We often find ourselves talking a lot about timing when it comes to food and beverage service. Each player on the team from the host/hostess to the servers, cooks, and managers are responsible for keeping the dining room flowing and managing the timing of the table.
However, the most important time in any food and beverage operation is the 15 minutes before each shift begins: the pre-shift meeting.
Photo by Paul Sarlas
Call it the warm-up, sound-check, or preflight run-through. Pitching great Chris Sale doesn’t take the mound to throw heat without a parlez with his catcher. Diva Renee Fleming limbers up her pipes with the orchestra before performing rapturous arias.
Starting each shift in your food and beverage operation without a pre-shift meeting or “pep-talk” is to miss a great opportunity to connect, encourage, and educate your team. Pre-shift meetings can be the most valuable moments in daily operations when the staff gathers to open the lines of communication between front and back of the house, offer praise for a particularly hectic shift when the crew rallied for success, or convey the glowing reviews of a customer.
Taking just 15 minutes before the “main event” to focus and motivate the team on the business ahead can set the tone and direction for the entire service. This "positive huddle" is the perfect time to discuss new menu items, additions to wine and cocktail lists, and conduct tastings of daily specials.
The pre-shift meeting also allows your team to exchange information before the impending rush of business in an informal and respectful manner. Perhaps Mr. Morris noted to a server at breakfast this morning that he'd be coming in with a special lady for dinner that night. Or maybe Miss Norris told the bartender at lunch that she'd just been diagnosed with a shellfish allergy, and the member profile system needs to be updated.
Photo by MadGreens
Pre-shift meetings can also give you as a manager a chance to check in with everyone on your team and spot minor issues before they turn into major problems. Maybe you notice that Lola is looking a little under the weather and is quieter than usual, prompting you to pull her aside after the meeting to inquire if she needs to go home. It gives you a chance to welcome Luis back to the team, who has been off for a few days taking care of his mother after surgery.
Giving your staff this time to pause and gather themselves before hectic and sometimes stressful points during a shift allows you to set an informed and positive tone for service. Managers can maximize these opportunities by preparing meetings that are planned, defined, and interactive.
A pre-shift template should include:
Housekeeping topics that affect overall operations
Upcoming business forecasts
The inspirational and anecdotal
Beginning and concluding the pre-shift on a high note will help carry the positive momentum through service and reinforce the sense of shared purpose. Taking time to create pre-shift meetings that are engaging, educational, and efficient will motivate your service team and inspire discussion topics for the next meeting. Time to prepare...an invaluable tool for a successful shift.
Chef Mary Howley is the culinary consultant to the RCS Hospitality Group and a former Executive Chef of her own catering company, several country clubs, and fine dining restaurants. She studied throughout Europe and honed her skills on the East Coast working with a myriad of culinary styles. She had the honor to serve as research and development chef for Food Unlimited, and held the position of Pastry Chef in two James Beard Dinner Events.