How To Run The Most Effective Restaurant Pre-Shift Meetings

By: Robert A. Benson

6 Minute Read

May 21, 2018

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pre shift meeting

If there is one universal trait of a successful restaurant, it is the ability to run consistently great shifts day after day, and pre-shift meetings are often considered a key to that consistent success.

When the steps of service just flow, food arrives right when it should, tables clear and are set; this perfect harmony it’s what every restaurateur strives for.

In the quest for success, we restaurant owners and operators can place so much focus on perfecting daily kitchen prep, scheduling the right number of employees, and making sure all other aspects of our restaurant’s operations are humming along, that we can forget how important it is to mentally and emotionally “prep” your staff for the amazing shift they are about to have.

Having your team focused, informed, and pumped up for their shift is literally inviting great things to happen; this is what a great pre-shift meeting can do.

What is A Pre-Shift Meeting?

A pre-shift meeting occurs before meal service in a restaurant, where the manager on duty huddles up his or her team to relay important updates, share tips and advice, and get the team excited for the upcoming shift.

The pre-shift meeting is the perfect time, before the hustle and bustle of the night or afternoon takes over, for the manager to:

  • Share updates to the menu.
  • Answer accompanying questions.
  • Assign server side work.
  • Address all other housekeeping tasks.

Though some may categorize a pre-shift meeting as a check-in, they simply haven’t tapped into it’s magic.

The pre-shift meeting has the power to be an effective tool for managers to motivate and engage staff. It is your chance, as a manager, to focus your staff into directing their collective kinetic, creative energies toward a singular mission: Delighting guests and creating memorable dining experiences that exceed expectations.

Here are the top three ways to make the most of your restaurant pre-shift meeting.

1. Be Consistent & Make Attendance Required

Your pre-shift meeting should be a habit to both management and staff.

By having your pre-shift meeting at basically the same time — usually the fifteen minutes before the shift — and in the same area of the restaurant, your staff will have little difficulty remembering to come.

In his famous article The Four Habits That Form Habits, Leo Babauta gives this sage advice concerning building habits, “You need to make it so easy that you can’t say no."

2. The Three I’s

To get the most from your pre-shift meeting, you’ll need to institute some structure; this is where the three I’s come in:

  • Inform
  • Instruct
  • Inspire

Here’s an example of how you could structure your pre-shift meeting:

1:00 min: Welcome

2:00 min - 5:00 min: [Inform] Company updates, side work assignments.

6:00 min - 11:00 min: [Instruct] Skill building and teaching.

12:00 min - 15:00 min: [Inspire] Pep talk.

Part 1: Inform

The first section of your pre-shift meeting should cover general information about the day, including any scheduling changes, team birthdays, weather implications on service, special events/reservations, and projected level of business (based on reservations or historic data, etc.).

Part 2: Inform

The instruct portion of the pre-shift meeting is your opportunity to teach the staff new skills or information.

For example, your chef could discuss menu adjustments, specials, or a limited availability featured dish; your bar manager could discuss a special featured cocktail, or invite a rep from your alcohol distributor to come in and speak to proper pairing techniques.

Teaching your staff new soft skills and information will help them put their best foot forward when delighting guests; it will also help them develop professionally and advance their careers.

Your staff are the face of your brand to guests and prospective customers, some may call them the “tour guides” of the dining experience. Would you want to be on a tour with someone who didn’t know their stuff? Not a chance.

restaurant staff meetings

Part 3: Inspire

The inspire part of your pre-shift meeting is where the fun happens.

This is the part of the program where you focus on getting your staff excited for the shift ahead, whether that be by sharing an inspirational quote, having a pep talk, or kicking off a contest. Contests, or employee gamification tactics, are a popular way restaurant managers leverage the power of healthy competition to drive sales and staff engagement.

Typically they revolve around who can sell the most of a certain type of beer, cocktail, or appetizer in a given period of time. You can reward either individuals or the whole team for their efforts. For example, the three top sellers may get to hand off their side work for a week, but if the whole team surpasses X number of units sold, they get a pizza party.

The inspire part of your pre-shift meeting is also a chance for you to acknowledge or recognize team members who did an outstanding job in the last week. An accomplishment, no matter how small, is still worthy of praise.

Thank your staff trainers, your line cooks who busted out a big rush like champions. Make it mandatory for your managers to find at least three team members or groups to thank for their efforts.

3. Don't Be A Clown, Write It Down

Preparing the theme of your pre-shift meeting and any talking points ahead of time is key to the success of your pre-shift meeting. While there are many steps and processes restaurateurs need to take in order to achieve the holy grail that is a great shift, one factor is certain: Nothing beats preparation.

pre shift meeting preparation

A pre-shift notes template is an excellent way to promote open communication between your team members, document what was covered during your pre-shift meeting, and track the progress on any to-do’s that were assigned.

Post your pre-shift notes on a clipboard where every team member can see it. Rotate who’s turn it is to facilitate the day’s pre shift meetings amongst your managers; managers are required to fill out the pre-shift notes in advance and share with the management team so all are on the same page.

You could also rotate the responsibility of running the pre-shift meeting amongst staff members, or have different staff members cover different sections. This will help staff get more involved in your restaurant’s operations and feel comfortable presenting in front of large groups, a skill all servers need to have.

When it's time for the meeting, just grab a blank version of the pre-shift notes template and go! Here is an example of what a Pre-Shift Notes template could look like:

Pre Shift Meeting Notes

The Pre-Shift Meeting: Simple, Yet Powerful

The pre-shift meeting is more than a meeting, it’s a tool. Through proper structuring and techniques, you can simultaneously focus and motivate your team, setting both them — and your restaurant — up for success in the shift ahead.

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