How to conduct a restaurant staff meeting
Ready, Set, Meet!
What is one of the most popular mantras that we all hear in every business? “Communication is key”. We hear it at work all the time. In team sports it is preached constantly. In our home and family lives it is one of the most important tools. Well, if we are hearing this message constantly then there must be something to it.
As operators we know all too well that the business can be a constantly changing landscape. It is our responsibility, therefore, to make sure that our staff members are all on the same page. We can’t chase down every individual staff member to tell them about something. Using a group text message could work, but that is a cold and impersonal means of conveying a message. The most effective tool in staff communication is the team meeting.
Every restaurant is different, and the types or frequencies of these meetings will obviously differ for everybody. This is your chance to inform, teach and encourage your staff. Embrace it and work it to its fullest potential.
Gathering wait staff prior to a shift provides an excellent opportunity to get everyone on the same page.
Are you running a special dish? If so, take this time to have the kitchen prepare a few and have a pre-shift meal with the staff. We expect them to enthusiastically push this dish. Do we want them just reading it off of a card or reciting it from memory? If they have had the chance to eat it themselves and have had it described to them by the kitchen staff, then they will be way better poised to sell it.
Have you added some new wines to the list? This again is a perfect time to taste them (not too much, we still need to work) and educate the staff on the new and exciting changes.
It can be difficult to find time to get everyone on the staff together but running team meetings can be a big aid in solving that dilemma. You have their attention, now make an impact. When we have the entire crew together it can be a wonderful time to encourage and commend the staff for jobs well done and goals that have been accomplished.
Are you running a staff contest of some sort? Don’t just throw a flyer up on the bulletin board in back describing it. Use this forum to create excitement amongst the staff while telling them about it.
When we have dinner at home with our families, we will use that time to discuss our days and what is going on with everyone in the family. We all then turn around and preach that “family” mindset to our staff. Well then put your money where your mouth is and have that same sort of interaction with the staff. Your leadership in that role will have a great permeating effect among them. These are not just meetings to bombard the staff with facts. This is a great opening for owners and managers to make a great connection with them. But much like mom’s lousy meatloaf at your family dinner, these meetings can also get old fast. Keep it fresh! Maybe you don’t have a special you need to push one day. OK then how about everyone sharing some desserts? Is it a nice day outside? Then instead of having the meeting at table 23, why not go outside and enjoy the weather. Be mindful of special events within the staff “family”. Is it someone’s birthday? Make note of it and recognize them. Nobody has ever been put off by an ice cream cake to celebrate. Use this time to build that staff relationship and not just pour instructions down their throats. If the staff looks forward to these then they will continue to be fantastic brand ambassadors for the restaurant.
What about the back of the house staff?
The same can be applied to them. Team building doesn’t end at the door to the kitchen. They are a part of the family too. They may not need the same number of daily updates as the wait staff, but there are always topics to be covered as a group such as prep priorities, cleaning procedures, constantly changing health code updates and so on. Now we all know that front and back of the house crews are often different breeds. Instead of a wine and cheese meeting in the dining room maybe they are more comfortable getting together out back for a coffee meeting. Find your most comfortable avenue and run with it.
The point of this communication is to have everyone on the staff on the same task. Do not overdo it and lose them. Staff meetings are usually best-done pre-shift. With that in mind remember that there may be set up that still needs to be completed and we don’t want everyone to feel rushed because we carried on way too long in the meeting. Go in with an agenda of specific topics you need to cover and stay on point.
We’ve saved the most important part for last.
Communication is a two-way street. As much as you may talk, stop and listen! Staff meetings should be a comfortable environment where team members can also voice their opinions and concerns.
Well thought out and executed staff meetings will be greeted with open arms by your staff, rather than shrugged off if we just treat it like a daily chore.
In today’s ever so difficult restaurant staffing environment these things can go a long way. Not only are you conveying instructions and priorities to the staff, but you are bringing everyone together as a team. Employees do not get this type of informal, yet friendly and fun atmosphere at a warehouse job, supermarket, retail, etc. Our business has always been unique and these are the type of things that set us apart.
This is your stage. Make the most of it while you have everyone’s attention!