Running a restaurant smoothly is all about fostering good communication. Creating a clear chain of command and policies for communicating will improve the daily experience of both your employees and your guests. The restaurant is one big team, and each team member needs to feel valued and heard.

No matter what methods you use to establish courteous and constructive communication, make sure it’s captured in your employee handbook for all of your employees to read and sign. Here are 4 ways to improve daily communication in your restaurant.

Team Meetings

Pre-shift meetings are usually pretty standard in this industry, but there are right and wrong ways to lead your team into service. Your managerial staff should be leading team meetings every day, and potentially multiple times a day for different shifts; but they should be getting input from staff, not just lecturing. By asking questions and giving staff ownership over different aspects of the meeting (say, a cocktail tasting lead by your bar staff or service notes lead by an experienced server), you create a sense of shared responsibility.

Team meetings should address specials and current promotions as well as any menu updates. This is also the time to troubleshoot issues that have come up in previous services. Identify a problem and then encourage staff to brainstorm solutions together. Choose a solution, record it in the Manager’s Log, and try it out for a week. Revisit the issue in a week to determine whether or not the solution is effective.

The team meeting is also a good time to address side work responsibilities and cleaning duties. And yes, both FOH and BOH staff should come together for these meetings. Separating them by front and back of house intensifies the division that may already exist between servers and cooks.

Choose someone on staff to document the meeting, including any questions asked or items to be addressed in future meetings. You can alternate who does the recording, but make sure all the notes stay in one place. Between meetings, if there are issues that need to be discussed, encourage team members to write them down either in your meeting log or on a whiteboard.

Employee Evaluations

Regularly evaluating employees is a great idea for a number of reasons. Not only does it give your employees a clear picture of where they stand; it also gives you an opportunity to get feedback on the job in realtime. Make sure to schedule check-ins with staff on a monthly basis, and consider hosting them off-site to encourage employees to speak openly.

In addition to management evaluating employees, consider peer reviews. Often staff can reveal some important insights into the behind-the-scenes activity of staff, and peer reviews are an appropriate, professional way to discover what they know without gossiping.

Communicating Online

More than ever, people are getting their information from a single source: Their phones. Whether they’re checking Facebook, text messages, or one of a million different apps, folks are glued to their phones. Use this to your advantage and include mobile correspondence in your communication plan.

Apps like Slack can be useful for internal communication so that staff can talk without having to exchange personal information, and apps like Crew or 7Shifts have the additional perk of allowing you to handle scheduling needs as well. In the latter two examples, staff can handle the process of covering shifts all within the app itself. Just make sure you set clear parameters for what is and isn’t allowed when it comes to covering shifts. Again, that’s an item for your employee handbook.

Another useful online tool is a weekly e-newsletter. You can use whatever program you use for your marketing newsletter. Just load in your employee emails and create a “Staff” mailing list. You can use this email to share relevant information, notes from team meetings, and opportunities for skill development like farm tours or special training days. If you don’t have an e-newsletter program, just use Gmail! It’s free and easy to use.

Guest Feedback

It’s important to solicit and appreciate guest feedback in any form. This is one of the most valuable tools for improving your restaurant, so use it wisely. Encourage guest feedback in person, via anonymous commenting, and through review sites like Yelp. Take time on a monthly or even weekly basis to review guest comments with all of your staff, not just management. Your staff are the ones interacting with customers the most frequently, so they should be active in analyzing feedback and coming up with solutions to service issues.

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