In my time working within catering I have seen lots of nationalities come through the kitchen and service team, therefore one of my main challenges has been communication. If indeed the words we speak only make up 7% of our communication as a whole then how does it reflect on individuals whose first language isn’t English? I have heard conversations where the spoken word has been completely misunderstood.

The title of this blog has been inspired by a famous sketch by the 2 Ronnie’s. Ronnie Barker plays a customer, Ronnie Corbett plays a shop keeper. It opens up with Ronnie Barker asking for what appears to be four candles, Ronnie Corbett opens a draw and places four candles on the counter, to which Ronnie Barker says “no fork handles, handles for forks”. If you haven’t ever seen the sketch then I would recommend you YouTube it, as it is one of the best “play on words” I have ever seen. I have encountered similar break downs in speech; I have witnessed someone asking a chef if he has a micro plane? To which the response was yeah I have one! The chef goes to his knife roll to produce a black marker pen? Brixham crab has been on some of our menus; we brief all our service staff and even ask them to taste the products. Later during one of the events I discovered our staff were telling the customers that it was indeed Brixton crab?!

The written word is also able to betray us with a little version of Chinese whispers, if a chef writes a menu, and makes a spelling mistake, (especially if it’s a Italian or French Spelling) then that word, let’s say for example it’s a Arancini ball (which is breaded risotto) as it’s a Italian word it will flag as a spelling mistake. If in this environment of misspelt words I have seen the same item spelt as Grinchini? The mistake has made it all the way to final menu print, until someone asks what is a Grinchini?

Over the past five or so years modern technology has helped us communicate more efficiently, mobile devices now email, use social media, send text messages and make phone calls. However I am not convinced all these forms of media have helped at all. We are now a society of selfies, blogs and an overdrive of marketing, it seems to me everyone is on ‘transmit’, but is anyone really paying attention? I wonder how many people will even stop to read this blog.

The 7% rule

From 100% verbal break downs to:

  • 7% verbal (the words we say)
  • 38% tonality (how you speak and the tone you adopt)
  • 55% physiology (body language)

The definition of communication is the “response it elicits”. Which is to say the received message, but how often is there even a response? I have been to restaurants and bars seen groups of people, sometimes even couples, not talking to each other but instead looking through their mobile phones!

From a language which spawned William Shakespeare, to saying the word “like” instead of a pause. I wonder how long it would be before we lose the art of conversation altogether.

Mark Andrews
Development Chef