How To Run a Good Pre-Service Briefing

For restaurants, bars and clubs, the pre-service briefing is an essential meeting that informs staff about what to expect during their shift. This quick meeting is often the best way to communicate key information to staff and make sure they provide customers with the best experience.

Below, we’ll discuss what a pre-shift meeting is exactly, its purpose and what it should include for maximum effect.

What is a pre-shift briefing?

In the food and beverage industry, running an efficient meal and drinks service involves a lot of planning and forethought. A pre-service briefing helps ensure this planning comes to fruition and operations run smoothly.

A briefing is usually held by a manager or team leader who outlines their expectations for the hours ahead to staff on shift. For example, it might include details about specials or menu updates, as well as predictions for how busy the hours ahead are looking.

Often, these meetings are held weekly with staff and also at the beginning of shifts that hold more significance, e.g. an event night, like Halloween, or before regular dinner service. Overall, they form an integral part of successful staff management.

What does a pre-shift briefing include?

A pre-shift meeting template should include the following:

  • Details of any bookings, including group reservations

  • Tasks and sections assigned to certain employees

  • Information about any special dietary requirements

  • A run-through of the food and drink specials

  • Praise to team members who are performing well and overall constructive feedback

  • Some quick training on the food and drink being served, as well as serving etiquette

In general, it’s advised that briefings are kept shorter – ideally no longer than 15 minutes. Part of the overall goal of a team briefing is to motivate staff (as we’ll get into below), and boring them with a long meeting isn’t usually the way to go to achieve this!

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What is the purpose of a pre-service briefing?

A pre-shift meeting is multi-purpose and usually aims to do the following.

To motivate and promote teamwork

Teamwork makes the dream work. Clearly communicating the role of staff members and how they contribute to the whole team service helps ensure employees work well together and feel confident in their position. In fact, stats show that 69% of the workforce are more productive when communication is prioritised in the workplace.

This is also the time to hype up and energise your employees so they go out feeling empowered to do a good job. For this reason, it’s not the time to get into any criticism – remember, constructive feedback only. Ensuring staff are well-trained and feel competent using your restaurant POS system, is also a must. Fortunately, with Square for Restaurants, employees can feel confident using the mobile pos systems and card readers in minutes.

Organise the night/shift ahead

A key purpose of the pre-shift briefing is to let staff know what the evening is going to look like. How many covers are expected? Are there any group reservations? Are any regular or VIP customers coming in, and, if so, which employees have been assigned to take care of them? You might also take it as an opportunity to discuss any promotions or discounts you have in place, such as buy-one-get-one-half-price on spooky cocktails at Halloween or a free dessert on a customer’s birthday.

Share details about the food/drinks on offer

Naturally, in a food and beverage establishment, the actual meals and drinks available are an important topic to bring up in a briefing. Ensure staff are up to date with the menu, including any specials or one-offs. It’s also a good idea to run through any important details about the ingredients. For example, are the vegetables organically sourced from nearby farms? Is the beer from a local brewery? The more employees know about the menu the better they’ll be able to sell it to customers.

Inform employees about any marketing strategies

If you have a particular marketing strategy at play, such as up-selling or cross-selling, now is the time to run a quick training session or refresh for staff so they know how to get the message across. It’s also a good moment to bring up your etiquette expectations. For example, do you want staff to greet customers as they come in? And are there any keywords or phrases you wish to attach to your service approach? If so, now is the time to communicate them to your team.

A chance to offer feedback and tips

You will likely have observed certain things in your establishment in the past week that you want to raise. For example, has there been some confusion about how to serve beer bottles – with glasses or not? Or rules around whether non-paying customers can use the toilet facilities. If you’ve noticed any recurring issues, now is the time to bring them up and put the matter to rest.

You may also want to offer some feedback on how staff have been handling their duties of late – but remember, keep it light and positive to keep team spirits high.

Receive feedback from staff

Equally, now is the perfect opportunity to take questions from employees and open up a clear line of communication for them to raise any issues. This is the time to hear out general complaints – such as “some members of staff keep leaving serving trays in the wrong place”, as well as make suggestions, which might be something like “we feel we could manage tables more effectively if we had more staff members helping out with large group bookings”. It might also be a chance for employees to discuss the rota and any upcoming holiday they’d like to book. With Square shifts, you can handle staff scheduling in the same place as payroll and sales – providing a thoroughly streamlined employee management platform.

A pre-shift meeting is your best opportunity to communicate your plan for the shift ahead. For maximum effect, keep it short – it’s called “brief” for a reason – and keep the emphasis on providing key information and motivating staff to go out on the floor and perform to their very best.

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