Communication with Concern

As the demographics change in this country, so do restaurant staff and the people they serve. You need to know how to communicate with a diverse staff and train them to serve a diverse clientele. If not, you can lose some good employees and miss opportunities to increase business.

Employees who are comfortable in their work environment do a better job, and are more willing to do things which will make customers return. People who feel comfortable where they eat will bring their friends when they come back. Good communication can also prevent lawsuits.

  1. Learn to be a good listener- Listening is more than just hearing. Its stopping what you are doing to pay attention to your employees. Whether someone is a busser, server, manager, or chef, face the person when talking to them. Paraphrase what they say to you, so you can make sure you understand their point. While everyone may be speaking English, words can have different meanings depending on geographic origin, age, culture and ethnicity. Do not assume you understand without checking it out first. Listening is an action. Use statements like “If I understand you correctly, you are saying…….”. Ask clarifying questions ” Do you mean?”, If you are not sure of the intention if their words.
  2. Make sure you are understood- Be clear that both of you are agreeing to the same things. Instead of telling an employee you will talk to them later, set up a specific time. Later means different things to different people. Be careful using slang or idioms when communicating with people whose cultures are different than yours or be sure they comprehend your meaning. When you ask an employee to do an important task, getting a yes doesn’t necessarily connote understanding. Ask open ended questions, like “how will you accomplish this?”
  3. Let people know what they say is valuable- Give feedback. Let them know if you like their ideas or their comments. Make sure they know that you listened to them. This helps to make employees feel valued. If you cant understand them because of their accent, let them know what they are saying is important to you, and ask them to repeat it slowly. You may feel uncomfortable at first, but most people wont mind repeating if it means they will better be heard. I was at a new restaurant recently, and brought three friends. Out of four orders, the server got three wrong. When we told him, he got defensive and said he didn’t understand me. He could have asked me to say my order again. My friends wanted to leave but I called the manager over. The manager had him bring the right orders, but berated him in front of everyone. No wonder the service was so bad. The manager didn’t communicate well with her staff, and in turn the staff didn’t value the customers. We, in turn have never been back to that restaurant or the two others owned by the same people.
  4. Check your assumptions and biases- Everyone has assumptions and biases, based on our backgrounds, age, media, experiences, and what we hear. If not checked, these biases and assumptions can affect how we communicate with other people. Be willing to look at yours, and their impact on your relationships with people different that you. Are there cultures that you are less comfortable with? Do you avoid talking to people from those cultures or give them less time and credibility? If you have conflicts between people on your staff from different cultures, or customers do you tend to believe the side that is most like your own culture? I was entering a restaurant when I saw an argument between a customer and a parking valet. The customer said his car was stolen and accused the valet, who was not fluent in English. The valet was also from a culture that considered eye contact disrespectful. When the manager came out to investigate, he took the customer aside and said referring to the valet “He knows what happened. You could tell he’s lying because he won’t look us in the eye. I bet he understands English perfectly, but is pretending so he won’t get caught”. When the police came they discovered that the car had been towed, because the patron had parked illegally. Neither the customer nor the manager apologized to the parking valet.

The concern and respect you show in communicating will impact employee service and turnover, and customer satisfaction and return. All of this translates into more profit or less profit.

 

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