Do you hold regular service meetings with your waitstaff? This can be an important tool in making sure everyone goes into service with the essential knowledge and skills required for a smooth shift.

But these service meetings are often overlooked, rushed, or not taken seriously by staff because they’re not being lead in a productive way by management. Don’t give up on team meetings! Instead, employ some basic tactics to make them work better for you and your staff.

Know Your Core Values

Before meeting with your staff, it’s important to fully understand the core values of your business. This will help to guide your approach to your staff in general as well as to specific issues related to service. Your core values should reflect the spirit of your business. They should be simple to summarize and familiar to all of your staff. As you lead meetings, make sure the tone is consistent with your brand’s core values. If it’s not, that’s an opportunity for troubleshooting.

Follow an Agenda

Creating an agenda and sharing it with the group will help everyone stay focused on what’s relevant to the meeting. When issues come up that are beyond the agenda, make a note of them and identify when you will address them in more detail, but then keep the meeting moving forward. At the end of the meeting, circle back to your notes and make a plan to address the new issues at an appropriate time.


Plan time in your agenda for input from staff. Come prepared with specific questions and be ready to listen. Your waitstaff is a valuable resource with the kind of insight into your customers that business owners would happily pay for (hello, analytics!). Solicit honest feedback on new menu items, promotions, wait times, and other guest experiences; and then use that information to improve existing systems! When your staff sees that you take their input seriously enough to act on it, the lines of communication will become even stronger.

Acknowledge and Connect

Establishing a healthy rapport with staff is a must, and the way to do that is to acknowledge their successes and challenges in their jobs and to connect with them authentically as individuals. This doesn’t mean being unprofessional or forcing a relationship on anyone. Rather, establishing a rapport is about recognizing good work and being understanding of the difficulty that each job presents. Even when you disagree with a choice someone on your staff makes, take the time to understand why they may have made that choice before offering a correction.

Teach and Inspire

Each meeting should address the business at hand—menu specials, 86’ed items, special service notes for the evening—but more importantly, they should leave the team feeling inspired for the work ahead. One way to accomplish that is by educating servers on something they may not have known before. Sharing knowledge about your specific industry is a great way to connect and motivate your service staff. Also provide opportunities for staff to share their own knowledge with each other, strengthening the team dynamic.

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