Conducting Line Ups
Restaurant Preshift Meeting
Conducting a server lineup before every shift is one of the most important things you can do to steer the course of your service into excellence. Without daily direction and conversation, service can veer off course and vary from server to server. By talking about issues, sharing ideas and concerns, and stating expectations you will create an excellent service team.
When to do it?
Before the shift begins, that is when everyone’s mind is on the same thing: the upcoming service. Make sure your service team has mental focus available for the line up. If a server has a section that is still wanting speck, or an apron that needs ironing, you don’t have their full focus. To ensure everything that needs to be completed before the preshift meeting is completed, you may need your servers to come in a few minutes earlier than they do now. Then again, you may not. It is important that you convey to them that set-up must be complete by the time the line up begins. No ifs, ands or buts.
Where to do it?
The dining room is a great place to conduct your line up. Make sure when the meeting is over everyone leaves the dining room in pristine condition. Image of Grey Plume Service Lineup
On my service tour I encountered many variations of the lineup. Some restaurants had their servers stand while others allowed them to be seated. The purpose of having servers stand is, I assume, to show respect and maintain their attention. Standing isn’t necessary, though. In fact, it can be a distraction. When you are seated your body is relaxed and all attention can go to what you hear. Sitting makes writing things down easy and creates a friendlier line up, and the line up should be just that. After all, you are all in this together.
What to talk about?
There are a million pertinent things to talk about, just make sure you are talking about things, not telling about them. A lineup that consists of one voice, one manager for example, is not as effective as one that includes the thoughts and involvement of everyone. Ideas should be welcomed.
Here are three aspects of a great lineup.
What happened during the last shift that could be discussed? Almost every shift has a one of the following:
A. A total service fail. What happened? Where did it go wrong? How will it be approached next time so the fail can be avoided? Create a prevention plan and be prepared to implement it.
B. A unique issue, one that “rarely comes up,” but did yesterday. These types of issues are the kind that managers usually blow off because they “never happen,” rarely happen, or it was the first time it happened. But who cares? Talk about it anyway.
C. An unhappy guest. Why were they unhappy? Were they picky or was it a #1 from above? Who was their primary server? Have the server tell the story. Learn from it. Share it! Talk about it!
D. A happy guest. Why were they happy? Who was their primary server? Have the server tell the story. Learn from it. Share it! Talk about it! Dissect the reason and then make a plan to repeat it to other guests.
E. Team work that was amazing. What were the specifics of the team work? How did it feel for those involved? How did it look from the outside? How can that type of team work be replicated every time?
Remember, no guts no glory. Learn to talk openly, honestly and with integrity. Mistakes happen. Talk about them! Great things happen too. Bravo them, don’t ignore them! But for the love of god, communicate openly.
Every lineup should be utilized to learn more about the products you offer. Wine, spirit, cocktail ingredients, dish components; pick something and learn the shit out of it! Ask a server to explain it. And then ask another server to explain it further. Was anything forgotten? Now taste it. Explain it. Listen to why some of you hate it. What about those of you who love it? Each group, the haters and the lovers should learn the other “team’s” why. By asking each other the following questions you will create a profile of which guests will hate the product and which will love it.
- What do you normally drink/eat? (There is probably a palate connection.)
- When did you first experience the product? Was it in a certain drink? Brand? Was the wine/cocktail/spirit paired with a certain food? Was the food enjoyed with a certain wine or cocktail?
- How, when and why do you sell it? Will you give us your spiel?
(This exercise helps you realize that everyone has a very different palate. Just because you love or hate something doesn’t mean everyone does. On the other hand you may discover that everyone on the team dislikes something. In this case it may be wise to consider changing the recipe or replacing the product.)
3. Goal. What is the goal of tonight’s shift? Give everyone the same thing to work on.
“Tonight we are going to work on looking for people with dishes before we enter the dish pit. Take dishes from a fellow server. Condense steps.” When everyone goes into a shift with a shared focus, you can really create the support needed for positive change.
Bonus 4th Aspect
Are there any issues that need discussing? Does anyone have a problem with how something was handled? Does anyone have a suggestion? Does anyone want to bring something up? Does anyone want to call another server out for something awesome they did? SHARE! In the beginning your servers will be closed down, totally unfamiliar with the idea of their voice being heard. If this is the case, call on a server and have them bring something up. Anything. Who cares what? Meeting is adjourned afterward.
The more preshift meetings you conduct the more you will notice your service changing for the better. I promise.
Thanks for reading! And have a great shift!
(There is excellent reading in the comments below!)
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