Returning to work with vigour and passion. Deliver great pre/post-shift team talk but Keep it brief – A lesson from Danny Meyer’s team.

Back to work with vigour and passion

As our teams start to return from furlough and to re-energize those that have held the fort so magnificently, delivering effective team briefs has never been more important. Great briefs inform, inspire and integrate the team, all the things we will need if we are to come back with vigour and passion. I wrote this blog several years ago but think it is as relevant today as it has ever been.

Want to deliver the perfect teambrief/lineup take a lesson from Danny Meyer, his team get it right every time.

A visit to New York would normally go as follows Empire State tick, stare in wonder at the Chrysler building tick, 9/11 memorial tick, shopping a Macy’s tick. On my last visit that is exactly what I did. This time I wanted to see a different institution, somewhere that appears on most restauranteurs bucket list. A visit to a Danny Meyer restaurant or three, a quick burger at Shake Shack, a full blown extravaganza at Gramercy Tavern or sample the best BBQ in NYC at Blue Smoke you know you’ll be guaranteed great food, even better service and a wish to return at the earliest opportunity.

Todays choice was Blue Smoke, bbq ribs, Alabama Smoked chicken wings and mac ‘n cheese worth putting on a stone for. The service was exemplary, not too quick yet attentive but not in your face with a genuine smile, even better considering it was shift change time.

How do they get it right every time?

They hire the right people, treat them well, create an environment where they’ll want to stay, train them and reinforce excellence on every shift, through leadership role modelling and teambriefs/lineups.

Today I was lucky enough to sit in on the Blue Smoke teambrief/line up, thanks to the generosity of Chelsea (visible, hands on and charming) and the management team of the East 27th St Branch. It was exactly what a teambrief should be, so I thought I would share it with you;


4.45-5pm exactly 15 minutes start to finish. There were guests in the restaurant so the team gave the next shift a verbal handover before the brief, the day shift continued to work the floor meaning there was no break in service until the brief finished then they swopped over, it was smooth, clear and meant EVERYONE sat in the brief (about 30).

How well do your team handover, it should be seamless?

The content:

All the shift info was there specials, drinks, any incentives, even a weather report. “There’s a thunderstorm due, it looks like it could be early so we’ll probably get slammed: be prepared”

How often do you check the weather report pre shift?

The magic:

Every manager contributed (four), it was inspiring, motivating and never monotonous! Highly interactive, quick fire questions made up 70% of the brief. Who is going to tell me about the whiskey of the week? What rub is on the pork? Tell me a menu change? Now I know why everyone’s product knowledge is so strong. Bret Lunsford (walks on water, just saying!) the Culinary Director was in town, he was funny, engaging and to the point. Making the team describe the preparation, presentation and allergy info of key dishes, moving it along with a series of clues, hints and charades like mimes, all the while everyone was listening, learning and laughing.

Do you ensure your chefs are involved in the brief? How often do you check /reinforce product knowledge?

My favourite bit: (All if it!)

The brief was accompanied by an A4 shift info sheet, Smoke Signal designed like a newspaper the front had a series of hints, shift info; 86’s, bookings. A caught doing it right section highlighting positive feedback and there were two featured items on the back, tonight’s was a cocktail description and story including the history, all talking points to help the sale and a low down on the whiskey of the week. There were also general food and drink updates.

A setting the table section, used a Danny Meyer quote from the book:

“Shared ownership develops when guests talk about a restaurant as if it’s theirs They can’t wait to share it with friends, and what they are really sharing beyond the culinary experience, is the experience of feeling important and loved. This sense of affiliation builds trust and a sense of being accepted and appreciated, invariably leading to repeat business, a necessity for a companies long term survival” DHM

It also had Birthdays, anniversaries, leavers and starters.

Then there was a section on know your BOH, and highlighted a team member many never meet, today it was one of the butchers that work at 5am and leave before many of the team arrive. Accompanied by a photo it gave his role, nationality, length of service and a bit about him.

Do you highlight a team member people may not get to meet? Do you ensure they feel valued?

My takeaway:

They had a new team member, who they introduced (he was Carl’s friend) and asked him to stand and say hello. The team then had a two minute (timed) Q&A session, Where are you from? Your favourite cocktail? Do you like whiskey? How do you know Carl? Worst nightmare? Do you like karaoke? Best holiday? Until someone said times up! Laughter, cheers and a warm welcome, he will fit in really quickly.

How do you integrate your newbies? Do the team even get an intro or are they thrown in the deep end and left to introduce themselves?

The leavers and promotions

There were lots of promotions and movements to other branches so managers and team members could flourish and grow (their words) and a leaver who promises to actually leave this time for good…she’s moving to Texas! I suspect she is not the only one who keeps being drawn back to the union city group family. She was told if she does decide to return they will find a place for her!

How many of your team return and are welcomed back with open arms?

A quick 1 inch of sparkling rose to toast the leaver (Just enough) then a let’s go get ’em as Obama would say fired up ready to go!

Buy Danny Meyer’s Setting the Table – The definitive guide to running restaurants here

Want to learn more about motivating the team why not give me a ring. We can deliver a virtual or live delivering effective shift brief training. Email me at for details

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