Gathering our troops before battle is essential to establish a sense of camaraderie and some common goals. What many managers don’t realize is that it’s just as important for them as it is for the serving team. Talking to our staff beforehand makes us focused and puts us in the right frame of mind as oppose to just working another shift.

Of course, there will be days where we aren’t feeling it or believe we can just brush it off. Consequently, the very fact that we’re putting in less effort guarantees that our team will put less effort in as well. Leadership always comes from the top, as does the inspiration and the drive to perform our duties well.

Our pre-shifts don’t have to be long. In fact, the shorter the better – provided we follow a structure and go over all the necessary points. Below are the five essential items to be discussed in every pre-shift.

Start with a Welcome

The restaurant is a social environment, which means being social is a must. A pre-shift is an opportunity to greet everyone if you missed them coming through the door.

Now, this may sound crazy . . . but acknowledging our employee’s existence is important!

If we have new servers, we want them to feel welcome, too. We can either do this by introducing them during pre-shift or privately let our other staff members know to say hi to the new guy or gal on the team.

News, Promotions, Events

A calendar holiday usually means the restaurant is going to be full, so pre-shift is a good time to prepare for that. We can let them know to expect it and remind them to stay extra focused so to maintain a solid flow of the restaurant.

This is also the time to go over any changes in our establishment – be it policy, dress code, new menu items, etc.

If we have any deals or promotions going on, we should review it with them so they know the best way to explain it to the guests. (If we don’t do this, servers are more likely to get it wrong or forget to bring it up when they approach their tables.)

If we have TVs, we want to spread the word about any important games on that night. Certain sports, matches, and tournaments will certainly bring more guests into the restaurant.

Recognition and Praise

Of all the things so often missed, pre-shift or not, it is validating our team for their good work. Praising our employees is so important to the success of our restaurant and there is no easier time to do it than in pre-shift.

We can recognize our team for all kinds of things – positive attitude, perfect dress code, great teamwork. Congratulate them for running a lot of food or for having a high guest check average from upselling various add-ons off the menu.

There should be no limits to praising except that we want to ensure we are being sincere. Yes, we need to do it, but not in a way that feels ingenuine.

If we’re having a hard time finding something praiseworthy, it’s probably a wake-up call that we’re taking our staff’s good work for granted and too focused on finding perfect rather than great – both are important for us to acknowledge.

A Focus of Discussion

Putting in a daily focus to our pre-shifts guarantees we are constantly reviewing what we expect from our servers. It helps to focus on something we have seen as lacking in the previous week. Perhaps we lost too much money on cold food and we want to make certain our team stays on top of it.

In this case, we can use pre-shift to emphasize that hot food must go out hot – especially for items like fries and soups. We could bring up the importance of running food as soon as it’s ready, too.

And if we can’t think of a focus for the day, let’s keep it to the menus! Learning the food and cocktail menus with all their ingredients takes time and then also review. No matter how much time we spent cramming it all in during training, we are bound to forget things.

A great method for reviewing is to bring up different entrees or cocktails and ask the servers questions rather than simply give out the information. This will keep them engaged during pre-shift and give us another opportunity to praise them for their answers as well.

A Common Goal

We’ve spoken to our team about a focus and now is the time to put it into effect. We need to let them know what our goals are for the night.

If for example, our focus was that all hot food goes out hot, then our goal will be about that. We can let our team know they are the final gatekeepers before anything is run and it’s up to them to prevent their own guests from sending that food back.

Offering an incentive is also a great way to get them on board with our goals. Perhaps any servers who had zero food sent back by the end of their shift receive a ballot that night and at the end of the week, a winner is drawn for whatever prize.

These sorts of competitions are guaranteed to make us all winners in the long run because our guests will be content and our servers will get the recognition for it as well.

Running a pre-shift every day will bring us more success in all aspects of our restaurant. By following this structure, we are establishing the foundations for a smooth shift with servers who feel welcome, validated, and challenged with concrete goals to keep them motivated.

It all starts with us – If we lead with focus, our team will perform with focus. Let’s remember to play our part.