When there’s a packed dining room, an upset chef ready to quit, a screaming customer and the phone is ringing off the hook for reservations, effective communication is the last thing on the mind of anyone in a restaurant. However, ignoring the importance of communication would completely shut the business down.
Effective communication with restaurant customers, between employees and managers, and among franchisees and corporate contacts is critical to sustain a successful business in the food service industry. Without these open lines and ties, a restaurant suffers. Because of the complex layers of people, products and performances, a nearly infinite number of communications issues can arise. However, the major communications issues faced by many restaurants can be handled with precision and grace, reducing the chances of your restaurant staff’s stress.
When you think about it, the most common problems a restaurant staff sees are manageable. Read our tips on how to address a negative yelp review, employee responsibilities, employee recognition, and connecting with franchisees.
A Nasty Yelp Review
The hair in the salad. The wholly undercooked burger. The waitress that curses at a customer. Despite working to make the place as good as possible, these issues have a way of creeping up.
Unfortunately, these complaints don’t just stay in the restaurant anymore – they end up in the vast sea of word-of-mouth known as the Internet. And negative comments on social media, Yelp, or any other review forum can stay online forever, which, over time, can have a significant impact on the bottom line.
It is important to pay close attention to the conversation happening online and address the negative reviews that inevitably show up. Often, it is best to connect with the reviewer offline or somewhere away from a public forum. When dealing with a negative review, make sure to not get defensive but instead listen. Let the customer know that you take their complaint seriously and you would like to earn their business back.
If the complaint has to do with a specific member of the kitchen staff, make sure to quickly, but diplomatically communicate the problem with the worker. Get a good feel for what may have happened first – upset customers tend to exaggerate and it may not be 100 percent your staff member at fault – but work together to make sure the issue doesn’t occur again.
TIP: Find ways to ask customers for honest feedback during their visit. By doing so, you can nip problems in the bud before they hit the Internet and seed your review sites with positive stories about your location.
Avoid The “Not My Job” Syndrome
We’ve talked about many different groups of people here – the management, the franchisee, the corporate office, the customer and the store-employee. But which group is supposed to respond to the Yelp review? Which one runs social media? Does the franchisee have the responsibility to update employees on company policies, or is that the manager?
Don’t have too many cooks in the kitchen (pun intended) performing the same tasks. Make sure to have a firm grasp of each person’s role in the communication chain and have that clearly delineated to everyone involved. Document responsibilities in the company handbook, post is in the break rooms, and communicate it through a service such as Red e App.
TIP: If your social media is divided among stores and locations, find the employee in the store who is most enthusiastic about using social media and train them on policies and procedures to run the location’s social accounts. There’s no person better to do so and no person worse than a store manager who thinks Facebook is a waste of time.
Your Employees Need Love Too
At the end of the day, it is your front-line employees that determine the fate of your business. Brian Corseti, franchise coordination director for Jake’s Wayback Burgers, argues that the brand of a restaurant develops not from the top of the food chain, but from the everyday employee interacting face-to-face with customers.
“Constant education and communication are key, and it is something we focus on daily within the corporate office,” he told QSR magazine. “But it is just as important to develop relationships with the ambassadors so we can motivate them to assist us in growing our business.”
Unfortunately, these front-line, hourly workers frequently get left in the dark about company goals, vision and even policies. And the quick-service restaurant industry is where the biggest problems are found. According to a recent study by internal communications agency Tribe, 50 percent of workers indicated they didn’t know their company’s vision for growth, and more than 34 percent said they hardly ever received corporate communication. The study also revealed that the disconnect between front-line employees and ownership leads to weakened customer service and decreased morale.
Therefore, keep your employees in the loop. Make sure that restaurant leadership has frequent meetings with company staff. Instead of just posting company policies on a break room bulletin board, give the team flyers with the highlights to read and review on their own time. And yes, we recommend using services such as Red e App to communicate in real-time with employees. Whatever it takes to keep employees actively engaged with company happenings – do it. It’s worth it in the end to have a staff capable of promoting your business in the best way possible.
TIP: Take a lesson from the LEAN Methodology of software development. Gather the team for a 15-minute “stand-up” meeting before every shift. Quickly remind them of the top 3-4 items to think about for the day, go around to each one and ask what they’re focused on, what is in their way of doing a great job and how you or others can help them do it. Keep it to a tight, 15-minutes and don’t let anyone sit down. That’s why it’s called a “stand-up.”
Avoid The Rogue Franchisee
Franchisees often serve as an intermediary between the corporate office and front-line employees. The franchisees will have much more direct contact with both the store-level management and employees, making your communication with them all the more vital to the health of the organization.
If you are a corporate leader, make sure that your franchisees are effectively communicating information down to their stores. But before that, make sure they know the company values, expectations and keep up to date with company and industry trends. The critical factor that makes a franchise restaurant work is the consistency of product and service. That’s more than a menu and a logo. Sometimes, it’s the intelligence with which each store manager and even cashier does their job.
Be sure to take time to listen to franchisees. Given they spend their time in the stores, they have valuable information about the day-to-day operations. Set up frequent conference calls with them. Visit their stores. Pay special attention to the less-than-stellar performing franchises – the owners may have important frustrations that need addressing, or you may find out that you need to better communicate company expectations.
If your restaurant isn’t franchisee-owned, the management should serve as the main liaison between the ownership and the everyday worker. Treat them how you would treat franchisees.
TIP: Provide franchisees with short videos to share with their employees that have you passing on the information to their staff’s directly. Or, do a Google Hangout or Skype call with their teams to explain new policies and procedures. Let technology help you communicate directly with the franchisee’s staff to ensure more efficient communication.
The restaurant industry is one of high-turnover, high stress and lots of people moving in different directions. This is no excuse to dismiss the importance of communication. By keeping everyone on the same page and providing two-way dialogue, you can help to reduce turnover, build your brand and keep customers coming to the restaurant time and time again.
Interested in learning more about how Red e App can help streamline the communications process in your restaurant? Feel free to contact us.
Red e App Marketing Director