Guide to Improving Restaurant Employee Communication

Restaurant owners know their businesses can’t thrive without great communication, and yet it’s not always easy to know what good employee communication in restaurants should look like.

And while a restaurant’s management team leads communication efforts, they may not always understand the importance of great communication as an employee training and development tool, even though 50% of restaurant employees specifically mentioned that more training would impact their satisfaction at work.

Effective restaurant employee communication is a big part of creating a great team culture and a thriving, successful restaurant business. So, let’s explore what you need to know to take it to the next level.

The importance of employee communication in restaurants

Whether you’re communicating pre-shift, post-shift, or in the middle of a meal-time rush, restaurant managers and leadership staff need to have a system in place for communicating with their employees. They should also prioritize communication when training and coaching employees.

Now let’s break down why great communication in restaurants is so critical.

Facilitate effective leadership

Restaurant leadership needs to clearly communicate expectations and other tasks that need to get done. But what makes some communication styles more effective than others?

Great leaders don’t just give orders and tell people what they did wrong. They also provide clear, objective feedback that helps employees understand both their successes and areas where they need more improvement or training.

Help employees understand their roles & expectations

You can’t expect new hires or current employees to simply read their job descriptions and immediately understand what’s expected of them. Employee responsibilities should be communicated in a variety of places, like:

  • Employee handbooks
  • During onboarding and training
  • During recurring team meetings
  • During one-on-one meetings and performance reviews

Prevent mistakes from happening

Putting a system in place for everything you do in your restaurant will help you avoid mistakes — for example, those that come from employees having to think on their feet or being unfamiliar with a new process.

But you also have to communicate your systems in onboarding materials, continuous training workshops, meetings, and feedback sessions so that everyone’s on the same page and can identify the root causes of mistakes on their own.

Foster closer relationships between team members

The restaurant industry brings lots of personality types and people from different generations and experience levels together — and the best way to create a solid team out of all those diverse individuals is to understand that different people have different communication styles.

We suggest using a behavior assessment tool like the DiSC profile or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to learn more about team member personalities. You can even encourage staff members to share their results with other employees, so everyone understands the best way to interact with each other.

How to improve your restaurant communication: Tips & best practices

The most successful restaurant owners and managers will tell you that the only way to keep things running smoothly between the back-of-house (BOH) and front-of-house (FOH) is by making strong communication one of your team values. Here are some tips and best practices to keep in mind if you want to give your own restaurant communication a boost.

Create effective, streamlined hiring & onboarding processes

Get started on the right foot with new hires by adding your communication processes into your first onboarding steps rather than including them as an afterthought when their initial training is already complete.

Using an all-in-one platform like Homebase to create job posts, screen top candidates, complete onboarding paperwork, and send out employee handbooks can help you seamlessly integrate new hires into your team communications. Then, get them set up with Homebase’s free messaging tool and they’ll be ready to receive team updates, schedules, and shift-change notifications right away.

Make sure restaurant management is consistently available

Restaurant managers should set the bar for what excellent communication should look like in your restaurant. And if they don’t make themselves available for honest questions, complaints, or ideas for improvement, it’ll be harder to encourage their downline team members to do the same.

Make sure your leadership team always leaves the door open for transparent communication and questions, which could take the form of:

  • Manager office hours
  • Impromptu check-ins during shifts
  • The opportunity for employees to send management text messages or notes outside work hours (when necessary)

Delegate where applicable

Restaurant owners who want to optimize the way they do business, scale their operations, and even open up more locations always have a long to-do list. But there’s never enough time to work on big-picture initiatives when there are tons of urgent tasks that come up during peak meal-time rushes. You can’t expect to get everything done by yourself, so it’s important to learn to delegate to other team members to keep moving the needle forward.

That’s why it’s helpful to use a team communication app that lets you assign tasks to specific team members and leave shift notes for specific managers or employees taking over your responsibilities in the upcoming shift.

Make the “golden rule” your guide

In the fast-paced restaurant environment where kitchens — and temperaments — often get heated, it’s crucial to emphasize the “golden rule:” Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Don’t just pay lip service to this value. Put it on a sign to display in your kitchen, mention it during training sessions, and encourage team members to give shout-outs when they feel their co-workers are doing a great job displaying it.

Follow-up & follow-through

In an industry subject to constant changes, you’ll need more than just a process for training and development. You should also have a system for follow-up communication to make sure everyone’s always equipped with the information they need.

For example, you could use a team communication app to recap everything you covered after an in-house meeting, especially for staff members who weren’t able to attend. That way, you’ll know that everyone has access to the most up-to-date information and can refer back to it after the fact if necessary.

Establish policies for communicating with customers

You train your FOH staff to be friendly and helpful at every point of the customer experience, but what do they do when there’s a kitchen mishap with their order, or you’re too short-staffed to be as attentive as you’d like?

It’s good to have a policy for how to communicate honestly with customers in every scenario and practice a few things servers and hosts can say when:

  • You’re short-staffed
  • A party is taking longer to leave than you thought
  • There was a food mishap in the kitchen
  • There was a miscommunication about an order
  • A customer wasn’t happy with their food
  • You made a mistake on a bill

The downsides of bad communication in a restaurant

It takes time to set up systems for good communication and continuously improve them, but it pays off in the short-term and long-term. Bad communication and lack of training resources could put you at risk of:

  • High turnover: 62% of restaurant employees who quit their jobs cited a lack of training as their reason for resigning, and training can often be confusing or lacking without a culture of good communication.
  • Dissatisfied customers. Poor communication between FOH and BOH teams can lead to bottlenecks, which can increase ticket times for customers and leave them feeling annoyed.
  • Bad reviews: If you don’t communicate honestly when customer problems come up, they’ll likely take their frustrations to Yelp or leave you a negative Google review.
  • Recruitment problems: It’ll be hard to find great new talent if your local reputation is suffering because of bad communication practices.
  • Lawsuits: If you fail to communicate and train employees about common restaurant compliance issues like food safety, breaks and overtime, workplace safety, and anti-discrimination, you could be at risk of potential lawsuits.

How culture can affect restaurant team communication

Your team culture has an impact on your communication style, but your communication style also has an impact on your culture — so your approach to both matters when building a sustainable, healthy work environment.

Culture is contagious

New hires, staff members, and even customers can tell right away when your restaurant culture “vibe” is off.

If workplace culture isn’t your restaurant’s strength, we recommend surveying your team to learn what concerns your employees may not be comfortable sharing with management directly. Then, work together as a team to find solutions and create a healthier work environment.

Employees feel respected

A recent LinkedIn learning report revealed that 94% of employees would stay in a job if their employer dedicated time and resources to their development.

When you take the time to develop rather than just manage your employees, you demonstrate respect for them as professionals and partners — not just down-line workers — who are just as essential to fostering healthy communication as anyone else on the team.

You can address this need by prioritizing developing your team’s hospitality industry and management skills with ongoing feedback, training sessions, and mentorship.

Hiring & retention are easier

Hiring employees based on how they’ll fit with your culture rather than their qualifications can actually be more useful when trying to determine how long they’ll stay with you in the future. So when you’re interviewing candidates, you can ask them questions like:

  • What did you appreciate most about the culture of your most recent employer?
  • What would communication look like in your ideal work environment?
  • What workplace values are most important to you?

How Homebase takes your team communication to the next level

Great team communication in a restaurant is about more than just what happens during a shift. The informal communications that happen before and after shifts, as well as outside formal working hours, can be just as important. So you need tools that make asynchronous communication possible and let you send everything from shift notes to feedback and praise.

Homebase has helped over 100,000 small business owners streamline the way they communicate internally with an all-in-one solution that also offers tools for hiring, onboarding, time tracking, payroll, employee happiness, and HR and compliance.