For the most successful restaurants, shift changes run like clockwork. But for many establishments, they can be a nightmare. It’s during shift changes that prep work gets completed, the majority of cleaning takes place, and the scheduling and cash register counts get handled. If all goes smoothly, your next shift’s staff will have everything they need to start their work. And if not, the disruption could have a domino effect on the efficiency of the rest of your night. Below are six helpful tips to ensure that shift changes indeed go smoothly.
1. Be prepared and keep a schedule.
One of the best ways to run an orderly shift change is to keep a checklist and written process. Make sure every element from the beginning to end of the particular shift is listed. It’s the manager on duty’s responsibility to check that all food orders have been delivered, all cleaning tasks have been handled, and all side work/prep has been completed successfully. Sometimes managers might give servers permission to leave early, but it’s important to make sure they still understand there are closing duties to complete before they leave.
Be aware: some “deep cleaning” work only has to be done periodically, like once a week or once every month. This can include sanitizing the walls, cleaning and refilling the salt and pepper shakers, and dusting ceiling fans. When it comes to deep cleaning, it’s still important to make time in the schedule for those tasks instead of assuming they’ll get done eventually.
2. Conduct shift meetings.
They only have to be five to ten minutes, but making meetings part of your pre-service schedule ensures that everyone working that shift is on the same page. This is a time to let employees know about any process changes, announce company news, discuss upselling and short inventory items, or bring attention to a staff person’s good work in past shifts. Shift meetings also allow servers to ask any questions before service begins; this avoids these questions slowing down your dining room or kitchen during the middle of the shift when all supervisors are busy.
3. Hold each employee accountable.
At the shift change, just like at every part of the shift, each employee should be held responsible for their specific duties in the restaurant. If an end-of-the-night task isn’t completed, the morning shift will have to pick up the slack. This is unfair to the later staff (who have their own pre-shift responsibilities to complete) and can cause bitterness towards both the earlier staff and you as a leader. Make sure everyone completes their start and end shift responsibilities.
Just as importantly, you should be involved in these tasks. While assigning tasks is an important part of the job, don’t just give orders – show your employees you’re willing to get your hands dirty and work with them to get the work done. That’s the best way to keep your staff motivated, even at the end of a long night.
4. Consistently train for shift changes.
Shift changes should absolutely be part of your training when bringing on a new employee. From the very first day of their employment with you, servers should be taught the exact procedure for starting and finishing a shift, whether that means opening the restaurant or closing it. Periodical retraining is also a key factor in having shift changes run smoothly. Refreshing everyone on these procedures ensures any misinformation from past training (or from their past employers) is corrected and help servers feel more confident in what they’re doing.
5. Avoid closing early.
It can be tempting for servers and managers alike to get all the closing tasks done towards the end of service so the staff can all go home right when you lock up. However, this can be a problem when you have late night customers trying to come in and order just before closing. Not only can shuttering early make you miss out on one last order (and profit) for the night, but it could also lead to a bad reputation for your establishment.
If your dining room is not too busy, some employees can take care of certain closing tasks — outside of the customers’ view — but you should keep the same level of service to the very last minute of your operating hours. That means do not put up chairs or begin end-of-the-night cleaning until those last customers have exited.
6. Give positive feedback on changing shifts.
Shift change tasks can be the most unrewarding part of the job for many servers, especially if their manager doesn’t appreciate the day-to-day work the employees do to ensure everything runs smoothly. Keep an eye out for front-of-the-house super-stars doing good work during shift changes and write it down. After you’ve taken note of an employee more than once, let them know you’ve noticed their attention to detail and diligence. Be specific about what you noticed them doing well. Even just a kind word about their ongoing work can be rewarding.
Need more ideas for ways to thank your employees for the great work they do? Read on: