Let’s Talk About It: 9 Tips on How to Communicate Effectively in the Kitchen

Effective communication is the essential ingredient for every successful kitchen. That is why it's crucial that the kitchen staff is not only on the same page, but also working together towards common goals. Sometimes you need to share menu changes or simply ensure everyone understands what they need to do. Get inspired by learnings from 9 chefs and industry experts.

Be an inclusive listener

“To listen effectively as a leader, be present, focus on the speaker, ask open-ended questions, paraphrase, don't interrupt and show empathy. I encourage everyone in the kitchen to share their ideas and opinions. This can help create an inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and respected. Set the tone, create a safe space to communicate and follow up on ideas.”

Nawaf Al Mhamid
Executive Chef,
Shakespeare & Co

Make open communication a priority and have regular talks

“Have frequent talks with the kitchen staff. Sometimes with everyone together, other times with individuals. This could be about work, but also about themselves and their lives. Open communication is key to setting goals and expectations.”

Iliana de la Vega
James Beard Foundation Award Winner and Chef,
El Naranjo Austin

Focus on honest communication between FOH and BOH

“Have regular employee check-ins so your staff feels they can contribute with their unique ideas and initiatives. Honest communication between front and back of house is essential. They have to trust and respect each other for our guests to have the best quality meal. My secret ingredient for communication: always show respect and treat your team as equals.”

Warren Frantz 
Executive Chef and Food Operations Manager,
uShaka Marine World

Create a safe environment for sharing feedback 

“I have an open door policy. My students and staff can always come to me to discuss things. I give clear feedback but in a casual environment. We don't set up an office space and have meetings because that makes people stressed. We call them feedback sessions.” 

Nicholas van der Walt
Senior Lecturer,
FBI Chef School and Patisserie Academy

Talk about common goals

Including everyone in the conversation helps to keep a team motivated and on track. “When communicating in the kitchen it is helpful to make my team feel like we are all working towards the common goal of success.”

Erika Durham
Restaurant Consultant and Executive Chef,

Always be compassionate 

“Have compassion in mind when giving feedback. Make sure that you are always mindful that some members of the team may be having a bad day and think of the way you would like to be approached. It is important to engage with the individual privately, and explain what is expected in this situation and allow them to express why they feel the issue has come up. It helps to give them options for resolving the issues and a timeframe that is achievable to correct an issue. Always exit the situation with a positive vibe.”

Andrew Dunne
Group executive chef,
Virtue Integrated Elder Care

Set the tone with non-verbal communication

“Non-verbal communication can be more impactful than what we say to one another. For example, facial expressions can have a significant impact on others' perception of you. Set the tone with a smile and reflect positivity in your movements.”

Dina Altieri
Director of Educational and Training,
Catalyst Kitchens

Keep conversations confidential 

“Most people’s perception of a chef is very standoffish, very shouty. We wouldn’t dare approach the chef with our issues. When I came to Tottenham it was very important that I change that perception. My door is open to anybody who works in the building. They can talk about what they want. What’s said in my office stays within those four walls.” 

Mark Reynolds
National Vice Chairman,
Craft Guild of Chefs
and Executive Chef,
Tottenham Hotspur FC

Share your vision with your team and check in

“To be a successful leader, you have to be able to communicate your vision with your team. Talk about what you want to achieve, set goals and check in to make sure you’re all on track. Communicate goals in group settings so everyone gets the same message at the same time. For important discussions, prepare and practise what you want to say to get your ideas across clearly.”

Prince A. Sanders
Hospitality professional

We need to be aware of how we communicate within our teams and understand how vital effective communication is. Listening with empathy, giving compassionate feedback and communicating common goals are just a few key points to consider in order to foster productive communication in the kitchen. Most importantly, communication should be a priority for every team; making sure everyone feels comfortable enough to participate and that everyone's opinion matters. 

To learn more about how to improve your communication and leadership skills in the kitchen, sign up now for the online Leadership Training. It is free for all foodservice workers and (future) leaders.

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