Family meals are a tradition in the restaurant industry that dates back more than a century. They’re a chance to bring together the entire staff to break bread, share stories and eat good food before service begins. Unfortunately, many restaurants have done away with family meals altogether, either because of cost or lack of interest.
But there are many reasons why it’s important to have family meal, and most of them relate to the things about the restaurant industry that make it unique. It takes a rare person to thrive in this business—why not take a moment to remember why we all got into this business by enjoying a meal together before the night ahead?
The best reason to have family meal is that it’s cheap. Leftovers and scraps that have nowhere else to go should be used for family meal. It can be hodge-podge of meat, stock and cheese baked and put out in a hotel pan. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it’s cheap and your staff is hungry.
It Builds a Sense of Community
The transient nature of this business makes it hard to get everyone together at the same time. Other industries have mandatory meetings or weekly get-togethers. Family meal is a great time to get everyone together to talk about whatever is on their minds. During family meal, your staff can…
· Talk about the night ahead.
· Share war stories
· Pick the brains of veterans for advice
· Talk about sales techniques
· Laugh about customers
Most front-of-the-house staff members in most restaurants are part-time, and they often arrive and leave at staggered times. This is one occasion in which you can assemble much of your staff and remind everyone that the business only thrives when everyone works together.
Remind Everyone Why We’re in this Business
The day-to-day grind makes it easy for most of us to forget why we got into this business. The restaurant industry hinges on the adrenaline we feel when the kitchen is rocking and the front-of-the-house is rolling, and this is the draw for many of us. For others, it’s the love of food and wine, or the energy we get from talking to people.
Whatever the reason is for your love of the restaurant business, it’s important to share that feeling with others who feel the same way. Taking a moment to laugh or talk to your colleagues over family meal tends to remind us why this business is important.
Use it as an Incentive
Many restaurants serve family meal around 4 p.m., long enough before dinner service to entice a few wait staff members to come in early and help set up. Other serve it between 2 and 3 in the afternoon, encouraging lunch staff to stick around and make the dining room spotless while they wait to eat.
Whether the incentive is direct or implicit, a good family meal is a great reward for hungry servers to pick up a towel and start cleaning. Most restaurants rely on employees to take ownership of their workspace in order to run efficiently. Try rewarding your staff’s effort with something really valuable—free food.
Don’t Throw Anything Away
The best kitchens throw nothing away. This is a lofty standard, especially in an inconsistent business that relies on fresh ingredients and the efforts of servers to be salespeople. Family meal is where scraps, stocks and cheap proteins go to die. Make sure your kitchen uses everything, and everyone—from the G.M. to the dish machine operator—will be happy.
The Most Casual Meal You’ll Ever Have
Family meal is about comfort and relaxation before or after a long service. The polish and veneer we have in the front-of-the-house is stripped away, leaving people to relax and enjoy food. It’s the ultimate calm before the storm.
Family meal is when people from all walks of life share space, plates, and even utensils. Nobody’s in uniform, there are no false personalities, fake smiles or cute jokes. It’s the realest time of the day in most restaurants. Don’t miss out on the chance to enjoy it with your staff.