Transforming Restaurant Operations: Uniting Teams and Closing Communication Gaps

Restaurants are complex businesses with many moving parts. Yet all of these parts must work together in harmony for the customer to leave the restaurant feeling satisfied, with their only hunger being to return for another visit. 

Unfortunately, the restaurant industry is notoriously known for being cliquish, and these cliques may not be as innocent and harmless as they may seem. In reality, they can cause significant damage to the business and its ability to provide guests with an incredible experience.  

A “communication silo” is the name for what happens when groups, teams, or departments of employees within an organization isolate themselves and tend to only communicate within their group. When this happens in restaurants, it can harm the feeling of collaboration necessary to achieve peak operational efficiency.

One of the most unfortunate consequences of communication silos in the hospitality industry is a negative guest experience, and in the restaurant business, the guest experience is everything. When different groups of employees within the restaurant do not communicate effectively, it creates conflict and sources of inefficiency. Thus, restaurant leaders need to identify potential communication silos and implement solutions to address them.

Communication Silos in Restaurants

A few communication silos that commonly present themselves in restaurant operations include:

  • Waitstaff: The most common communication silo in restaurants is the waitstaff who bear the brunt of the customer-facing operations of the restaurant, since they are the ones who get to see the customer experience up close. Despite being in customer-facing roles, these individuals are rarely involved in the decision-making process. 
  • Kitchen staff: The kitchen staff is perhaps the most integral part of a restaurant operation to the guest experience — after all, what do people go to a restaurant for if not to eat? — but they are generally relatively isolated from the rest of the team. Although they have some interaction with the waitstaff and management out of operational necessity, they rarely achieve the level of collaboration that would be necessary for efficiency.
  • Management: Location management is generally in charge of making day-to-day decisions, and they get a view of the operational information for both the waitstaff and the kitchen staff. However, if they withhold this insight from their employees, they won’t reach the optimal efficiency they could achieve if they were better informed.
  • Corporate leadership: Of course, for restaurants that are part of a chain, there can also be a communication silo formed among the corporate leadership. These individuals tend to work from a central office, meaning they are often isolated from the customer experience while being responsible for making fundamental decisions about it. Although they may visit locations from time to time, they frequently make decisions for numerous — if not all — locations worldwide from the company’s headquarters.
  • Marketing: The marketing department of a restaurant also plays a pivotal role in shaping the customer experience by setting expectations. However, like corporate leadership, the marketing department of a restaurant is frequently severed from on-the-ground operations, meaning they do not always have the ideal portrait of the business as a whole.

Addressing Communication Silos in the Restaurant Business

Fixing these communication silos requires one key element: a clear vision. Restaurants can unify themselves under a clear set of overarching goals for the organization. Although individual departments and perhaps even individual employees will have their respective goals and KPIs, everyone in the organization should be unified under the business's core mission.

One approach leaders in the restaurant business can use to unify their team is through technology. Ensuring that operational systems are uniform across the business can enable employees at all levels of the organization to come to the same understanding of the organization’s efficiency and work together to find an ideal solution. For example, allowing high-level leadership to use the same POS system used by the waitstaff or inventory management system used by the kitchen staff to make decisions and set goals can ensure more unity across the entire operation.

Similarly, restaurants can use technology to equalize training procedures and ensure that employees at all levels enter the team with the same understanding. For example, when visiting a physical restaurant location is difficult due to factors like time or cost, marketing employees can be trained using VR or AR technology to simulate the experience of being there physically.

Communication silos are one of the most prominent organizational challenges that restaurants face today. Thankfully, setting unified goals and using technology can help restaurant managers bridge the communication gaps between different groups and departments. Once those gaps are properly bridged, the entire organization can be unified under the same goal: giving guests the best experience possible.