The Pre-Shift Meeting (Part Two)

If this reminds you of your staff at your last pre-shift meeting, you might be doing it wrong

Yesterday, in part one of my discussion of pre-shift meetings, I discussed the things a manager can do to harm the effect of a pre-shift meeting.  It was by no means a comprehensive list.  There are many other mistakes managers can and do make that harm their pre-shift meetings.  It does however beg a very important question; how do you hold a successful pre-shift meeting?  Today, I hope to answer that by providing a template for these meetings.

One of the simplest actions managers can take to create effective pre-shift meetings is to follow a structure.  Having a template to follow in your pre-shift meetings allows you to develop a routine.  This routine will make planning your meetings far easier by enabling you to simply pick topics instead of trying to map out the meeting from scratch.  It also enables your staff to know what to expect and creates a structured beginning to their shifts.  This allows for more time to be spent by managers to plan the content and the servers to absorb it.

The timing of this meeting is an important factor to keep in mind.  Most restaurants stagger the arrival time of their servers to optimize labor dollars.  This can make the scheduling of your pre-shift meeting more difficult.  Holding this meeting while many of your servers have tables will often break up the momentum of the shift for them.  It is often wise to hold these meetings earlier to prevent this from happening, even if it means your final servers to arrive miss the meeting.

There are four general areas you should cover in every pre-shift meeting:

Housekeeping: These are the topics that affect the overall operations of the restaurant.  Be sure to cover any items that are out of stock or have limited availability.  Information from the corporate offices should be addressed in this portion of the meeting.  New items on the menu can be discussed for the staff to become familiar with.  Any upcoming events or holes in your schedule should also be mentioned.  In discussing these things it is important to remain upbeat and positive.  If you have bad news to address, take the time in advance to determine how to discuss it in the most positive light.

Forecast: This is your opportunity to talk about the shift that lies ahead.  Any special events in the area or factors that could drive sales should be addressed.  This also gives you a chance to discuss your thoughts on the evening.  No one expects you to be a psychic about the shift.  It is simply your predictions.  Much like watching the weather forecast, you do not have to be perfect, but knowing your thoughts can allow your staff to be prepared.

Teaching: This should be the primary focus of your meeting.  The time you have available is put to best use with topics that will benefit the restaurant beyond the impending shift.  Take time to discuss a specific skill that you feel can be improved on by the staff.  Even if it is just a review of skills your servers already have, it can be valuable to bring it into focus.  Five minutes a shift spent reinforcing skills can create an atmosphere of mastery that will radically improve your staff.

One of the best ways to do this is to have a weekly skills focus.  Rather than selecting a different topic every day, maintain the same topic throughout the week.  This repetition is the first step in creating positive habits amongst your staff.  For the first few days of the week, teach the skill to your staff and discuss it.  Midweek, let those who heard the teaching in the first few days share their success stories or best practices.  By the end of the week, let a member of your staff teach this part of the meeting.  Learning to teach the topic is far more effective in creating a long-term habit than simply repeating the information alone.

Inspiration: It is vital to end your meeting on a high note.  Do not let it dissipate into chatter as it ends.  Instead, find a way to end it on a high note.  This is your change to reaffirm the sense of shared purpose.  I am a big advocate of keeping a book of quotes in the manager’s office.  Having some other sources of inspiration will help keep you motivated.  It will also provide you with the content necessary to end these meetings on a high note.

Another way to end these meetings is to recognize a member of your staff for something they had done that week.  Any letters or compliments a server received should be recognized at this part of the meeting.  If you do not have any recent remarks to share, ask you staff if they have seen anything worth commending.  Follow this up by challenging them to create a story during that shift to be shared at the next meeting.  Creating this routine will cause your servers to start looking at the skills of others and how they can adopt them as well.  This also builds into the sense of purpose that motivates your staff.

These areas should all be addressed in less than 10 minutes.  The effectiveness of your meeting ends when your audience’s attention span expires.  Following this routine will extend the time they will pay attention by letting them know what is left to expect.  Taking the time to hold an effective pre-shift meeting can be the most effective form of continuing education you can offer.  When you take advantage of this time and the opportunity it provides to improve your staff, your bottom line will reflect it.

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About David Hayden

David Hayden is a restaurant marketing and training consultant based in Kansas City, MO. He writes a series of 9 blogs collectively known as The Hospitality Formula Network and is the author of "Tips2: Tips For Improving Your Tips" and "Building Your Brand With Facebook"

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