Effective communication helps teams work better. This is just as true in restaurants as it is in sports, technology, or any other area that operates in a team environment.
While you may think of communication as something that comes naturally - at least the ability to communicate in the most basic form - this isn’t always the case, especially in the workplace.
As a restaurant manager, part of your job is to put in place measures to help your team properly and effectively communicate with each other. Productive communication decreases confusion, which in reality translates to fewer missed shifts, fewer mistakes in the kitchen, and more happy customers.
In the article, we will look at some of the techniques and strategies restaurant owners and managers can use to communicate as a team in a restaurant. This will include practical tips to facilitate discussion, as well as ideas you can use to help ensure communication is of the highest quality.
In an MIT report that looked at high-performing teams and how they communicate, the researchers found that face-to-face contact was the most effective form of communication. This suggests that restaurant managers who are looking to improve team communication should provide opportunities for this kind of interaction.
One way you can do this is by setting an example. Being around and making an active effort to talk to staff during breaks or before and after shifts can help encourage a friendly atmosphere. Asking a new hire about their day can help them feel welcomed. Similarly, asking longer serving employees for their opinion on restaurant concerns can show that their opinion is valued.
Managers can organize meetings with individual employees for more in-depth discussions. These talks don’t always need to be about anything in particular. For example, you can discuss workplace challenges, what the employee enjoys, or inquire about any future goals or plans they have within the company and beyond.
This information can be used to create a better working environment. It can also help employees who see themselves in the industry long-term with self-development.
If you have a large workforce, meetings with individual members of staff may seem impossible. So instead, consider having supervisors set up and take these meetings. You can provide guidelines and ideas about topics to discuss to ensure the sessions are, in fact, effective.
An open-door policy is another great way to become more approachable, which will encourage employees to feel comfortable and want to talk to you. While an increase in communication with employees may result in more work in the short-term, finding out about potential issues early on will allow you to take action before such issues escalate into bigger problems.
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Communication between managers and employees isn’t the only type of connection you should encourage. It is also vital that the staff at your restaurant have good relationships with each other.
As a manager, there are several ways you can encourage inter-team communication. Organizing get-togethers—for example, team meals—can be an excellent way to get everyone talking. Meetings also have their place when you need to discuss something.
There are plenty of more informal ways you can encourage communication, such as scheduling several employees to break at the same time (assuming your workforce is large enough to support multiple employees being gone). This can promote windows of opportunity for discussion amongst that group.
Paying attention to how your break rooms are laid out can also be the difference between a team that communicates well and one that doesn’t. Something as simple as using communal tables can encourage communication, rather than smaller ones that are spaced out, as they are more likely to act as barriers.
Nowadays, teams have many options they can use to communicate. As well as speaking in-person, phone calls, text messages, and emails, you can also utilize messaging applications, like social media platforms and internal chat rooms to work as communication tools.
Implementing these tools can be an excellent way to encourage effective communication within your environment.
While employees may not be receptive to being in a workgroup chat on their personal messaging app, using a dedicated intrapersonal application can facilitate communication while also keeping non-work conversations separate.
These tools are a convenient way for managers to get across announcements or updates to the entire team.
They also often integrate with the other software you use so you can organize specific processes. For example, if an employee messages you asking for time off, you can simply go into the scheduling system and make the necessary adjustments for that week’s schedule.
If you decide to use a workplace tool, it can be a good idea to put in place guidelines about how employees should use them.
Start by providing clear instructions about how your staff can download the app, sign up to create an account, and then how to use these tools accordingly. While this may seem obvious to the more tech-savvy members of your team, others may struggle.
You should then make it clear how and why employees should use the tool. If you want to use the tool to share relevant news and organize shifts, make sure to clarify how the software will help with this.
Additionally, you can introduce guidelines about how the tools should be used. For example, if the software has a public message board, you can tell employees that no one should use this board to post anything other than work-related topics.
Or, you can recommend that when you post a notice, people don’t have to reply to it. This will reduce the chance of employees receiving an annoying flood of notifications.
If you use multiple tools, be sure to provide guidelines about how to use each one.
It’s understandable to assume that everyone in your team knows how to communicate adequately. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. Or at least, it isn’t necessarily the case that team members know how to communicate effectively.
It can be helpful to introduce communication norms to your team. These can be especially useful if you have people in your team from a wide range of backgrounds or age groups who may have different expectations about how to communicate.
For example, a foreign exchange student working at your restaurant part-time may have very different communication norms to a middle-aged chef who has grown up in the same city as the restaurant. It is essential that you equip these groups with the tools they need to communicate.
There are several ways you can do this.
First, ensuring everyone knows what is and isn’t appropriate workforce communication can help create a positive environment in the restaurant. This can include everything from being clear about what kinds of discussions they should avoid, as well as informing people about how to respond positively to new ideas or suggestions.
Beyond this, you can guide employees about the appropriate ways to communicate in specific situations.
Having a set procedure for how they should request sick leave can reduce the chances of confusion and ensure that everyone — from the people who need time off to management — is on the same page about what is going on.
In this procedure, you can include information about who should be contacted and. For example, they should contact the shift-supervisor by a specific time on the day of their shift if they suddenly come down with an illness.
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You want your employees to feel comfortable coming to you when facing challenges in the workplace. However, communication should work both ways.
Keeping members of staff up-to-date about what’s going on within the company can help them feel more involved and an established member of the team. This also ensures that all of your staff are informed on matters and policies taking place.
There are many ways you could this. Sending out messages on your workplace communication tool about important events is one method. Having regular restaurant-wide meetings is another.
Other options could be sending out company emails that detail essential information or keeping a company noticeboard updated in the staff break room. And remember, after making use of the available technology and implementing a communication app, you will also have the option to further share such announcements through these platforms.
When creating these announcements, it can be a good idea to balance heavy company announcements — “head office will be visiting the restaurant on Tuesday”— with lighter personal announcements — “It’s Carol’s birthday on Tuesday, wish her well when you see her.”
Doing this can help your employees feel involved while ensuring everyone is up-to-date with everything going on at the restaurant. The fewer surprises there are, the less likely it is that someone is going to be caught off-guard by an unexpected change.
The final tip is to create an environment where everyone in your team feels they can make their voices heard.
In a 2016 study, Google found that high-performing teams were more likely to have members that feel psychologically safe. This meant that they were able to regularly ask questions, make suggestions, and admit mistakes.
Most restaurant managers will recognize those traits as those that are essential for their employees to have. But, how can you encourage this type of behavior?
First, you can make it clear that no-one is expected to be perfect. Employees should know that it is ok to ask questions as doing so makes it less likely that problems will occur. Ensure all employees know who they should talk to about the different problems that may arise, so they have the support network they need to be successful.
It can also be helpful to encourage an atmosphere where employees don’t blame each other when something goes wrong. Accountability is major. Encourage more experienced employees to look at these situations as an opportunity to teach newer hires how to perform tasks correctly, rather than berate them for their error.
You can also encourage employees to speak out if they have an idea. Try to create an atmosphere where new ideas are welcomed. Let employees know that even if you don’t ultimately act upon their suggestions, they will always be considered.
Ensuring employees are comfortable speaking out could help you solve problems that you wouldn’t otherwise know about, implement new ideas in the restaurant, and create an overall better environment.
In an ideal world, good communication would come naturally. However, that isn’t always the case. The above tips are some you can use to communicate as a team in your restaurant.
By setting in place some of these steps, you can create an environment in which team members can communicate with each other effectively, which will ultimately strengthen morale and attribute to your business’s success.