Wanna Fight? Resolving Conflict in Your Restaurant


Not too many people want to argue, disagree, or openly oppose the views of their teammates or boss. Yet, it’s often those opposing views that can bring about productive and positive change for your restaurant. Yes, it’s true — conflict can be a good thing and can lead to:

  • Unity of team purpose
  • Increased collaboration
  • Better decisions
  • Creative changes
  • Improved relationships
  • High performance teams

Unfortunately, there’s a fine line between constructive and destructive conflict. It’s a restaurant manager’s job to effectively manage conflict within a team by addressing conflicts early to avoid conflict escalation. Escalation is common, and is characterized by accusations, gossiping, threats, taking sides and, ultimately, a weakening of a healthy team’s bond.

To stop escalation from happening, restaurant managers must recognize both the positions and interests of the people involved. A position is a decision people make about what they want. It usually sounds like a solution or an answer to a problem. Positions don’t form all by themselves. They are usually based on interests — the “why” behind people wanting what they want.

For example, a kitchen manager announces a new procedure to the team for submitting special requests. This is a position. Her decision is probably based on her interests — “why” she wants the new procedure — such as to save the line time or minimize waste. She is surprised when she announces the new procedure and meets significant resistance from servers. All they hear is that they’re going to have to learn something new that will take up more of their time. Their position is based on their interests of minimizing their confusion and avoiding change.

Finding a common ground and resolving the conflict requires the restaurant manager to uncover interests of the servers that the new procedure will serve. Will the new procedure make special requests come up faster? If so, the servers’ interest of serving their guests quickly may change their position on the idea.

Conflict arises because the conflicting team members have either positions or interests — or both — that simply do not agree. Positions maintain the conflict. Your power to resolve conflict is found in the interests.

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