How to Conduct a Pre-shift Meeting

In a business with so many employees coming and going – and so many different agendas for the day – a good pre-shift meeting can be a great way to get everyone on the same page. One of the biggest impediments to success in this business is the inability to find employees willing to focus for the four to six hours that most shifts last. Many talented employees may be preoccupied with school or their families, or may simply not see the incentive for concentrating while at work.

Imagine your employee culture as operating along a bell curve. The top 10% of your employees are going to give their all on almost every shift, while the bottom 10% may be on their way out the door. Effective leaders harness the potential of the middle 80%, who are often swayed by the organizational culture that prevails. 

A pre-shift meeting can help turn the culture in favor of the business. It can build unity and motivation by offering a simple reminder that they’re part of a team, and that their efforts will be rewarded. Good pre-shift meetings must include the following to be worthwhile:

  • Start on time
  • Be concise
  • Update contests and projects
  • Set the stage for a great shift
  • Be fun (or as fun as possible)

The restaurant business should be about working hard and playing hard, and pre-shift meetings reflect this culture.

Be on Time and in Uniform

In well-run restaurants, there are consequences for showing up late or not in uniform. The nature of those consequences depends on a few factors. Employees should recognize incentives to showing up on time and in uniform. For servers this might include getting better stations or leaving earlier. However, the point remains that employees who are on time and in uniform are more likely to be ready to go when the restaurant gets busy.

Be Concise

The pre-shift meeting should not be an endurance test. It should be memorable and purposeful, which is only possible when the important information is delivered succinctly. Meetings are also more effective when they follow a consistent structure. This might include the shift manager speaking, followed by a kitchen manager, and a chance for employees to speak. A consistent structure leads to predictability and clarity, and leaves little up to chance or surprise.

Contests and Projects

Pre-shifts have the benefit of getting everyone on the same page. This is particularly valuable as it relates to sales contests or store-wide projects. Sales contests have great value in a sales-driven environment, because they provide external motivation. Updating everyone about their progress and rewarding winners is a great way to motivate employees, in part by letting them see that managers reward employees who go the extra mile.

Projects might include updating a menu, trying new entrees, or tasting new wines. Each of these exercises is more helpful when there are many employees contributing as a team. Over time, this has the impact of building a team spirit that serves the business well in the long haul.

Shift Preparation

There are several elements relevant to the upcoming shift that should be discussed in a pre-shift meeting. These include:

  • Features or specials for the upcoming shift
  • Large parties or banquets
  • Customer special requests
  • Customer feedback or updates
  • New contests or projects

This is a great opportunity to inform employees about anything important for the upcoming shift while building camaraderie and having fun.

Have Fun

Too many management teams in too many restaurants forget that the hospitality industry is supposed to be fun. Managers who appear to be having fun tend to keep employees loose and focused on work. The pre-shift meeting should occur before a single customer has entered in the building, or at the slowest time of the day. This makes it easier to keep the meeting fun and relaxed, getting the entire staff off on the right foot.

Not all restaurants need to have pre-shift meetings. In fact, managers who are fortunate enough to have veteran staffs may not need the added time it takes to put a brief meeting together. The benefit of a pre-shift meeting is greater in restaurants that have high turnover, or many younger employees. However, the variety of good reasons for these meetings means that they are worthwhile in almost every environment.