In the fast-paced environment of restaurants, where interactions are constant and teamwork is essential, effective communication is key. In our 2024 survey conducted in partnership with CHART, 80% of L&D leaders said that their focus is shifting toward developing soft skills: leadership, communication, and interpersonal relationships. Yet, in a diverse workplace where language barriers may exist, verbal communication alone may not suffice. This is where the significance of body language comes into play, especially for managers and team leads. Here, we'll break down how leveraging body language can transcend language barriers, foster inclusivity, and enhance leadership in restaurant settings.

Decoding Body Language

From facial expressions to gestures, every aspect of body language can convey meaning and intent. Managers should focus on maintaining open and approachable body language, signaling to team members that they are valued and their perspectives are welcomed.

Here are three key tips derived from best practices to effectively utilize body language in overcoming language barriers and promoting inclusivity in restaurant workplaces:

  1. Maintain Open and Inviting Posture: Stand or sit in a relaxed yet attentive manner, keeping your body facing towards the person you're communicating with. Avoid crossing your arms, as this can convey defensiveness or disinterest. By maintaining an open posture, you signal receptiveness and encourage open dialogue.
  2. Utilize Facial Expressions: Facial expressions are powerful tools for conveying emotions and intentions. Maintain a friendly and genuine smile to put team members at ease and express approachability. Additionally, use eye contact to establish rapport and show active engagement in conversations.
  3. Be Mindful of Space and Proximity: Respect personal boundaries while also demonstrating accessibility. Avoid standing too close or invading personal space, as this can be perceived as intimidating. Strike a balance by maintaining a comfortable distance that allows for interaction without causing discomfort.

Show, Don’t Tell

Restaurants thrive on human interaction, making them inherently people-first environments. While technology undoubtedly plays a role in streamlining operations, it should complement rather than replace in-person training and communication moments. This is particularly crucial in addressing language barriers among team members. Instead of relying solely on verbal communication, managers can harness the power of body language to effectively convey messages and build connections.

Effective leadership goes beyond language proficiency; it encompasses emotional intelligence and soft skill development. Manager-In-Training programs should prioritize the development of these skills to empower managers to connect with their teams on a deeper level. By honing emotional intelligence, managers can better understand and respond to the needs and emotions of their team members, fostering a supportive and inclusive workplace culture.

💡 Curious to learn more about how soft skill development plays a role in manager training? Hear firsthand from two L&D experts in this webinar, “Growing from Team Member to Manager”. Learn More

This is an article in a 3-part series on “Embracing a Multilingual Workforce: Strategies for Success". Check out the other articles: