We’ve all had those meetings….
Watching the seconds tick by, you can almost see time slowing down.
It seems that the second hand is teasing you, dragging out its route around the clock just to see you suffer a bit longer.
In the background, you can hear a monotonous voice, reminding you to always tell your customers the specials and to do your side work. This was your off day, but now you’re sitting in your empty restaurant, hungry, and reviewing basic duties for the hundredth time.
The majority of us in the service industry have had to attend and run our fair share of staff meetings. Some are productive, many are a waste of time. An effective and engaging staff meeting can work wonders for your team’s morale and your restaurant’s success.
The following tips will increase the productivity of and engagement in your meetings, and will prevent your staff from being reminded of their hated calculus lectures in high school.
1. Have a set schedule
Staff meetings should never be a surprise to your crew.
Plan your meeting time and location, and inform your staff well in advance. Once you set a time and place,try to schedule the meeting on the same day and time every month. This consistency allows your staff to plan around the meeting, and prevents you from having to field comments like, “Well, I didn’t know that we were having the meeting then.”
When it comes to finding the ideal time for a meeting, think of your staff. They likely won’t be pleased to come in to work on Saturday morning after working the closing shift the night before.
Consider asking your staff which times and days they would prefer – and listen to their suggestions. The more involved they are in planning the meeting, the less likely you are to hear complaints in the future.
2. Make an agenda, and follow it
While it’s not necessary to print out a minute-by-minute breakdown of the items to be discussed, come prepared with an outline of the points you want to address.
At the beginning of the meeting, walk your team through the agenda, and lay out how long you would like to spend on each topic.
Remember when you added an hour-long meeting to your staff’s schedules? Stay within your limit - if your hour-long meeting starts crawling past that, you’ll find your staff will start fidgeting like kindergarteners before recess, and your message will fall on deaf ears.
3. Make it worth your staff’s while
We would all like to think that our knowledge and wisdom would serve as sufficient compensation for attendance. Unfortunately, this is likely not the case (not yet, anyway!).
While ongoing training is highly valuable to your staff, they may see your staff meetings as a time where they are making minimum wage or below without the possibility of tips.
By offering your staff something extra at meetings, the time may be perceived as less of a chore.
Prepare a family meal if it’s over lunch, or bring in donuts and coffee during a morning meeting. At the very least, the sugar and caffeine will prevent the server who worked a double the day before from dozing off halfway through the meeting.
4. Tackle real issues
If you hired and trained your staff well, it is likely that they are experienced and competent workers with a strong understanding of how to do their job. And as experienced and competent workers, it is likely that they will not appreciate you reminding them of the obvious things they need to do as servers/bartenders/bussers/chefs. Yes, they know that they need to do their side work every shift. Yes, they know to ask if a customer wants another drink when taking away a glass. If your staff is slacking off on the basics, mention it during your pre-shift meetings instead.
Reminding your staff of these small points during the staff meeting is a waste of your time and theirs. Instead, focus on issues that aren’t Service Industry 101. For example, discuss what can be done to encourage repeat customers, or what change can be made to the scheduling to prevent over- or under-staffing. Your staff will appreciate being able to weigh in on important issues facing the business, and you’ll likely find that your staff has a wealth of ideas to contribute.
5. Make the meeting a forum, not a lecture
Your staff is, without a doubt, your most valuable asset.
Your servers, bussers, cooks, and bartenders are on the floor every night, dealing with customers and problems that may arise. Staff meetings offer you the opportunity to listen and learn from your team. If you spend the entire meeting talking about your perceived problems and your solutions, without opening the floor to your staff, you’re missing out on an invaluable opportunity to engage your staff and tap into their expertise.
Kick the meetings off by highlighting two or three issues, then let your staff chime in with potential solutions or areas of improvement. Ultimately, the changes needed to improve your business are implemented by your team on the floor.
If you allow them to apply their knowledge and experience when coming up with a solution, you’ll find that they’ll likely work actively to see their suggestions succeed, rather than begrudgingly following orders from the higher-ups.
6. Facilitate discussions
While allowing your staff to discuss and debate potential solutions to issues is important, it is also necessary to monitor the discussion to make sure it’s remaining relevant and worthwhile. If you find that staff are beginning to repeat the same points without proposing any new thoughts or solutions, it’s time to wrap up that topic and move to the next.
Additionally, ensure that the discussions aren’t dominated by your more vocal team members. Step in and ask forthe opinion of your quieter staff members - their points are just as valuable as those of your bartender whose volume seems to constantly be set to ‘maximum’.
Finally, know the difference between a discussion and a debate. If two servers’ discussion begins to sound more like you and your brother fighting over your favorite toy as kids than a productive dialogue, gently move the team to a different topic or idea.
7. Conclude with actionable goals
If you’ve successfully followed the points above, you should have several great ideas to help solve the problems you presented at the beginning of the meeting.
However, don’t finish the meeting with just those ideas scrawled on a piece of paper. Instead, your team should walk away from the meeting with actionable steps and goals that they can apply in their next shift.
Follow the adage preached in business schools across the country and make ‘SMART’ goals. Every solution should be Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
For example, if you wanted to find ways to increase per customer sales, your goal shouldn’t be “sell more appetizers.” Instead, try something like “Each server should sell x appetizers per shift through suggestive selling, resulting in a $x increase in profits by next month.”
Mentioning SMART goals at the beginning of the meeting will help direct your team in the right direction.
8. Follow-up and reinforce
Finally, your new goals and actions are worthless unless they’re implemented and monitored.
After the meeting, send a follow-up email to your staff highlighting what you discussed, the decisions that were made, and the goals that were created. Keep track of your weekly numbers regarding your goals, and keep you staff informed on their progress. Take a minute during the daily pre-shift meeting to remind staff of the goals and what can be done to achieve them.
And finally, during the staff meeting the next month, share with your staff the results of their efforts. If they exceeded your goals, it's time to show your appreciation with a few rounds of beers (off-the-clock, of course!) or some cupcakes from the hipster bakery down the street.
For more great tips on improving your restaurant operations download our Ultimate Restaurant Operator's Kit. It contains a number of useful templates to help your team get organized and drive better results. Download your copy here: