When people think about communication in restaurants, they may only consider how workers interact with diners. However, no matter how good your customer service is, effective communication in the kitchen is a must to keep your business running smoothly. Without this ingredient, a kitchen cannot truly function—which can ultimately be a recipe for disaster.
“Communication is the key for success in every kitchen,” says Cesar Garcia, Corporate Executive Chef at Rise & Shine Restaurant Group. “It is what can make kitchen teams better, and everyone is on the same page and is working towards the same goal.”
The following kitchen communication tips can ensure that you meet these goals and serve up unity among your team.
Encourage team members to be vocal. When it comes to effective kitchen communication, it is important that every member of the team has a voice—and isn’t afraid to use it. “It is best to always be vocal in the kitchen. Mistakes happen, but communication is the difference between a successful service and a disaster,” says Colten Lemmer, Executive Chef at Union Kitchen & Tap Gaslamp. “One cook not being in communication with his team is much bigger than one might think. One dish will slow down an entire table. One table being behind affects the next table, and tickets start to drag. This leads to a snowball effect and only gets worse. It could have all been solved by a few key words at the correct time.”
Be a good listener. Some think that good communication is just about what is said, but being a good communicator also means being a good listener. You should make an effort to actively listen to your team in order to understand and address their concerns. In addition, having good listening skills helps you learn details about what your workers do outside of the kitchen, and by knowing this information, you can show that you care about them.
Give constructive criticism. Giving criticism is a natural part of being in charge of a kitchen, but in order for the criticism to be useful, it has to be constructive. When giving criticism, it’s important to focus on the specific areas of someone’s performance that need improvement, rather than letting the conversation get personal. In addition, be sure to mention what the person is doing right, which makes it easier for them to take in the constructive criticism because they don’t feel like they’re being bombarded with negative feedback all the time.
Be brief. When people are working in a hot, busy kitchen, there’s no time for elaborate explanations of what needs to be done. In order to communicate effectively in that environment, give brief and clear instructions, rather than providing long explanations that slow everyone down.
Encourage repetition. “The best way to better your own communication is to repeat everything you hear,” says Lemmer. “‘Hot.’ ‘Hot, heard.’ ‘Corner.’ ‘Corner, heard.’ ‘Walking in, New York Medium rare side of grits.’ ‘Heard, New York Medium, side grit.’ It should become second nature to the point where when I am walking through a grocery store, I will catch myself saying the always popular ‘Behind.’”
Always keep the lines of communication open. Communication is not just something that happens in the kitchen during a busy service, it’s an ongoing process that needs to be nurtured on a regular basis. “I recommend meeting on a weekly basis with those that need the most attention and provide as much visible information possible,” Garcia says.
Show appreciation. Everyone wants to know they are valued, so when workers are doing something well, let them know in the moment how much you appreciate it. Saying thank you to team members on a regular basis can go a long way toward building morale and getting them to repeat desired behavior.