The 9 Checklists You Need To Run A Restaurant

Stephanie Graham
December 27, 2021

So, you just opened a restaurant or are planning on opening one soon, and you are probably wondering what restaurant checklists you need. Having comprehensive checklists is a key practice for any successful business, but when it comes to restaurants, there are more requirements than usual. There are several industry-specific needs and unique operations to consider.

Keeping all this in mind, what are the different checklists you need when opening or expanding a restaurant, and what does each checklist entail? This article will go into detail and answer these questions for you.


The 9 types of checklists you need to run a restaurant.

In a restaurant, there are checklists for front of house, back of house, bar, kitchen, and more. Therefore, having an idea of all the different checklists and what should be on them is important. Here are some of the most common restaurant checklists.

Different types of restaurant checklists include:

1. Opening and closing checklists

2. Equipment management checklists

3. Inventory checklists

4. Standard operating procedures

5. People management checklists

6. Prep checklists

7. Side work checklists

8. ADA compliance checklists

9. Financial audit checklists


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. Your 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 or notes 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, you want to do as much preparation to ensure your restaurant is ready for opening the next day. This is where a closing checklist comes in, with tasks such as the following:

  •  Wipe down and sanitize chairs, countertops, tables, and any other open surfaces.
  •  Clean floors, windows, and doors as needed.
  •  Empty and clean 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.
  • Make sure all equipment that doesn’t need to stay on through the night is off.
  • Close out the floor register and store cash safely.
  • Punch out, lock the restaurant, and ensure the building alarm is activated.


2 - Equipment management checklists.

Instead of waiting for your soda machine or oven to break down and require expensive repairs, you can use equipment management checklists to ensure all your equipment is in tiptop shape at all times. With equipment checklists, you can prevent conditions arising that might damage your restaurant equipment and reduce overall maintenance costs. Your equipment management checklist could include the following:

  • Check buttons, hinges, handles, knobs, grates, etc 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, freezers, etc 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 to allow earlier servicing.
  • Keep dishwasher free of food debris and leave door open to allow overnight drying.
  • Check fryer for any grease leaks. Do regular boil-outs of the frank tank 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 and that the necessary circuit breakers are tripped.


3 - Inventory checklists.

For any restaurant to run smoothly and profitably, inventory management is key. Inventory checklists allow you to monitor which ingredients and supplies you have and need for shifts in real-time, and this helps you make more economical food and supply orders. Your daily restaurant inventory checklist could cover the following tasks:

  • Clean and organize stock shelves.
  • Count or measure stock items and record.
  • 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.


4 - Standard operating procedures.

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 SOPs 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 SOPs 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, and a 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
  • Organic recycling/composting


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 foodborne illness complaint
  • Responding to a physical hazard found in food
  • Food safety regulations
  • Staff orientation and training


5 - People management checklists.

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 checklists.

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 wastage.

Prep checklists usually come as spreadsheet forms, and many of the current POS systems and management tools actually offer pre-set prep lists that interface 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 needed at the station
  • Par – which is the quantity of each item needed
  • The amount of prep required for each item to meet par
  • Unit measurement of each item

You may also consider adding additional categories to your prep checklist—for example, what are the storage provisions for prepped items? Do they go into the freezer or are they shelf-stable? Also, make room for any specials you may need to add to your routine daily checklist on different days.


7 - Side work checklists.

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 a few things you can include in your restaurant side work checklists to help your staff complete these tasks:

  • Clean tables after use
  • Refill salt, pepper, condiments, and sweeteners
  • Restock napkins
  • Wipe down menus
  • Seat and greet customers with menus according to the section rotation
  • 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
  • Restock the host station
  • Prepare the lists for the next day’s private parties, seating chart, and sections


8 - ADA compliance checklists.

To protect your business from legal repercussions while also ensuring that your 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 comprehensive ADA compliance checklists, you can identify and address areas where your restaurant falls short of ADA requirements. Here are some items your checklist can include:

  • 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?
  • Is there a portion of the food-ordering counter that is accessible for disabled people?
  • Are the public restrooms accessible for disabled people?


9 - Financial audit checklists.

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 comprehensive financial audit checklists 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

Opening a restaurant or expanding one may seem like a nearly impossible task, but it does not have to be. With this comprehensive guide on restaurant checklists, your staff can focus on important tasks to ensure the smooth running of your restaurant and allow you to maximize customer satisfaction and profits.

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