A busy night in a restaurant can turn into two things: a successful night or a disastrous one. Life in the dining room can move at light speed and with all the interactions and opportunities for problems that arise from a busy night, you’ll want to make sure your team is ready for war, each and every shift. In order to do so, you’ll want to have a pre-shift meeting at the beginning of each evening. This meeting should take no longer than 15 minutes and allow the entire staff on service to discuss the evening ahead. These meetings are essential to ensure team cohesion and allow for all to be proactive rather than reactive. By having these quick meetings, you’ll ensure your whole team is on the same page. It is the manager who will lead the meeting, and all employees who work the room should be present, as well as the restaurant chef. As in with everything in life: communication is key!
Let’s talk about the important 9 steps of the pre-shift meeting in the points below. You can also download your printable cheat sheet here
1. Use the opportunity to do a pep talk or deal with small difficulties
As the person in charge, you should talk about the night before. Highlight some awesome things your staff did, or bring up some things that need to be improved. Always keep a motivational tone and make your staff feel like they’re all in this together. Uplift them and you’ll see that they’ll work even harder. A strong team that works together really makes a difference.
2. Test the staff on product knowledge
In order for your staff to be on the ball, they’ll need to know their menus inside out. This will allow them to make good recommendations and have more control on how they upsell.
It will also allow them to answer client questions correctly, without having to waste time going to the kitchen or to their manager every time they’re unsure of something. You’ll want to make sure your servers are leading the conversation between themselves and the clients. You’ll want to make sure your servers are sellers, and not simply order takers. Pay attention to the way they speak to their clients. Do they adequately answer customer questions without “hmmms” and misinformation? The more they know their menus, the more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed they’ll be.
So every shift, randomly pick a few of your staff to answer a few quick questions about your menu in a pop quiz style. Some examples can be “which sides come with the steak” and “which Chardonnays do we serve by the glass”. Knowing they’ll be quizzed everyday will add pressure on them to know their menus.
3. Introduce any new staff to the team
As the manager it’s your responsibility to introduce any new staff to them team. This is important because you want to encourage team building and good relationships amongst your employees. Every time there’s a new staff, ensure you’re properly introducing them to the whole team with their name and their job position. This way, you’ll break the ice and make your new employees feel more welcome. Your existing staff will also know what’s expected of the newcomers in terms of their roles and they’ll be better suited to give a helping hand.
4. Explain the layout of the night
You’ll want your staff to have a crystal clear picture of the night that’s ahead. You’ll clearly present, divide and explain the server sections, inform of the turnover, and all special requests on reservations (allergies, VIP, etc.). You’ll also inform them of the pace they’ll need to take for the evening. Is it a super booked night where they’ll have to provide a quicker service to ensure a quick turnover? Or is it a slower evening where they’ll have fewer tables but will have to give a lot of attention in order to maximise their sales? This will dictate their selling tactics for the evening and will make them proactive rather than reactive.
5. Inform the team of all special requests and other booking instructions
Did one of the groups bring a birthday cake that the server must be aware of? Did a corporate party pre-buy drink tickets for their attendees that the bartenders must know about? Will one of the clients visiting be in a wheelchair and need to have the adequate space around to be accommodated? These are all things that need to be communicated so that your staff isn’t caught by surprise which can cause some unforeseen problems or frustrations. This can be done by yourself or the head hostess in charge.
6. Have your chef inform the dining room staff of anything missing on the menu, specials, or anything that needs to be pushed
If you’re out of a certain menu item or product, your waiting staff must be informed of it. By knowing in advance, they’ll be able to let the client know as quickly as possible, even before the client gets to scan through the menu. This is important because the last thing you want to do is to create a craving for your clients and then greatly disappoint them by telling them what they wanted to order isn’t available.
Did your chef get a really good deal on a certain product and ordered a lot of it? Let’s say he got a good deal on oysters. This will be the time to tell the staff to push and sell the oysters to your clients to ensure you get a good turnover without any waste. Remember, we don’t want waste because that equals money down the drain.
7. Have your chef transmit all of the information to the kitchen staff
With all of the information your chef has gathered from above, he’ll be able to make his kitchen team ready. The only person communicating with the kitchen staff should be the chef, as it will take away any confusion and misinformation from the kitchen to the dining room and vice versa. This will allow for your chef to make their kitchen staff ready
8. Have your bartender inform the team of products that are not available for the evening
Same goes for the bar. You’ll want your waiting staff to be aware of anything that’s missing in terms of beverages, whether it be a type of spirit, wine or any cocktail ingredient or topping.
9. Give the staff instructions on how to operate for the evening
Your staff should have clear tasks in your restaurant. For example, your busboys’ tasks usually include ensuring the restaurant’s overall cleanliness, flipping tables, and acting as a support to your waiting staff. With those being top priorities, it will happen that you get quieter nights. The last thing you want is to have a bunch of staff gathering and talking and appearing to not doing anything. For nights like these, always have a back up plan of tasks. This can include organizing shelves, deep cleaning dining accessories, etc.
In the end, never doubt the importance of the pre-shift meeting. It should be done religiously. 15 minutes before each evening will make a huge difference as it will allow for proactiveness, team cohesion and the overall awesomeness of your restaurant. Give it a try, you won’t regret it.