October 11, 2021

Pros and Cons of Pre-Shift: Are Daily Meetings Necessary?

It seems like almost everything about the restaurant business is changing these days. I believe it really is time to re-invent the way we run our restaurants. 


To do that, we take a look at the systems we have in place and ask ourselves; Does this work for my team? What are the pros and cons? Is it worth it? 


If a pre-shift meeting is part of your restaurant, this article will help you break down all of these questions to see if your pre-shift is serving its purpose.


Does your pre-shift meeting work for your team? 

To answer this question, ask yourself what the goals of the meeting are. Is it to communicate new info to the staff? Is it a way to offer continued training? Is it a means to create incentives or boost morale? Once you know what you're trying to do you can figure out if it is working. 


One of the greatest tools you have is the ability to get feedback directly from your team. Have an open discussion with your staff about what they find helpful about pre-shift, and what doesn’t work for them. Remember, you have these meetings to benefit them in the first place, so listen!


Chances are you will see a pattern or at least a few common thoughts (good or bad) from their feedback. A biggie that I encourage you to ask is; “Do our pre-shifts make life any better for you while you’re at work”? Listen carefully to their answers.


This is a theme that I often come back to, one that I think is at the center of the revolution we are seeing in the restaurant industry. Smart restaurant owners, managers and leaders will be focusing on doing everything they can to make life better for restaurant workers.  


The Pros and Cons of Pre-Shift 

Let’s take a look at what a well-managed pre-shift meeting can bring to the table, along with what might be missing or unhelpful about them.

The Pros:


  1. Regular team communication. Daily pre-shift meetings are a great way to get everyone up-to-date on menu changes or other service notes that are necessary for a successful shift.


  1. Familiarizing new menu items. Having Chef present new dishes during pre-shift is a great way to get staff familiar with specials and new items.


  1. Continual training opportunity. Having your team together for a pop quiz, or wine tasting is always a good way to improve product knowledge.


  1. Morale building. Offers a chance for team building, incentives and morale building.


  1. Lock in a game plan for special events. Buyouts, VIP’s and other events can be covered in detail.


  1. Sometimes we just need to vent. If managed well, the meeting can allow staff to air grievances and just vent.


The Cons:


  1. Execution can be difficult. Someone has to write a pre-shift itinerary and then run the meeting. And of course, something is always forgotten on that itinerary!


  1. Attendance might be spotty. It can be difficult to get everyone there on time, or maybe staggered in-times means that only openers attend pre-shift, leading to a chain of miscommunicated details.


  1. Missed meetings. Anyone who misses the meeting may not have the info they need, leaving them in the weeds during a busy shift, or with an unhappy customer.


  1. Consuming unnecessary resources? Having a daily pre-shift meeting can require a lot of time and money. Time planning and executing, and paid wages for time that isn’t necessarily productive.


  1. Keeping it old school. Pre-shift is a more traditional approach to communication in restaurants. Keep in mind that younger staff (high schoolers, maybe?) are 


  1. Morale killer. Over-competitive or authoritative approaches to pre-shift meetings can actually hurt morale and team cohesion.

Alternatives to Pre-Shift: New ways to communicate with your team and organize your service.

That old saying “If it’s not broke don’t fix it!” comes to mind for me here, because that is often the response to tweaking old-school systems in restaurants. I think it’s pretty clear that there is nothing innately broken about a daily pre-shift, but taking a look at some of the cons may help us adapt a bit, and improve even in the slightest. 


Maybe having a pre-shift is the right thing for your venue, or maybe you need to ditch it. Maybe it just needs to be tweaked a bit to meet the times. Let’s look at a few ways to adapt.


Look for better ways to communicate (preferably in real-time).

Finding new ways to communicate with your staff is easier than ever. Text threads, group e-mails, or a good app are all productive and effective ways to communicate. With such a young workforce, using tech-based communication is going to be your best bet.


Some tech-based management tools and apps, if implemented well, can actually replace many aspects of your pre-shift meeting. Instant notifications via an app will get the info about menu changes and specials to your wait staff in real-time, reducing the need to meet in person. 


If technology is not your style, perhaps consider a bulletin or white board as an alternative way to communicate, you can even simply post pre-shift notes there for team members to access.


These other options can also go a long way to help you simplify your venue beyond pre-shift. 


For more ways to simplify your venue and communications check out “Simplify Your Restaurant: Why Your Team Will Thank You.”

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Train your team members when you hire them, and use tools for continual education. 

Staff training in restaurants is a topic near and dear to my heart. I am a big believer in organized and efficient training being your #1 tool for employee retention, positive workplace culture, and for simply running a successful venue. 


For a deeper dive into training check out: “Investing in Your Best Assets: How Training and Organization Improve the Employee Experience”


Training is also a path to alternatives to a traditional daily pre-shift. If you have a well trained, up-to-date staff, the need to communicate service standards or other non-changing company policy is reduced. 

For the details that do change often, like menu details, VIP guests or events, table layouts or CDC health guidelines, try implementing a digital tool such as a shared Google doc, or an app that utilizes a notification system. You take the time to hire smart, capable employees


Conclusion: Listen to your team, and don’t be afraid of change.


Having managers that go out of their way to notice and listen to their employees one on one is, lets be honest, rare. We’ve become so chaotic, so busy, so frantic, that we tell our staff to “figure it out” or we ourselves feel so out of control that our response to a complaint or issue is often “well what do you expect me to do about it?” 


The truth is, managers that listen to their employees, and then implement changes to reduce complaints and issues, are the ones who run more successful services. And obviously, more successful venues.


Your staff are your venue. If you aren’t making their lives as good as you possibly can while they are at work, you are not only failing them, but your guests as well. 


Changing times call for us to change in ways we may not have thought of before, including how we conduct preshift. Your staff is younger and more agile with information than ever before, so I say let’s put that to work for everyone! Using technology in combination with simplifying and organizing your restaurant makes more sense than ever. 



Didn’t find what you were looking for? Here are some related articles: 

  1. 3 Tips For Effective Pre-Shift Meetings
  2. The Do’s and Don’ts of A Pre-Shift Meeting
  3. The Power of The Pre-Shift

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