I have worked for a number of companies over the years that held pre-shift meetings with the servers.
They have been called a variety of things: line up, fresh talk, jump start, family meal, and many other names have been used to refer to these meetings.
I have also managed at a handful of restaurants and ran my own pre-shift meetings. Having been to thousands of these meetings over the years, I have been able to determine a number of factors that contribute to the success or failure of these meetings.
No matter what you call the meeting, the objective should always be to set the proper tone for the shift. This is your chance to get your staff focused on the shift in front of them. Many managers enter these meetings casually and without preparation. Others use it as an opportunity to complain to the staff about their performance. Some managers will even skip them all together because they feel it is a waste of time.
All of these styles still share one thing in common: they set the tone of the shift. Your pre-shift meeting will set the tone, positive or negative, for the rest of the evening.
With the potential to make this sort of impact on a shift, I am a firm believer in a well-planned per-shift meeting. When holding a pre-shift meeting, here are some ideas to keep in mind:
Remember Your Audience: The goal of your meeting should be to inform, focus, and motivate your staff. Too often managers will get sidetracked into discussing profitability or memos from corporate. These are particularly relevant to managers, but seldom merit any of the limited time available for this meeting. These things can be discussed in a managers meeting. Use your time at the pre-shift meeting for just the information relevant to your servers.
Keep It Positive: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Before you enter a meeting with bad news, come up with a way to spin it into a positive. You are setting the tone for the shift. Expressing any negativity or doubt will permeate the shift. Remain positive and keep the staff motivated.
Maintain Focus: While it is valuable to keep these meetings upbeat and relaxed, you must maintain control. It is very easy for these meetings to be carried away by jokes or complaints. It is your job to see when this is happening and take control of the meeting again. As you develop a pattern of running your pre-shift meeting in this way, it will be easier to keep them focused.
Convey Weekly Messages: Your pre-shift meeting should follow up on the issues you are trying to impress upon the staff for the week. Remember that not all of your staff is at every meeting. The repetition will help drive the point home for those who have heard it before and allow those who haven’t to hear it the first time. Repetition is vital to the long-term retention of information.
Take It Seriously: You can only expect your staff to take these meeting with a fraction of the seriousness you bring to them. Showing up unprepared and unfocused will send the signal to the staff that the meeting is not important to you. If it is not important to you, they will not see the value in it. Be prepared, focused, and present information with a conviction that it will help them in the upcoming shift. This is valuable time and you need to take it seriously to get the greatest return on your investment.
The value of a good pre-shift meeting cannot be understated. Taking the time to get your staff focused on the shift ahead and conveying training points will improve the quality of the shift and the service given. Managers who fail to take advantage of it too often squander this opportunity. Running positive, informative, and educational pre-shift meetings in one of the most important skills of a manager. Fully utilizing this time will improve your shifts and your bottom line.
David Hayden is the author and founder of The Hospitality Formula Network, a series of blogs designed to help managers and servers provide superior service to their guests. This and many other outstanding articles to help managers and servers excel can be found throughout The Hospitality Formula Network.