Effective Shift Management

 Plan your shifts ahead of time

How many managers do you know that have no idea who is on their schedule before that shift actually arrives? These are the same managers who are never prepared for the possibility of being under or over staffed. Likewise, they never set shift goals, Things To Do, or training focuses. They are, however, the same managers who will complain the next day about the tough shift they had.

Assume shift responsibility

One problem that many managers have is the fact that they seem to take forever to assume responsibility or their shifts. They may arrive on time, but they have to first enjoy a relaxing cup of coffee, maybe a smoke or two, and even catch up on the latest store gossip. Some may even wait for the previous manager to leave before accepting shift responsibility.

Arriving a good 15 to 30 minutes early for a shift is more important than they realize. Instead of going for that first cup of coffee, they should be doing an initial brief walk-through, greeting members of their team and making notes for the shift.

Set the mood for the shift

One of the most under utilized methods of setting the mood for a shift is something as simple as a One Minute Team Meeting. It doesn’t take but a moment to pull your staff together (either as a whole, or if a larger operation, by departments) and communicate your goals with a positive mental attitude.

Great phrases include:

“We’re going to have a good time tonight!”

“We’re going to make our customers happy today, and here’s how… “

“We’re going to be out one hour after closing tonight, and here’s how we’re going to do it… “

Of course, you can always set other moods for your shift.

A mood of indifference can be set by not really making an effort to communicate with your staff at all. Likewise, a mood of tension can be set by going all out in your efforts to let everyone know that you’re a hard-nosed jerk of a boss, and that you’re on the warpath.

Part of your job is knowing how to create an atmosphere of excitement. Teams that are excited about what they are doing produce results.

Get organized

While doing your initial walk-through, take notes as to what your priorities will be for the shift. Check your product and inventory. Review your management log and communicate with the other managers. Use your operation’s systems, whether they be work station charts, party books, a.m./p.m. checklists, Things To Do lists or prep sheets… they are all vital.


There is no place for an office manager in restaurant operations. Be visable by practicing Management By Walking Around, however, don’t get in the way of your staff (some managers confuse the two).

Set high standards. Don’t allow mediocrity. Never walk past a mistake. Use timely feedback. Be results oriented.

Provide Ongoing Training

Too many restaurant managers feel that once an employee’s initial training is over, they’re trained. Operators who have this belief usually have an ulcer to go along with it. Realize that training is an ongoing process and is done with each and every encounter with your staff. You should be able to teach something new to each person.


Leadership consists of many things, including everything detailed above. But it also includes encouraging teamwork; giving recognition and appreciation; and setting the example. Don’t be afraid to make a decision. Your response may not always be the proper one to make, but at least you didn’t allow the decision to be made for you through inaction. It is much easier to lead someone than it is to push them.