"Lineup bonds a team together and drives them to surpass their daily performance and expectations of themselves. The implementation of strong lineups can make good restaurants into great restaurants." - Eamon Rockey 

Hospitality entrepreneur and founder of Rockey’s Milk Punch, Eamon Rockey, shares what you need for a successful pre-shift meeting for your dining service team, often referred to as "Lineup", along with some pro-tips on how to empower your team with the information and mindset necessary to have a successful service.

Why Lineups are Important
Lineup centers around preparing and strengthening your team’s ability to act as a cohesive unit. “Covering a broad array of topics can maintain people's attention and appeals to the needs of everyone present. I frequently reflect on the Ritz-Carlton motto, “We are ladies and gentlemen, serving ladies and gentlemen.” It is with this in mind that much of the ground I cover at lineup has nothing directly to do with restaurant operations, but rather is designed to develop the emotional and creative sides of a restaurant’s service team.”


How to Begin Lineup
The best way to start your daily meeting is with a strong opening greeting to get everyone's attention. The greeting should be called back in unison. 

Pro-tip: Try calling, “Happy Monday!” as loudly you can, and have your team echo it back. After you have everyone's attention, begin the meeting with a reading and open discussion about a short quote. Including a brief review of current events in the news can help keep your staff informed and aware of important events, empowering them with relevant information to share with guests.

Pro-tip: Gather the team in a circle, shoulder to shoulder, standing in full uniform, buttoned up and ready to perform. In this formation, everyone is on a level playing field and symbolically linked to one another. The huddle is also an opportunity to reverberate positive energy, firing each other up, and envision a successful service.

When to Have It
Lineup should be held immediately before service and after the team has had an opportunity to have Family Meal together (the second most crucial element of daily team-building) so that the team can be present at Lineup without distraction. Some restaurants with fewer employees may choose not to hold Lineup or perhaps have it over Family Meal which can be a missed opportunity. Even if you only have a team of four, there is an immense amount of information that can be exchanged amongst your team.

Pro-tip: Lineup should begin at the same time every day, and being late or absent should not be excused.


Where to Have Lineup

Many managers choose to seat their teams for meetings, as a brief reprieve before a busy service. However, if you make your staff stand it will put them at attention and make them think on their feet (literally). 

Pro-tip: By standing, your team will absorb more information, enabling them to put it to use more nimbly when required to do so. 

What to Cover
Review general news that is relevant to the industry, touching on restaurant reviews, food and beverage journalism, and upcoming events. By keeping your employees informed about the climate of the industry, you will be better able to craft your approach to hospitality and to succeed in meeting expectations of guests and journalists.  

Write it Down
Drafting and maintaining Lineup notes is in and of itself a skill to develop. Some of the items that you should be included in Lineup notes are:

  • Daily cover count 
  • Your opening quote
  • Mini-quizzes
  • Closing supervisors
  • Noteworthy reviews
  • Menu changes
  • Noteworthy guests
  • Dessert selections available

Keep It Fresh
While the lineup should be anchored with a consistent structure, try to add new elements to keep it exciting and engaging on an ongoing basis.

For example, "I had the pleasure of viewing a small, one-man performance by an actor at an independent theater in New York. So, without telling any other members of the team, I invited the actor to share his performance with his team, at lineup, and in our circle. While it had absolutely nothing to do with our service directly, it struck such a deep emotional nerve with the team and was such a massive departure from any other meeting we’d ever had."

More traditional departures that you can include can range from inviting a fine Champagne purveyor in to pour a bottle of something that is served by the glass or even drawing up an extensive quiz to test the level of proficiency of your team.


Close Strong
Just as Lineup begins with an energetic welcome, responded to in unison, the meeting should conclude with a rallying cry of equal enthusiasm. 


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About Eamon Rockey:

Eamon Rockey is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (BPS ’06). He has worked in service, management, or partnership at some of NYC’s most highly regarded restaurants including Eleven Madison Park, Atera, Aska, and Betony, and regularly speaks around the world on hospitality, management, and bartending. He has spearheaded numerous critically acclaimed cocktail programs and is renowned for his international reintroduction of milk punches. In 2018, he launched Rockey’s, which introduced the world to the first widely available milk punch in over 150 years. He is also working on his first book, The Cocktail Bible, a definitive resource for professionals and enthusiasts alike. Eamon’s work behind the bar has been featured in multiple books as well as The New York Times, Edible Manhattan, Eater, The New York Daily News, Cooks Science, and The New Yorker.