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How to Communicate Effectively in Your Restaurant: 7 Suggestions

Posted by Chris de Jong on 12/1/16 1:00 PM in Restaurant Management, Restaurant Training & Hiring

how to communicate effectively

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.

1) Employee Check-ins

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:

  • Answer questions they might have.
  • Coach employees on effective communication practices.
  • Or just be an empathetic ear so employees can be candid.

You might be surprised by what you learn.

Suggestion For How to Communicate Effectively

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.

2) Staff Meals New Call-to-action

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!

Suggestion For How to Communicate Effectively

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.

3) Manager Log Book

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.

Suggestion For How to Communicate Effectively

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.

4) Group Chats

how to communicate effectivelyAccording 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.

Suggestion For How to Communicate Effectively

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, GroupMeHipChat or iMessage (if everyone has iOS devices).

5) Employee Wikis

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.  

Suggestion For How to 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.

6) Employee Newsletter

restaurant-employee-handbookThe objectives of an employee newsletter are similar to any internal communications channel: reaching employees, sending important staff messages, employee engagement, and influencing attitudes and behaviors.

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.

Suggestion For How to Communicate Effectively

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.

7) Anonymous Feedback

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.

Suggestion For How to Communicate Effectively

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.

How to Communicate Effectively in Restaurants: A Summary

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:

  1. Provide your employees with semi-regular “check-in” sessions where they can inform you about how they are doing.
  2. Implement staff meals to provide a cheap and effective means of team-building and inventory management.
  3. Leverage mobile chat to stay in constant communication with your employees and keep them updated.
  4. Make use of a Manager Log Book to stay organized and make notes on issues or improvements.
  5. Implement a digital employee wiki to document all processes in your restaurant and make information available to all employees.
  6. Institute an employee newsletter to share information to employees and keep them informed.
  7. Create an anonymous feedback form for employees who may need to share information with management but do not want to do it through email or face-to-face interaction.

What tips do you have for how to communicate effectively in your restaurant? Share your success stories in the comments below!

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Written by: Chris de Jong

Chris de Jong is the Marketing Lead for 7shifts, an employee scheduling app designed for restaurant based in beautiful Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He works with the rest of the 7shifts team to help their customers all over the world save time scheduling, reduce labor costs, and improve communication in their businesses.


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