Q: In my business, non-communication seems to be a recurring problem. What are some practical ways to improve our communication?

A: Communication is the number one issue in any business. Regardless of how much time a team is together, there is always room to improve communication. One can never communicate too much; you’ll likely never have anyone tell you that you over-communicate. Most commonly, it’s quite the opposite. With the constant barrage of information, guest visits, employees coming and going throughout the day, different work schedules and hours, someone is going to be left out of the loop. Here are some processes to take your communication to the next level:

  1. Hold pre-shift and post-shift meetings daily. Discuss the shift focus on either an individual basis or in small groups before every shift. Discuss sales goals, specials, service standards and whatever the team is driving to improve. When the shift is over solicit what can be done better to improve the employee and the guest experience. Focusing on continual improvement and involving team members builds a sense of pride and ownership. The best ideas will come from the team as they tend to be closest to the guests and each other. Listen closely and act on the information collected.
  2. Hold weekly management team meetings. Set an agenda and discuss the important business of the restaurant (select key crew members if you don’t have a management team). These meetings start and end on time and last 60 minutes. Begin the meeting by reviewing the prior week commitments and make sure someone is assigned to taking notes. Major areas of focus include what is on the calendar in the next month and specifically what is coming up in the next week. Review the financial results from the prior week, the goal remaining for the month and how the goal can be achieved. Be sure to cover the other major functions of the business such as marketing, staffing, performance, facilities and planning. The area most often ignored is requiring a discussion of sales building both inside and outside the four walls. Require each attendee to contribute to the sales-building conversation. End the meeting by summarizing commitments and assigning responsibility.
  3. Meet one-to-one weekly with key personnel. Spend one hour per week with each person in a key role in the organization. The agenda should be completed 24-48 hours in advance and distributed to the supervisor. The meeting is for coaching and needed direction. The employee should spend 80 percent of the time talking, and the supervisor should spend the remaining 20 percent in a coaching role, just like an outside advisor. For example, a manager reporting into an owner would discuss operating results, financials, staffing and HR, personal development and sales building as well as other important areas of responsibility. Face to face meeting is the key.
  4. Use workshop training on a monthly basis. According Edgar Dale’s Learning Cone, first developed in the 1960s but continually reinforced by research, you remember 10 percent of what you hear, 20 percent of what you read, 30 percent of what you see, 50 percent of what you hear and see, 70 percent of what you say, 90 percent of what you both say and do. The research suggests in order for people to retain 90 percent of important information, there must be a teaching element associated. Get the team together by area for workshops for 60-120 minutes to work on various sections of the business such as food training, beverage training, purpose and values, brand differentiation, guest service, and technical proficiency. Start with a small amount of lecture, then require individuals to work together in small groups to solve problems and discuss learning. Have each small group present findings, recommendations and learning with the rest of the trainees. Wrap up the sessions with a summary of findings and recommendations to be put into practice.
  5. Hold semi-annual “all staff meetings”. These meetings are held to discuss goals and direction for the business as well as infuse energy into the workforce. Recognize great performance and reinforce your standards for excellence at these meetings as well as honor those performing at an extremely high level.

Your business will function best when communication is a focus. Your job as a leader is to direct the team to communicate as thoroughly, thoughtfully and frequently as possible. Build a highly informed and driven workforce that is well in-tune with the direction of the organization and the expectations of the owner group, and your business will thrive.

For more information on improving profitability and driving performance, contact AMP Services at rbraa@ampservices.com. Rick Braa is the co-founder of AMP Services, an accounting and consulting firm that specializes in helping companies grow profitability.