The pre-shift meal: Sometimes simple is best for team building
By Jennifer Yugo, Corvirtus
There isn't a shortage of ideas when it comes to "team building." A quick Google search will give you hundreds of ideas — with many demanding your time, attention and resources. One of the easiest and most effective options for "team building" is the pre-shift meal.
The benefits of teams sharing a meal together is being noticed by researchers and business leaders nationwide. Researchers even have a term for this concept: commensality. In firehouses, where meal sharing is common, firefighters who eat with their crew are more cooperative and willing to help others. Studies show that firehouses with greater meal participation perform better as a team. While it is challenging to make team building activities part of your routine, sharing a meal in a restaurant is simple and can become a regular part of your team's schedule.
Here are some ways to make the most of your pre-shift meal:
- Build connections. Encourage team members to sit with others they might not know as well. Make sure everyone feels welcome. Pre-shift meals provide an opportune time to expose your team to new menu items, or remind them of ways entrees can be customized. Be aware of team members with special diets (vegetarian, gluten-free or low-sugar). This is an excellent opportunity to showcase how your menu can satisfy almost any guest's needs.
- Increase collaborative work. The benefits of sharing meals come not only from the actual time spent together but also from working cooperatively to serve the team. Managers can work together with the team to serve and clean-up after the meal. This is a prime way to embody servant leadership.
- Focus on goal momentum. Teach and motivate your team by sharing the progress of team goals. Create competition with fun trivia style-quizzes on processes and your menu. Recognize team members for their accomplishments e.g., exemplary service, anniversaries, graduations or other achievements. Establish a regular time for team members to recognize the performance of others in front of the group.
- Grow collegiality. Most importantly, ensure team members have time to relax and enjoy each other's company. This step is key to deepening relationships.
Modify the pre-shift meal so it works within the demands of your business. Maybe you don't have time to coordinate a sit-down meal each day, but team members can gather to sample a dish together, socialize and learn before the shift. Think about your team's needs and create a meaningful and relationship-building routine that works for you.
Jennifer Yugo, Ph.D. / As Corvirtus Chief Scientist, Jennifer creates science-based solutions for performance, fit, and retention to support restaurant growth. Her expertise in I-O Psychology ensures Corvirtus hiring and culture-building solutions lead industry best practices.