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This is Why You Have Problems in Your Restaurant

communication leadership Apr 04, 2018


All restaurants have them. You probably have a few, too.

It’s okay.

Having problems is actually a good thing because they signal a gap from where you currently are to where you want your restaurant to be. The thing you do not want to do is ignore them. Problems can be a gift. Ignoring them is a sure way to let them grow into a monster that can consume your business. Always better to get the monster while it is small and does not require the National Guard (a.k.a. a consultant) to be called in.

So, what problems are you facing right now?

What keeps you up at night?

Now, it doesn’t matter where your restaurant is located. The industry shares the same issues globally (I have seen this first hand as an international restaurant coach). The struggle to find talent, the need to dominate your marketing, and the rising costs of doing business all are common problems that many restaurants face today. What is a restaurant to do?

Understand the number one problem that is the cause for all of this…


All business problems are people problems in disguise.

To Err is to be Human

If all business problems are people problems, then the people part is usually due to communication issues. Human beings for all the amazing things we can do that astonish us, we do have flaws that are supposed to help us on a survival level. Take all the information that is flooding into your brain right now. The images hitting your eyes. The sounds around you coming into your ears. The smells that are wafting up your nose. The taste of food that dances across when you eat. If you had to process every little thing that came into all your senses at once you would basically crash your human operating system… the brain.

So, your brain takes all the million of bits of information coming in and it does three things to help you.

Delete Information - we tend to think our memories are an accurate recording of the events in our life. The reality is that those memories are more like an edited movie that some key scenes have been cut out and left on the floor of the editing room. If you have ever remembered an event one way and someone remembers it differently, then you have come across deleted information.

Distort Information - if you have ever heard someone say something and implied it to mean something totally different... welcome to distorted information. The same goes for when you watched that scary movie, heard a noise by the door and distort it to mean there must be a crazy killer trying to get in.

Generalize Information- driving to your restaurant you most likely were in some traffic. Did you notice every single make and model of the cars going in both directions along the road? Probably not. All you generally remember was that there were a lot of cars. If we didn’t store some information in the general category we would need to stop and figure out what everything is and who people are. Imagine if every time you walked up to a door with a handle you had to stop and say to yourself, “what is this thing?”. Generalizations help us navigate through the day with some ease.

How do you solve this people problem that plagues many restaurants? The best way is to make sure your communication skills are at the top of their game. To get there fast you need to understand the one thing that all great communication has in common.

Clarity is the Key

There are four C’s to Effective Communication that need to be used in unison if you want to break down those pesky people problems. They have a synergy to them that when applied together can have a dramatic impact on the results your communication has on your team.

Courteous - make sure you are talking “to” people and not “down to” people. The basis of a team is unity and embarrassment or degrading others only lifts you up. Suppressing the team to make yourself look good is a losing position.

Complete - remember back to distorted and generalize information? Your team has those natural biases too, so make sure you give complete information and don’t “assume” they know what to do. Many people don’t want to ask if there is uncertainty in communication for fear of looking stupid. There are no stupid questions, only poor communication when complete information is not delivered.

Concise - keep your communication on target. It’s easy to get distracted and wander off-topic. Keep your communication with your team focused so information is not deleted when it becomes too much. The sad thing is when you jump from topic to topic your team has a hard time knowing what is important so they delete, distort, and generalize to make sense of it.

Clarity - your communication must be crystal clear and discussed. It’s not only imperative to deliver the information from your end, but you must also make sure the people being communicated to understand the information with clarity. Once again, assumptions in communication are the root cause of problems. Use active listening and ask the person what they heard. This one step to ask what they heard is a game changer! You will instantly see those three horsemen of poor communication appear (deletion, distortion, and generalization).

With clarity also comes telling your specific expectations for the task or project, as well. Uncommunicated or unclear expectations will never allow you to get the restaurant you truly want. Here’s a classic example:

You hand the new team member the standard job description (or worse you assume they know the job requirements). You have them read it over and then they start. You didn’t communicate all those “little things” that you expected and soon there is disappointment and frustration on both sides.

Contrary to your assumptions, most people cannot read your mind about what you expect from them. You need to communicate with clarity exactly what your expectations are or risk setting your team up for failure.

The number one problem in restaurants is communication. The bad news is that means it starts with you. The good news is that you can do something about that today to improve it.

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