Smooth team communication in restaurants could be the difference between an establishment that thrives and one that fails. This reality exists whether you’re managing the team of a full-service restaurant, a laid-back, family-owned diner, or a busy fast-casual hotspot.
In this post, we’re sharing 10 quick tips that will improve communication among your restaurant’s team members and increase the longevity of your business.
1. Understand the power of nonverbal communication
Body language says a lot more than we realize. Nonverbal communication reveals how you feel about the person you’re communicating with, which can lead to problems if how you say something doesn’t match what you say.
Learn what you’re telling the world through your body language. Make adjustments as necessary so that your body language and verbal communication convey the same things. When you can fully express what you need to say to your team, you will be a better communicator.
2. Group communication 101: Embrace all-staff meetings...
Getting your entire team together is a fantastic opportunity to make announcements and share updates on things like menu changes and promotions. Beyond giving management an opportunity for group communication, all-staff meetings let team members who don’t work together on a daily basis share feedback, grievances, and victories. All-staff meetings get your team on the same page.
If all-staff meetings aren’t a regular part of your team’s workflow, take advantage of staff meals to make group communication a habit.
3. ...But don’t overlook the power of a one-on-one
While all-staff meetings serve the purpose of mass communication, one-on-one meetings are the best way to communicate with individual team members directly to help them grow. When you show your team members that you care about their professional success by making time for one-on-ones, they will be more likely to work for your restaurant longer. With the restaurant industry’s high turnover rate being a systematic, expensive problem, one-on-ones are an easy, free way to keep your team members happy.
Formalize the process of one-on-ones by letting your team know, through all-staff meetings or during onboarding, what topics will be discussed during these individual meetings. Since poor performance can be tricky to discuss, use data from your business to frame these topics objectively. Use things like shift feedback or the number of no-shows to guide the conversation.
4. Types of communication: Pick the right communication medium
Is the medium you’re using to communicate with your team right for their needs? While texting is the preferred communication medium for most restaurants, getting work texts while off the clock can make your team members feel like they’re always on call. Improve your team’s work-life balance, and therefore their happiness and your restaurant’s employee retention rates, by using a separate communication tool for work.
A mobile team communication app like 7shifts helps restaurant employees communicate with each other without losing track of texts or having to import dozens of phone numbers. The tool facilitates both group and one-on-one messaging. Choosing types of communication that are convenient for your whole team will make it more likely that your messages get across the first time.
5. Set expectations for response time
When you reach out to your team through your communication tool of choice and don’t set expectations for response time, one of two things could happen: you could get responses long after you needed them or your employees will think that there is an emergency every time you reach out to them outside of their shifts. When the former happens, it’s difficult for you to do your job when the people you are relying on take their time to get back to you on a time-sensitive matter. When the latter happens, your staff may become conditioned to feel anxious every time they receive a message from you. Neither scenario is good for you or your employees.
Avoid panic and chaos by letting your team members know how time sensitive your requests or questions are. This can be accomplished by ending your message with a simple, “please let me know by 6 p.m. on Friday.”
Setting communication deadlines is important even when you aren’t the one initiating the communication. For example, it’s a good idea to create a policy for time off requests - with deadlines - so that your employees can ask for the time off that they need while giving you enough time to incorporate their requests into the employee schedule. If your team members need to swap shifts, have time limits for how long they have to find replacements before you need to convey the change to the rest of the team.
Communicating expectations for response time helps you get the answers you need in a timely manner without setting your employees up for panic whenever you reach out to them.
6. Reinforce messages through various types of communication...
People need to see or hear information seven times before they take action. Reinforce team communication through repetition via various types of communication mediums. If you share an announcement during an all-staff meeting, follow up by sharing it through your team’s digital communication tool, and posting an announcement on the venue noticeboard.
7. ...And don’t discount the power of positive reinforcement!
Between communicating about menu changes, shift schedules, and other housekeeping things, don’t forget to tell your staff that they’re doing a good job! A simple "thank you" goes a long way.
Beyond “thank you,” you can empower your team members by sharing positive customer feedback during all-staff meetings or during one-on-ones. When your staff feel appreciated, they are more likely to stay happy in their jobs longer.
8. Be accessible to maximize teamwork and communication
Effective communication is a two-way street. Managers have to be able to communicate with their staff, and employees need to be able to communicate with their managers. For this reason, managers need to be accessible and approachable.
Build rapport with staff rather than keeping a distance due to hierarchy. Taking the time to make friendly conversation makes a big difference in creating long-lasting relationships with employees.
Keep your office door open to let team members approach you with problems and suggestions. When you already have a strong rapport with your staff, they’ll be more likely to communicate with you during critical times.
9. Be transparent
Management shouldn’t hide things from the rest of the staff. Employees value transparency, especially when it comes to decisions that affect them personally.
Communicate decisions and changes as they happen to build trust. Trust facilitates better teamwork and communication!
10. Ask for feedback
Make collecting feedback a habit at your restaurant. You can ask for feedback during all-staff meetings and one-on-ones, or via an anonymous suggestion box. Asking your team members for feedback will help them feel more engaged, which will result in less turnover, and less money spent on finding and training new employees.
Unless you’re operating a one-person restaurant, you will need to be able to communicate effectively with your team for your restaurant to succeed. Even making small shifts - like being aware of your body language or acknowledging your employees for a job well done - can make your communication more clear, and your staff happier.
When your staff are happy, they give your customers a better experience and are more likely to work for you longer, which reduces the costs associated with recruiting and training new employees. Effective group communication is the key to maintaining and managing a successful restaurant team.
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Ana Cvetkovic is a freelancer and content producer for 7shifts. She is also the CEO of BLOOM Digital Marketing, a Boston-based creative marketing agency that helps the hospitality and tourism industries reach new audiences online.
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