How to Master Your Restaurant Pre-Shift [Free Checklist]

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5 min read

Apr 27, 2023

How to Master Your Restaurant Pre-Shift [Free Checklist]

Expecting the unexpected is a prerequisite for running a restaurant: a server calls out last minute, a popular dish is 86’d, a VIP endures bad service or the ice machine breaks. There are 100 things that could go wrong, but restaurants that plan ahead can avoid that hair-pulling, mind-bending, what-do-we-do-now kind of chaos we’ve all experienced once (or twice) before.

Pre-shift, or pre-service briefing, is one of the most important yet understated components of running a successful restaurant. Consistent pre-shifts can help improve operational efficiencies, mitigate potential risks and boost restaurant sales

Find out exactly what it takes to run a successful pre-shift and use our free, downloadable checklist to ensure you never miss a detail. 

Why Your Restaurant Needs a Daily Pre-Shift

A coach wouldn’t send their players into the field without a pregame huddle — and as a restaurant manager, your role is no different. Every shift is like gameday for your staff. It’s your job to ensure everyone is prepped, aligned and equipped to perform. If you’re on the fence about adding a daily pre-shift to your schedule, check out some of the benefits below. 

Gets Everyone on the Same Page

Pre-shifts help align your staff members so they know what to expect from the shift ahead. These meetings should cover everything from housekeeping details, reservation notes, cover flows, menu updates, sales opportunities and more.

Pro Tip: Don’t limit your pre-shift meetings to your FOH team; invite your BOH staff as well to ensure everyone is in sync. Aligning the front and back of house builds greater restaurant awareness that everyone benefits from, including the customer. 

Praises, Inspires and Motivates

While daily pre-shift meetings are informative, they can also inspire your team members to uplevel their service. Create fun contests, celebrate victories and recognize and award top performers. Make it a point to call out at least one success per shift. 

These staff meetings can also promote team building and open communication. Encourage your employees to ask questions, provide feedback and share ideas. One great way to get your team involved is to mix up the pre-shift presenters and incorporate different voices throughout the meeting. Involving your staff can make them feel more connected to the team and the business. 

Increases Sales 

When teams are organized, informed and motivated they sell more. Pre-shift gives you an opportunity to align on goals and past performance as well as identify upsell opportunities to drive sales.  

Ingredients for a Successful Pre-Shift

Below are the most common and important elements to help you prepare for a successful shift. 

Business Updates and Announcements

Sharing both internal and external news informs your staff about important restaurant updates as well as circumstances that may have an impact on business.

Weather: This a factor that could have a big impact on reservations and foot traffic, especially for outdoor venues and spaces.
Events: If there are activities like conferences or parades happening in your city or town, it’s important to anticipate how this might impact volume and the overall flow of the evening.
Business and staff updates: This could be an announcement of a sister restaurant opening or closing, change of ownership, or management and staff promotions. If it’s important to the restaurant, your staff should know about it.
New systems or processes: If you plan on implementing or changing existing processes and solutions such as bringing on a new reservation system or POS software, pre-shift is a great opportunity to give your staff a heads-up on the timeline and training details. 

Review Your Floor Plan and Layout

Reviewing your floor plan before an upcoming shift ensures everyone knows exactly where they’re supposed to be and what they’re responsible for. This is especially important if you’re switching up your floor plan to accommodate larger parties or holidays like Valentine’s Day that might require more 2-tops than usual. 

In addition to the floor plan, you should also review:

Opener and closer schedules 
Sidework responsibilities
Staffing issues or shortages

You can print out an updated version of your floor plan for your staff to review from your reservation system or create one manually. 

Anticipated Guest Count and Cover Flow

It’s important to review your reservations before a shift to gauge the total guest count and cover flow. Both the FOH and BOH should be aware of the rush and your hosts ready to manage potential waitlists if there’s any increase in foot traffic. 

This is particularly important for the kitchen staff to know so they can prepare beforehand. 

To get more tips on how to more efficiently manage your cover flow and streamline operations, check out our Revenue Management Guide.

Reservation and Guest Details

Delivering an exceptional guest experience requires attention to detail. Review your reservation system to call out reservation notes, special guests, allergies and accommodations. Below are some typical guest details to include.

VIPs, regulars and critics
Allergies and dietary restrictions
Surprises, birthdays and anniversaries
Gifts and comps
Negative and positive reviewers
Preferences and favorites

FYI: You may need to visit multiple sources to retrieve this information for pre-shift. But with an integrated restaurant CRM like SevenRooms, this type of information is automatically collected and stored in individual guest profiles. Learn more

Pre-shift is an excellent opportunity to announce menu changes and educate your staff. 

Invite your chef to give an overview and offer a tasting of new menu items. This is a great opportunity for staff to learn how the dish is made or get special facts they can relay to guests. Similarly, your sommelier or beverage director can give a quick wine-tasting or cocktail demo to introduce a new addition to your beverage menu. 

This allows staff to ask questions about new dishes and get recommendations on how to explain or pronounce certain ingredients. If you’ve had to increase your menu prices, your staff will be better equipped to explain the reasons for the change. The more knowledgeable your staff is, the better the guest experience and contribution to the bottom line. 

Upsell Opportunities and Contests

Every shift should have a sales goal, whether it’s selling gift cards, upselling appetizers and desserts or promoting a wine and dish pairing. Educate and motivate your team to drive sales. After all, if your staff relies on tips, a higher check average benefits them just as equally.  

Running a contest can be a fun way to gamify and incentivize upselling. Reward your staff with incentives they’ll love like a free bottle of wine, free meals or no side work for a week. 

A good pre-shift requires preparation. Not only does it help you organize but it shows your staff professionalism and respect. Their time before a shift is just as valuable as yours; don’t waste it by being unprepared.  

How to Prep Your Pre-Shift Like a Pro

A good pre-shift requires preparation. Not only does it help you organize but it shows your staff professionalism and respect. Their time before a shift is just as valuable as yours; don’t waste it by being unprepared.  

Collect and Organize Your Talking Points

Most restaurants have a standardized pre-shift template for managers to print and fill out. Oftentimes, this requires pulling information from multiple sources to organize talking points.

The minutes adding up to a shift can be hectic for all, especially if the team is busy transitioning between lunch and dinner. Manually collecting information is time-consuming and things can be missed, especially if you’re short-staffed.  

Leveraging technology can make pre-shift prep more efficient. An integrated reservation solution like SevenRooms gives managers some time back. By connecting your reservation software, POS system and reviews, SevenRooms Pre-Shift automatically collects, stores and presents all of the insights you need in one place. 

Pre-Shift can be accessed from a mobile phone or iPad and gives you a unified view of your floor plan, reservations, guest notes, server overview, cover flow and more.   

restaurant pre-shift example

SevenRooms’ client, Nicholas Ingall, Operations Manager for the Apollo Group in Australia, recently transitioned from a printed pre-shift to SevenRooms’ solution. 

“Pre-Shift is a great resource for our service leaders, waiters, bartenders and chefs. It is having a notable effect in training our kitchen teams and their restaurant awareness. The kitchen is reviewing cover flows, service notes and goals for the front of house team in one view. Pre-Shift enables our front and back of house teams to maintain a big picture view of the restaurant while managing in detail,” Nicholas shared. Find out more by reading the full Pre-Shift case study

Keep Your Pre-Shift Consistent

Haphazard pre-shifts will do more harm than good. To ensure you run brief and informative meetings, set aside some time in your daily routine and commit to the process — five to 30 minutes is all you need to align and engage. 

Choose an area away from distractions such as the back of the restaurant or an unoccupied private room. Keep that space, and the timing, consistent so the staff knows where to find you so they don’t miss the briefing. 

Pre-shift is more than just an operational meeting, it’s a way to connect with your team and set them up for success. To learn more about how SevenRooms can streamline your Pre-Shift and FOH operations, book a demo today

Pre-Shift FAQs

What Are the Key Targets of a Pre-Shift Meeting?

Pre-shift meetings should be held before every shift with the goal of informing, educating and motivating your staff so they are prepared to serve your guests. 

How Long Should Pre-Shift Be?

Pre-shift meetings can range anywhere from five to 30 minutes before a shift. How much time you need depends upon the goals of your pre-shift and size of your team. 

What Topics Do You Discuss During a Pre-Shift Meeting?

The topics you discuss in pre-shift should aim to educate, inform and motivate your staff. These topics can range from reservation details and cover flows to reviewing new menu items and rewarding good performance.  

What Does Post-Shift Mean?

Post-shift is the opposite of pre-shift, conducted at the end of a shift. Post-shift meetings include responsibilities such as cleaning up workstations, turning off or disassembling equipment, writing up shift summaries and closing out opened checks to help prepare for the next shift.     

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