In the wake of COVID-19, the restaurant industry is scrambling to shift how they do business. More than eight million restaurant employees across the U.S. have been furloughed or laid off. Many businesses are struggling to stay afloat, and some are adjusting their menu in response to emerging COVID-19 needs. Some restaurants, like Popeyes and the Cheesecake Factory, now offer family packages and simpler menus to cater to quarantine-fatigued families and individuals. In fact, pizza giant Papa John’s reported a same-store sales increase by a whopping 27 percent across North America in April.
As savvy restaurants sprint to streamline their take-out and delivery process, they must equip their extremely lean teams with the tools and information to continue providing quality customer experience.
At Konverse, we’ve found four major types of communication that are essential for restaurant groups as they navigate COVID-19. All four types – with the right supporting technology – focus on informing and empowering the staff. In turn, they spend less time wondering what needs to be done and more time implementing change and delivering impeccable service to customers.
4 Communication Structures Your Business Needs Now
These 4 communication structures need the right technology infrastructure for teams to run smoothly, implement change, and pivot with rapidly shifting customer expectations.
Top-down communication consists of the announcements, policies, and training from leadership being disseminated to locations, managers, and individuals. With smaller teams running restaurants, it’s essential for leadership to provide clear, concise, and consistent information in a centralized location. A “single source of truth” for team members to regularly turn to reduces confusion and ensures that new policies are not only viewed but understood and implemented by team members.
Consider a restaurant like Popeyes introducing family-oriented meal kits for takeout. Along with consistent messaging around safety and the introduction of new COVID-related policies, the corporate team would need to introduce training around the new meal kit offering. To ensure implementation runs smoothly across the country, the business hosts the information in a centralized digital location available through employees’ personal devices. Staff can quickly review essential information and corporate leadership ensures that teams are seeing the most important information.
By creating an accessible source of knowledge for employees, individuals can spend less time seeking out answers and more time shifting how the business is run from the inside. Team members are empowered with the resources they need to keep the restaurant running and importantly, can continue delivering a high-quality customer experience – even as the business shifts.
Top-down Communication Considerations:
Peer-to-peer communication is the exchanges between individuals or small groups at a location or staff level. This often includes communication from managers (including schedules, events, chat, etc.) and between team members (shift change, order questions, manager-to-manger conversations, etc.).
Peer-to-peer communication is incredibly important right now, not only because employees are less likely to be in-person, but also because leaner teams need to be able to quickly communicate from shift to shift.
Customers still expect a smooth and high-quality experience from their favorite restaurants. Employees need to be able to discuss changing menus, limited ingredients, staff requirements, and delivery schedules with one another so everyone at the business is equipped to answer questions and deliver above and beyond their customers’ expectations.
For example, a team working at a fine dining restaurant is now offering order pickup. The staff wants to discuss their upcoming schedule and hash out any details about the new pickup process, but can’t all be in-person for a meeting. Leadership provides a tool that enables teams to communicate, using messaging boards to ask managers questions and align on the restaurant’s goals for that month. The tool also gives leadership the opportunity to monitor conversations to better understand team members’ needs and challenges.
Peer-to-peer Communication Considerations:
Business-critical communication includes the task management and process support that empowers employees in their day-to-day work. This often includes daily checklists and workflows created by managers for individuals and teams and performance tracking (think; inventory, sales, and productivity).
With fewer employees staffed, individuals are taking on greater responsibility and teams are being asked to introduce new processes into their already-full schedule. In other words, restaurant staff is shrinking but their to-do list is growing. To ease this burden and keep them focused, teams should have access to a collaborative task management tool.
For example, consider a restaurant like Olive Garden. The location team has been significantly reduced and team members’ roles are shifting to accommodate for more take-out and delivery orders. A manager’s checklist has expanded beyond scheduling and inventory, and now includes keeping track of COVID-19 compliance and new company policy. To stay organized, the manager uses a task management tool to create daily to-do lists and assigns tasks to her team. This tool templatizes tasks, so she doesn’t need to spend time creating a new list every day. She and her team follow safety protocols, respond to customer inquiries, and responsibly hand off orders through their contactless pickup process. They easily track sales and the manager reviews a customized performance dashboard weekly. Customers receive their orders and the staff stays focused, safe, and productive.
Business-critical Communication Considerations:
Bottom-up communication includes the opportunities provided to employees to submit feedback, ask questions, and create a dialogue with the leadership team. This often involves surveys and help desks.
Soliciting feedback from employees is incredibly valuable for restaurants, especially as a part of a change management strategy. When leadership understands their employees’ outlook, they can take key insights to identify new tools and resources for teams.
For example, if a company like Papa John’s is seeing an uptick in sales but is simultaneously implementing new policies, they should launch an employee satisfaction survey to ensure teams are being properly supported. By soliciting feedback, the Papa John’s leadership team can proactively create user-centered solutions in response to challenges their employees are facing. In turn, employees are able to better execute and serve the customer-base while staying focused and positive.
Bottom-up Communication Considerations:
Empower Your Employees to Deliver Incredible Service
There is no doubt that COVID-19 has presented enormous challenges across industries and individuals. The organizations that prioritize their people and stay nimble to new and changing customer needs will have a leg up. By developing a communications strategy around the above structures and implementing the technology that supports it, your staff will be better equipped to deliver great customer service and keep the business running without sacrificing their health and safety.