Opening a Restaurant Checklist | 9 Checklists You Need to Become Operational

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July 15, 2023
A restaurant manager is completing a checklist before opening her new restaurant.

If you are reading this article, you are already ahead — because you understand the importance of creating SOPs and checklists to increase the efficiency of your restaurant operations.  But what types of checklists do you need to open a restaurant, and what should be on them?

In this article we will cover the top 9 opening-a-restaurant checklists, and why they matter. Let's dig in.

The 9 Types of Checklists You Need to Open a Successful Restaurant

In a restaurant, there are checklists for front of house, back of house, bar, kitchen, and more. Each one of these checklists will outline important SOPs to follow that will help your restaurant increase efficiency.

9 Checklists Required to Seamlessly Open Your Restaurant:

1. Opening and closing checklists

2. Equipment management checklist

3. Inventory checklist

4. Standard operating procedure checklists

5. People management checklist

6. Prep checklist

7. Side work checklist

8. ADA compliance checklist

9. Financial audit checklist


1. Opening and Closing Checklists

Opening and closing checklists are important checklists that restaurant staff in each position will have to go through daily.  Bartenders, waitstaff, hosts, kitchen, bar backs and managers will all have a different opening and closing checklist, and each will vary based on the restaurant itself. Here are some examples of what might be on those lists:

Opening checklist

An opening checklist is a list of key tasks that restaurant staff must complete at the start of the workday, before the restaurant is ready to open for service.

An opening checklist may look like this:

  • Sign in or punch in.
  •  Survey the exterior and interior for cleanliness and properly functioning light fixtures, signage, furniture, air conditioning, etc.
  • Check all registers to ensure they have been cleared from the previous shift, then turn on your POS system.
  • Do any necessary cleaning including vacuuming and wiping down tables and countertops.
  •  Review the staff schedule and prepare for the pre-shift meeting.
  •  Conduct a pre-shift meeting with front of house staff.
  • Check reservation lists and take note of any special requests regarding the upcoming service.
  •  Meet with the chef to review prep checklists and meal specials.
  • Do a final walk-through to ensure everything is in place for the restaurant to run smoothly.
  • Open the doors to customers.

Closing checklist

At the end of the workday, staff should do as much preparation as possible to ensure the restaurant is ready for opening the next day. This is where a closing checklist comes in.

A closing checklist may include:

  •  Wipe down and sanitize chairs, countertops, tables, and any other open surfaces.
  •  Clean floors, windows, and doors as needed.
  •  Empty and clean garbage bins, and replace bin bags.
  •  Clean bathrooms and restock if needed.
  •  Clean kitchen equipment and surfaces.
  •  Restock the fridges with drinks and restock the bar.
  •  Refill condiments, salt, pepper, and sugar.
  • Double-check food inventory and adjust any orders accordingly.
  • Restock all line stations.
  • Turn off all equipment that does not need to stay on overnight.
  • Close out the floor register and store cash safely.
  • Punch out, lock the restaurant, and ensure the building alarm is activated.


2. Equipment Management Checklist

Don't wait for the soda machine to break down, stay on top of the game with equipment management checklists. These will ensure all equipment is in tiptop shape at all times. With equipment management checklists, you can prevent conditions arising that might damage your restaurant equipment, reducing your overall maintenance costs.

An equipment management checklist could include the following:

  • Check buttons, hinges, handles, knobs, and grates on different equipment to make sure they’re working.
  • Check any gas-fired equipment for a steady blue flame and a safe gas connection.
  • Check that the interiors of equipment like ovens, refrigerators, and freezers are clean and free of spillage, dirt, and mold.
  • Ensure ovens are turned off when not in use.
  • Check that refrigerator and freezer thermostats are set to the right temperature. Maintain daily temperature logs and observe any unusual patterns.
  • Keep dishwasher free of food debris and leave door open to allow overnight drying.
  • Check fryer for any grease leaks. Do regular boil-outs to remove caramelized oil deposits.
  • Remove and clean hood filters.
  • Disassemble, clean, and sanitize the ice machine and bin.
  • Ensure all equipment is plugged in correctly.


3. Inventory Management Checklist

For any restaurant to run smoothly and profitably, inventory management is key. Inventory checklists allow for the monitoring of ingredients and supplies. This is key to making more economical food and supply orders, and ensuring nothing goes out of stock mid shift.

A daily restaurant inventory management checklist could cover the following tasks:

  • Clean and organize stock shelves.
  • Count or measure stock items.
  • Add labels to unlabeled stock.
  • Use a par inventory sheet to determine which inventory items need restocking. This sheet will also tell you how much food you’re wasting, how much of each item you use daily, and your average daily inventory cost.
  • Check for and dispose of any expired stock.
  • Use a POS system to integrate sales records with inventory records.
A restaurant manager is smiling because his operational checklist is complete.


4. Standard Operating Procedure Checklists

Restaurant standard operating procedures (SOPs) are pre-set lists of rules and norms that describe how restaurant staff should complete routine tasks. With the right SOP checklists, front of house and back of house staff have a guide on how to fulfil their work requirements safely, efficiently, and professionally.

There are four major areas for which restaurant managers can create SOP checklists, and they are listed below:

Facility and Equipment

The focus here is on how to properly handle the restaurant building and its equipment. The checklist should cover:

  • Regular maintenance and cleaning of front of house and back of house equipment.
  •  Restaurant cleaning and sanitation.
  • Dishwashing.
  • Laundry and linen use.
  • Pest control.

Personnel and Personal Hygiene

These SOPs guide staff on maintaining good personal hygiene and ensuring food safety. This checklist may include:

  •  Personal grooming.
  •  Appropriate attire at work.
  •  Handwashing practices.
  •  Employee health, particularly regarding instances of infectious or contagious illnesses.
  •  Staff contact with blood.
  •  Use of utensils and gloves.

Flow of Food

These SOPs contain detailed instructions to ensure the safe and proper preparation and handling of food. This checklist might cover:

  • Standard recipes and food preparation methods.
  • Purchasing and handling of food from outside sources.
  • Temperatures for holding, reheating, and cooling food.
  • Food presentation.
  • Food storage.
  • Recycling, composting, and reducing food waste.


Communications SOPs facilitate dialogue between restaurant management, staff, and customers to keep the restaurant running smoothly. The checklist could cover:

  • Front of house greeting and seating.
  • Responding to a food illness complaint.
  • Responding to a physical hazard found in food.
  • Food safety regulations.
  • Staff orientation and training.
A restaurant kitchen staff is completing a closing checklist item.


5. People Management Checklist

Managing a restaurant is a people-intensive process. Customers expect great food and great service from hospitable people. So, for a restaurant manager, curating the right kind of people management checklists to onboard, train, and retain the best employees is important, but highly involved.

This is why most successful restaurant businesses use people management software to integrate their recruitment, onboarding, and training into one easy-to-use platform.

People management checklists usually cover:

  • The recruitment and onboarding of new employees.
  • Employee training and development.
  • Employee compensation and benefits.
  • Employee retention strategies.
  • Employee health and safety.
  • Employee scheduling using scheduling software.
  • Human Resources policies and procedures.
  • Employee performance reviews.


6. Prep Checklist

A daily prep checklist is a list of food items and the required quantities that must be prepared for each line station for the workday. It is a great way of ensuring your kitchen personnel do not prep too much or too little, resulting in efficiency and reduced costs from reductions in food overproduction and waste.

Prep checklists usually come as spreadsheet forms, and many of the current POS systems and management tools actually offer pre-set prep lists that integrate with inventory.

When creating prep checklists for your restaurant, here are some things you should include:

  • Prep cook’s name.
  • Name of the line station.
  • Items required at the line station.
  • Items available on hand.
  • All food items required at the station.
  • The quantity of each item needed, also known as par.
  • The amount of prep required for each item to meet par.
  • Unit measurement of each item. 
A restaurant manager is completing a checklist before opening.

7. Side Work Checklist

Side work is restaurant jargon for tasks outside the waitstaff’s main work of serving food and waiting tables. This may include wiping down counters, cleaning the doors and windows, stocking paper products in restrooms, folding napkins, refilling salt and pepper shakers, and running laundry.

Generally, these tasks are divided up among all the waitstaff at the end of their shift, and completing them can make the difference between having a great or mediocre next shift. However, some of these tasks may be done during the shift too.

Here are some examples to include on your side work checklist:

  • Refill salt, pepper, condiments, and sweeteners.
  • Restock napkins.
  • Wipe down menus.
  • Refill receipt paper.
  • Restock the drink station with cups, lids, and fresh coffee as needed.
  • Assist other servers with their tables if they are overwhelmed or on break.
  • Restock the host station.


8. ADA Compliance Checklist

To protect your business from legal repercussions while also ensuring that the restaurant is accessible to everyone, it should be ADA compliant. This includes not only the building layout and accessibility, but also menu creation and hiring processes.

With a comprehensive ADA compliance checklist, you can identify and address areas where your restaurant falls short of ADA requirements.

Here are some items to include to ensure ADA compliance:

  • Are an adequate number of accessible parking spaces (8 feet wide for car, plus 5-foot access aisle) available?
  • Is there an alternative access route that does not require the use of stairs?
  • Are the doors wide enough and accessible for wheelchair users?
  • Are the aisles between fixed seating wide enough for wheelchair users?
  • Do you have wheelchair-accessible seating?
  • Are the public restrooms accessible?


9. Financial Audit Checklist

A restaurant financial audit is the process of ensuring all your important financial reports are in order. According to the National Restaurant Association, the typical independent restaurant loses up to 5% of its sales each year to fraud and theft, most of which is committed by employees.

This is why every restaurant should have a comprehensive financial audit checklist to ensure the continued financial health of the business. These may include the following options:

  • Profit and loss statements
  • Daily sales reports
  •  Inventory counts
  • Scheduling and labor
  • Production and waste
  • Invoices
  • Banking and financial statements
  • Tax remittances
  • Safe counts

While focusing on the checklist for opening a restaurant, one area you can't overlook is asset protection services to safeguard your establishment against unexpected financial or legal issues. Equipping your business from the start with specialized asset protection can avoid significant headaches and financial loss in the future.

Final Thoughts on Restaurant Operating Checklists

Opening a restaurant or expanding one may seem like a nearly impossible task, but it doesn't have to be. With this comprehensive guide on restaurant checklists, your staff can focus on important tasks to ensure your restaurant runs smoothly, maximizing customer satisfaction and profits.

Need help optimizing your people management? From hiring and onboarding to scheduling and payroll, Push can help you streamline people operations with the push of a button. Get started now.

Want to learn more about hiring? Download our free guide below for tips on recruiting, hiring and onboarding.

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September 2021


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