By John Waters

Communication is key to running an effective pizza shop. Your team’s ability to properly communicate with customers and fellow employees is important to the reputation of your business as well as your bottom line. Restaurateurs that communicate effectively make more money by establishing better customer relationships, disposing of bad processes while keeping good ones.

A functioning pizza place needs strong communicators, and strong communicators are molded with constant practice. Improving communication at your pizzeria is a necessity, so here are a few tips to make the entire team better at running a profitable business, including a look at the all-important Seven Percent Rule.

1. Find the right technology. Before we get to strategy, it is important that you supply yourself with the right tools for improving communication. An efficient pizza place should be able to relay messages from one person to another as quickly and clearly as possible.

Two-way radios are one tool to streamline communication at your establishment. They create instant communications for every employee with only a push of a button. The kitchen staff can talk to wait staff in the front without having to dash back and forth multiple times a day. Two-way radios are a reliable tool for communication, according to Stewart McClintic, corporate account manager at HQ98, a two-way radio dealer in Arizona. “Pizza shops use radios because they are easy to set up and use,” McClintic said. “Push the button and get a message out to your team. You don’t have to do a phone call or leave your station to communicate with your team.”

Mylee Gruss, owner of Thirty’s Craft Pizza and Beers in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, said her team’s implementation of two-way radios created more efficient communication. “I have a bar, restaurant and patio in here, and two-way radios allow us to communicate with everyone without having to run to the other side of the restaurant or yell at each other,” Gruss said. “Before, we were wasting a lot of time looking for members of our team. Now we can radio them in, and it has made communicating very easy.”

2. Take an active interest in your employees’ growth. Check in on employees regularly to see how they are doing at their job and in their life. How often you do check-ins depends on how big your pizza place is and the number of locations, but every owner should take an active interest in the growth of their employees. Small pizza shop operators or managers should individually meet with every employee on a weekly basis. Larger restaurants should hold individual meetings once per month.

Meetings are an excellent way to get to know your staff. They can help you learn about their strengths and weaknesses while discussing how both the employee and the owner can build a strong working relationship. No one is more valuable to your pizza place than your staff, so take some time to talk with them. It requires a tiny amount of time that leads to gigantic gains in the future.

Individual meetings should establish clear expectations on improvement for your pizza place and how well employees met those expectations set during the previous meeting. Your meetings are also about establishing a more personal connection with your team members. Remembering a birthday or another big event in an employee’s life can go a long way in creating a strong relationship. Holding productive individual meetings with your employees will help them improve as people and professionals.

Group meetings with the entire team are also a necessity for pizza shop owners. Group meetings should be conducted once a week if your restaurant is small and once a month for a larger pizza shop. Peer accountability is the most important value you should instill in group meetings. You and your employees have goals, and you must hold each other accountable to them. It is important for you and your team to know how everyone is performing. Establish performance baselines on productivity, such as number of customers served, average customer ticket and customer review scores, and then review them every week to monitor trends, praise improvement and learn from poor performance.

Everyone must be involved and engaged during group meetings. Incentivize asking questions and politely pose a question to any employees who have not verbally engaged during the meeting. Meetings should be a safe and intellectual environment. No one should be afraid to speak, and no one should be ridiculed for saying something that’s unexpected. We want to improve communication in our pizza place, and that requires an environment where people feel comfortable to speak.

3. Remember the Seven Percent Rule. Verbal communication is one of the least used forms of communication. The Seven Percent Rule, developed by Dr. Albert Mehrabian in 1971, shows that communication is 7% verbal and 93% non-verbal. Effective communication is more than words. Active body language is an essential component of communication. And this applies to communication with customers as well as with colleagues.

Employees interacting with customers should make direct eye contact, stand up straight, and communicate with the customer using a genuinely upbeat and professional demeanor. Customers will patronize your restaurant if they feel that your employees genuinely want to help them and answer their questions.

But owners should also take this advice to heart when communicating with their employees. Employers keep good people if those people feel like they are being listened to. Take the time to talk to your employees and listen to their suggestions and concerns. Listening will improve your pizza shop and make it more efficient and profitable. Successful pizza shop owners understand that strong professional relationships create strong businesses. Strong relationships require trust, and you establish trust by listening to your employees. You can only grow your business if you hire and keep the right people, so listen to them and watch your pizzeria.

Good communication can create a successful restaurant. Find ways your team can work to communicate more efficiently in ways that benefit your employees and your business. Finding the right methods and techniques to improve your team’s communications will lead to a happier workplace, happier customers and a more profitable pizza shop.

John Waters is the principal of Waters Business Consulting in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is an expert in helping small businesses grow their businesses.