Why communication is a critical talking point for an effective work environment.
Having one member leave the club unhappy is unacceptable to Joseph Watters, CEC, Executive Chef of Jonathan’s Landing Golf Club, Jupiter, Fla.
And with close to 40 staff members, 1,100 members and two clubhouses 13 miles apart from one another, effective communication is critical to whether a dining experience at the club will be a success or failure, Watters says. Something as simple as forgetting to copy a staff member on an e-mail could make the difference between a perfect evening or a confusing and problematic event.
“We always have to keep the lines of communication open,” Watters says. “It’s not something that just happens in the kitchen during a busy service. It’s an ongoing process that needs to be worked on daily.”
For Watters, good communication begins with mutual respect and looking colleagues in the eye during conversations. Being able to show respect to others and their ideas will help conversations run smoother.
Eliminating the Guesswork
At Jonathan’s Landing, Watters utilizes meetings and e-mail communication to help keep his team on track.
Weekly meetings are held to discuss the upcoming week’s banquet events, covering all of the details. Before every shift, another meeting with both the front- and back-of-house staff covers specials, reservations and any food restrictions or allergies.
The success of this communication hinges on extremely detailed and well-written orders.
“A staff member should never be left to guess what is supposed to happen,” Watters says. At Jonathan’s Landing, records are maintained for all members, to ensure they receive the food they prefer or need. If a member has a food allergy, the staff knows ahead of time, and plans accordingly.
The Full Story
Being accommodating to members and guests increases satisfaction, and good listening also contributes to a positive relationship between members and staff. Jonathan’s Landing’s members fill out comment cards to give feedback to the kitchen and help the staff determine how to best fit individual needs and wants.
“We strive for at least 100% to 150% guest satisfaction at the end of each service,” says Watters.
Every four to six weeks, Watters changes 75% of a menu, on average, which makes communication even more important.
After a menu change, each new dish will be cooked and explained to the kitchen staff, as well as the front-of-house staff. The staff also gets the opportunity to taste the dish, which Watters says is critical to introducing a new menu item to members. And because the front-of-house staff most often communicates directly with the members, it’s important for them to also be well-versed in the technique used to prepare the food, where it comes from and the history of the dish.
Non-verbal communication in the kitchen can also play a big role in the way a shift runs. “If there is negative body language given throughout a service, it can throw everybody off,” Watters explains. “I think the best thing a person or culinarian can do is walk in the kitchen with an ‘can do’ attitude and a smile on their face.”
Watters uses a three-step process to teach skills to his kitchen staff that involves a complete role-reversing cycle. After he teaches a technique to his staff, the next time it is completed together. Then the third time, he has his staff teach it to him. In this way, he wants to create muscle memory and make sure his staff is fully learning what’s being taught.
“You’ve seen it done, you’ve done it and you’ve taught it—for me, that’s what really works,” he says.