September 19

Build a Skill: Essential Communication Techniques for Restaurant Workers


Communication is crucial to working in the restaurant industry. Here are some best practices to efficiently connect to your coworkers and customers. 

Poor communication, miscommunication, or lack of communication, however you want to call it, can happen in any workplace. In the fast-paced world of the service industry, effective communication is the cornerstone of our success, regardless of whether you are in the front or back of the house.

There are so many moving parts, personalities, and departments working in unison. No matter how structured an organization is, communication breakdowns happen. 

All restaurant workers, whether chefs, servers, hosts, or managers, should master these communication techniques to ensure seamless operations, satisfied customers, and a harmonious work environment. 

Clear verbal and non-verbal communication can help you and your team run smoothly, especially when shit hits the fan during a rush. Having the ability to quickly and concisely explain the issue on Table 4 to your MOD can make or break your tip out. 

Non-Verbal Communication

Non-verbal communication plays a pivotal role on the floor or behind the line, as it often conveys more than words alone can. 

Be mindful of your body language and facial expressions to create a positive and welcoming atmosphere for guests. Especially with the growth in popularity of open kitchen concepts, the safety of being behind closed doors is gone. The guests can literally hear everything you say, so bite your tongue till shift drinks. 

Remember, how we carry ourselves and maintain our physical appearance speaks volumes about our professionalism. Proper grooming, a clean uniform, and good hygiene show respect for the customers, the workplace, and the profession. 

Don’t be the one that rolls out of bed and into your shift–your coworkers (and guests) can still smell the bottle of fernet you drank last night.

Be Respectful 

Respecting customers involves treating them with politeness and patience. This means responding to their questions or concerns promptly and with authenticity. 

Respect within your team is equally vital, though. Workers should value each other’s contributions and perspectives, regardless of their position.

Our industry can be very unforgiving sometimes, and emotions run high in the heat. This is your reminder to not be a dick to your coworkers because that reputation will follow you. 

Active Listening

Active listening enables you to accurately understand and fulfill customer orders while anticipating their needs. 

Whether it’s a customer, coworker, or manager– put aside distractions to focus on the speaker’s words and nonverbal cues.

When taking customer orders, repeat the order back to the customer for confirmation and ask clarifying questions if necessary. 

By listening to a customer’s complaint and demonstrating a commitment to finding a solution, you can turn a negative experience into a positive one–earning customer loyalty in the process.

Verbal Communication

Restaurant workers should be clear and concise when communicating with customers and the rest of their team. 

Taking reservations and preparing tickets should be clearly explained to ensure orders are prepared correctly and that important information is accurately conveyed to other team members.

To ensure everyone is on the same page when the chef starts calling for “hands” or “86 steaks”, familiarize yourself with industry slang to reduce the risk of miscommunication. You don’t want to accidentally sell 86 steaks because you didn’t know what that meant. 

Giving Directions and Feedback

Working in a restaurant is very much a team sport. Giving clear and concise directions is essential when you are in the weeds. It’s necessary to avoid being too vague and, instead, offer specific details to minimize errors.

Feedback is a powerful tool for development and performance improvement. Constructive feedback should be delivered respectfully and privately by management to help employees understand their strengths and areas for improvement. 

If you need to give feedback to a teammate, it’s essential to focus on specific behaviors or actions rather than making personal judgments. This approach encourages others to see feedback as a means of growth rather than criticism, which could be better received. 

Handling Criticism

Both customers and the crew will give out criticism or negative feedback from time to time. How you handle that criticism can significantly impact the guest experience or your work relationship.

When receiving criticism from customers, it’s important to remain composed and empathetic. Customers may have legitimate concerns, and addressing them professionally can lead to resolutions that satisfy both parties. 

Apologizing for any shortcomings, offering solutions, and assuring customers that their feedback is valued can go a long way in diffusing tense situations.

Handling criticism from your teammate requires a similar level of professionalism. Workers should listen attentively to their coworkers’ concerns, avoid becoming defensive, and seek solutions together. 

Effective communication techniques are paramount for restaurant workers to excel in their roles and contribute to an enjoyable dining experience for their customers. 

Nonverbal communication, showing respect, actively listening, verbal communication, giving feedback, and handling criticism are all integral aspects of communication that must be honed in and practiced consistently. By mastering these techniques, any restaurant worker can help create a positive atmosphere, foster strong team camaraderie, and ensure that customer comes back for more.


BOH, build a skill, FOH

About the author

Rebecca Gill began her love affair with restaurants at the ripe age of 16. Her dedication and hard work have directed her towards the administrative side of operations, where she helped train and educate team members. When not working, she enjoys cooking + eating, exploring, and cuddling her dog, Louie.

About the author

Rebecca Gill began her love affair with restaurants at the ripe age of 16. Her dedication and hard work have directed her towards the administrative side of operations, where she helped train and educate team members. When not working, she enjoys cooking + eating, exploring, and cuddling her dog, Louie.