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However sophisticated and intensive your staff training may be, its merits will soon be lost without effective and consistent reinforcement. Robert Duprey advises

One of the most effective ways managers can reinforce training is through short but well planned “shift” meetings with staff. These are 10-15 minute sessions where managers can build confidence and gain valuable feedback.

Typically held just prior to a shift, the meetings are essential for improving customer care and boosting average spend as they present an opportunity to exchange ideas, test menu knowledge and highlight special dishes.

The aim of a shift meeting should be to reinforce any previous training. It should not be a formal presentation with lectures about service codes and company policy. Most staff feel this type of information to be of little or no benefit.

The most effective shift meetings are simple, informal and interactive – interactive being the key word. Staff should be encouraged to do most of the talking, following the rule whereby managers speak for 20% of the meeting time and staff speak for the other 80%.

Managers can control the meeting by introducing discussion topics, and getting staff to participate through questions and role-play exercises.

Listed below are some suggested topics for discussion:

  • Test menu knowledge through role-play, with the manager playing the role of the guest and the staff recommending menu items.

  • Discuss customer care, such as handling complaints or telephone etiquette.

  • Describe the specials, and have waiting staff describe them back.

  • Review forthcoming promotions or advertisements, or discuss any large groups or parties coming in. You can brainstorm marketing ideas, discuss sales goals, or review average spend.

When determining which topics to discuss at a shift meeting, it is important to consider the meeting from the staff’s point of view. First, you must explain the benefits and importance of putting what they learn into practice. Second, you must identify the reasons why they should listen and participate. Typically, staff benefit through an increased knowledge and the confidence to do their job more effectively. Managers should also:

  • Be prepared – set out objectives for the meeting beforehand. Organise all relevant support materials and be familiar with them well in advance of the meeting.

  • Avoid distractions – hold meetings in a place where staff will not be distracted by events inside or outside the restaurant. Appoint someone to answer the telephone during the meeting.

  • Be enthusiastic – it is contagious. To develop enthusiasm and motivation in staff, managers must lead by example.

  • Ask questions – direct questions to different individuals throughout the meeting. This ensures that everyone is focused on the topics being discussed, and encourages dialogue.

  • Demand feedback – ensure that staff understand the topics that are being discussed in the meeting.

Managers who want to offer effective shift meetings may also benefit from attending a training course themselves. This can give them the confidence and ability to perform effectively in front of a group. The courses can be run in-house by a training consultant as part of a total management training programme.

Alternatively, several organisations offer trainer training courses and seminars throughout the country.

For further details on implementing effective shift meetings call Great Service Training on 01276 25894. Outside trainer training courses are run by Hotel & Catering Training Company on 0181-579 2400 and Progressive Training on 01582 461321.

Robert Duprey is a training consultant with 15 years’ experience in the US hospitality industry. He can be reached on 01276 25894.

Next week: the importance of telephone training

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