the best are Slack, WhatsApp, GroupMe, HipChat or iMessage (if everyone has iOS devices).
Tons of restaurant communication breakdowns can be attributed to uncertainty in how to proceed with a given task. Normally this would be solved by training, but as we are all aware, it is next to impossible to provide employees with perfect training for every situation.
A solution is to provide on-demand information for employees in order for them to do their jobs properly and communicate effectively.
Create a digital version of your employee training documents. Staff can quickly reference this when they have questions or problems. Think of this as a handbook on the go.
Make sure this documentation is easily accessible on a mobile device, since this is what most employees will be using while on-the-job. You can bolster this information with things like process documentation and FAQs to benefit all staff. There are great, free-to-use tools like Google Docs or Dropbox that work wonders for this. Once it has all created, consider sending your staff an email or text with the link they can bookmark for future use.
Employee newsletters are also a good way to break down silos within an organization and allow you to share activities and news from one division across the wider organization. For example, if your restaurant did terrific business last month or you received a great Yelp Review, an employee newsletter is a great way to showcase this and keep your staff in the loop.
A quick way to get started with an employee newsletter is by using a service like Tinyletter. You can input your list of employee email addresses and it provides you with a simple way to compose a newsletter and send it out. If you’re looking for content to include in your newsletter, here is a great guide on the dos and don’ts to keep employees engaged and ensure they get the most value out of it.
Sometimes employees don’t feel comfortable communicating directly with management. This is not to say that they are afraid of management, sometimes they just feel more comfortable broaching a subject that doesn’t require an email or face-to-face conversation.
Note that it is not your staff's responsibility to figure out how to effectively communicate with you - rather your responsibility to find out the best way to communicate with them.
Providing staff with an anonymous form of communication helps keep the lines of communication open between employees and management.
Use Google Forms to setup an anonymous feedback form in minutes. Provide the link to your employees as a way to gather feedback. Let them know all feedback received is confidential and it will be acted on appropriately. You can take this one step further by adding a link to the form in your email signature, so employees will be able to readily use it when you send out communication that may impact them.
While no restaurant will ever be able to have perfect communication between all staff, these ideas we’ve outlined go a long way towards helping to build a culture of constant communication. In time, this will help you increase employee satisfaction, drive down turnover, and increase your profitability by spending less time hiring and more time managing.
To recap, the seven ideas we’ve shared are: