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The Benefits of a Daily Opening and Closing Checklist for Restaurants

The Benefits of a Daily Opening and Closing Checklist for Restaurants

Before you open up for the day and after the last group of customers leaves, there are two very important things that happen: getting the restaurant ready for opening and closing the restaurant once the dust has settled. 

There are a ton of things to get done at open and close. Opening and closing checklists ensure that all tasks that are crucial for maintaining cleanliness, food safety and smooth service are completed at each shift. Cheap to create and easy to use, checklists are widely used across the industry. Keep reading to learn:

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What is an opening and closing checklist?

A restaurant opening and closing checklist is a list of tasks that restaurant employees must complete at the start or end of the workday. These checklists are usually either printed on paper or made available and submitted digitally via a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Team members who work the opening and closing shifts check tasks off on the lists as they complete them.

Typically, restaurants create opening and closing checklists respective to each team—FOH, BOH and management—and the tasks they’re responsible for. Openers and closers aren’t necessarily responsible for doing each task themselves, but they are responsible for making sure someone has done them. 

What are the benefits of using restaurant opening and closing checklists?

Running a smooth operation at a restaurant requires all team members to work together towards a common goal. But when there are lots of people doing things and many things to be done, even the most obvious tasks can be forgotten. Checklists help staff members make sure that no task, big or small, gets forgotten. 

Implementing a systematic process for completing important tasks in your restaurant brings nothing but benefits—for you, your staff, your guests and your bottom line. Here are some of the key benefits of having a restaurant opening checklist and restaurant closing checklist in place.

  • Increase accountability: when employees have to sign off on tasks at the start and end of each day, you can hold these staff members accountable if a task isn’t completed. Whether you have one person fill out each checklist or assign them to multiple people and have them sign their initials next to each completed task, you’ll know who was responsible for what task on any given day. For example, if you notice that the bar never gets restocked anytime Jack closes, then perhaps you’ll need to give Jack a refresher on inventory counting and restocking procedures. 
  • Improve food safety: cleaning and sanitizing in your restaurant is essential to the health and safety of your guests and staff. It’s also the key to keeping your restaurant open, as health and safety violations can result in failed inspections, fines, damage to your reputation and the consequences that come with it. In the worst-case scenario, you could even cause a foodborne illness outbreak—it’s really hard to come back from that. Operators need to make sure that employees are consistently keeping up with cleaning best practices to protect themselves and the people they serve.
  • Reduce operating costs: an important part of closing a restaurant at night is turning off the lights and reducing the heat or air conditioning. This simple task reduces utility costs significantly. When this duty is part of the restaurant closing checklist item, it’s more likely that these tasks will be done. When gas and electricity use is lowered, your restaurant can save money and be more energy-efficient. 
  • Theft and fire prevention: another important closing task is locking up, arming the security system and making sure that kitchen appliances have been turned off. A break-in or fire could endanger staff and customers and lead to extraordinary expenses that could end the business. When these critical tasks are included in the restaurant closing checklist, they’re more likely to happen, thus increasing security and minimizing risks.

These are just a few reasons why having restaurant open and close checklists is so important. Include the checklists in the employee handbook so that employees can always find them.

Four tips for implementing restaurant opening and closing checklists

Ready to implement opening and closing checklists in your restaurant? Here’s how to do it in four easy steps:

  1. Brainstorm tasks. First, you need to come up with the tasks that will be on the checklists. Copy and paste from our examples below, and be sure to ask your FOH and BOH employees which tasks they think should be included. They’re the ones on the ground floor and their insights will help. 
  2. Create your restaurant checklists. Once you’ve gathered your information, you can create a simple two-column checklist in a spreadsheet editor like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. Staff can check off or initial tasks as they complete them, then sign off and date the checklist when it’s complete. You’ll want to create separate checklists for opening and closing shifts for each team (BOH, FOH and management).
  3. Share expectations with the team. If you’ve never used checklists at your restaurant before, we recommend announcing them to the team in an all-staff meeting or via your team’s communication tool. Explain how they’ll be used and expectations for using them. 
  4. Keep it organized and accessible. Keep copies of the checklists in a binder in the office or in an area that’s relevant to each function (e.g. host stand for FOH, kitchen entrance for BOH and office for managers). If you want to go completely digital, consider creating a checklist in your iPad’s Notes application and sharing it with whoever is responsible for ensuring each task is completed.  

By following these four simple steps, you’ll have an effective opening and closing checklist protocol up and running in no time.

Front-of-house restaurant opening checklists

The FOH team needs to ensure that the restaurant is ready for customers when it opens. This may involve some or all of the following tasks:

  • Set up
    • Set tables with place settings
    • Put out fresh flowers, newspapers, etc.
    • Clean and sanitize the windows, tables and all surfaces 
    • Assure that trash bins are empty
    • Clean the bathroom thoroughly
  • Organization
    • Fold napkins and place table settings
  • Restock
    • Restock tabletop necessities (sugar packets, jam and butter, ketchup, etc.)
    • Set up mis en place at bar
    • Restock liquor at bar
    • Stock bar with clean glassware

To help you create your own restaurant opening checklists, we’ve provided some examples below. Copy and paste from our examples, but be sure to customize your opening checklists to your specific operations.

For example, if your restaurant is more focused on takeout and delivery, you’ll want to customize these restaurant opening checklists to focus on delivery and fulfillment related tasks. If you don’t have a patio, omit any patio-related tasks. (You get the idea.)

Example of a dining room opening checklist

Task Done
Turn on the lights, music, air conditioning, etc.
Take chairs down from tables
Ensure tables and chairs are wiped down
Fold napkins and set tables with place settings
Ensure menus and bill folds are clean and streak-free
Ensure trash bins are empty
Restock server station
Restock coffee stations
Restock tabletop necessities (sugar packets, etc.)
Stock silverware/roll-ups
Water outside and inside plants
Unlock and set up the patio 
Ensure bathrooms are clean (restock supplies as necessary)
Put out sign
Unlock doors

Example of a bar opening checklist

Task Done
Take stools down from the bar
Count cash register 
Ensure bar counter is clean (no stickiness)
Put down clean bar mats
Wipe down draft spouts (or replace nozzles)
Ensure drip trays are clean and sanitized
Fill ice bins with ice
Set up bar tools and essentials
Check chemical levels in the glass washer
Put any dirty glassware through the dishwasher 
Take bottle inventory and restock
Restock straws, napkins, coasters
Cut and restock fruit and other garnishes
Polish wine glasses
Ensure menus and bill folds are clean and streak-free
Ensure trash bins are empty

Front-of-house restaurant closing checklists

During a closing shift, the dining room and bar teams are responsible for making sure that the restaurant is cleaned, well-stocked, organized and safe. They typically also have the important duty of locking up the establishment overnight.

Below are some typical FOH closing duties:

  • Cleaning
    • Wipe down and sanitize all surfaces
    • Tuck chairs back into place
    • Sweep entryway
    • Wipe down and sanitize menus
  • Bar
    • Take inventory
    • Restock liquor
  • Safety
    • Set security system
    • Lock doors
    • Close all windows
  • Organization
    • Put tools and equipment back in their designated spot
  • Finances
    • Count cash in the register
    • Make sure cash matches what’s registered in your point of sale system

Feel free to copy and paste the tasks you want to include on your front of house restaurant closing checklists from the example checklist below. 

Example of a dining room closing checklist

Task Done
Wipe down all tables and chairs
Collect all glassware from the floor and bring to dishwasher to be cleaned
Wipe down menus and bill folds
Empty the trash and recycling bins
Put perishable items away (e.g. milkettes and creamers)
Restock server station (printer paper, side plates, napkins, etc.)
Restock take-out containers, etc.
Polish and roll silverware
Take down, sweep and lock up the patio
Bring in sign from outside
Ensure all guests have left (be sure to check bathrooms)
Turn off lights, music, air conditioning, etc.
Put chairs on tables
Lock the doors

Example of a bar closing checklist

Task Done
Thoroughly wipe down the bar
Put stools up on the bar
Count register (return to float) 
Sweep and mop behind the bar 
Take bar mats to the dish washer to be cleaned
Remove draft nozzles and soak in warm water
Clean and sanitize drip trays
Cover liquor bottle spouts
Empty ice bins and sanitize
Put away fruit, garnishes and juices
Ensure any empty kegs are removed from keg fridge
Put last of the glassware through the dishwasher 
Wipe down menus and bill folds
Empty trash and recycling bins, dispose of broken glass

Back-of-house checklists

BOH restaurant opening checklist

Because the BOH team’s closing duties help staff prepare for the opening shift, most of what’s left to do in the morning is prepare kitchen stations and restock inventory.

Here are some tasks that should be included in your BOH restaurant opening checklist:

  • Cleaning
    • Wipe food preparation surfaces
  • Mise en place
    • Chop ingredients for kitchen stations
    • Put tools at each station
  • Inventory
    • Restock incoming inventory
    • Put food in proper places
    • Take stock of incoming items
  • Organization
    • Put tools in their proper places
    • Put incoming inventory in its proper place

Copy and paste items you want to include on your BOH restaurant opening checklist from our example below.

Example of a BOH restaurant opening checklist

Task Done
Do a walkthrough to ensure no closing duties were missed
Ensure all food prep surfaces are clean and sanitized
Ensure all equipment and utensils are clean and sanitized
Ensure sinks are clean and sanitized
Check and record fridge temperatures
Accept food deliveries and put away
Prep kitchen essentials and supplies
Ensure all stations are well-stocked and ready for service
Turn on/pre-heat stoves, ovens, fryers
Turn on/set up bain marie (double boiler)
Remove any expired food from fridges and record in inventory
Prep food for service (start thawing frozen meat, etc.)

BOH restaurant closing checklist

There’s a reason why chefs and line cooks get salty when orders come in at three minutes to close. There are a lot of chores to do and nobody wants to do them twice.

Here are some of the tasks you should have on your BOH restaurant closing checklist:

  • Cleaning
    • Wipe down and sanitize all surfaces
    • Wash dishes
    • Throw out trash
  • Food safety
    • Disinfect food preparation surfaces
    • Put food back in proper storage places
    • Check that tools and appliances are working properly
    • Check for bugs and rodents
    • Make sure fridge and freezer doors are closed
  • Inventory
    • Take stock of inventory
    • Donate ingredients that can no longer be used to homeless shelter or soup kitchen
  • Organization
    • Place tools in proper places at each station in the kitchen
  • General safety
    • Check that ovens, stoves, fryers and other kitchen appliances are turned off
    • Make sure back door is closed

Below is an example of a back of house restaurant closing checklist. Feel free to copy and paste our items into your own closing checklist, and add more items as required.

Example of a BOH restaurant closing checklist

Task Done
Clean and sanitize all food preparation surfaces
Clean and sanitize equipment and utensils (put away once dry)
Clean and sanitize sinks 
Put food back in storage (walk-ins, dry storage, etc.)
Ensure all food in fridges is covered, labeled and rotated
Ensure all pathways are clear (remove any inventory or empty boxes from the floor)
Sweep and mop kitchen floor
Break down and turn off dishwasher
Turn off/shut down stoves, ovens, fryers

Manager’s checklists

In general, restaurant managers are focused on managing staff and labor hours, training and coaching staff, controlling overhead costs and ensuring bills get paid, analyzing sales and employee performance reports and growing revenue.

Using a restaurant POS with Advanced Insights, restaurant managers can:

  • identify top-performing wait staff
  • identify where servers need more coaching to be their best
  • identify the most and least popular menu items 
  • optimize menu for profitability
  • keep track of comps and voids
  • track inventory to the ingredient level

Learn more about Advanced Insights and how they can help you streamline your processes and grow your business.

Restaurant manager’s opening checklist

On an opening shift, restaurant managers are generally responsible for starting up the restaurant’s POS system, organizing daily specials, leading staff meetings, taking care of the restaurant’s finances and analyzing sales and employee reports.

Here are some examples of a restaurant manager’s opening tasks:

  • Staff meeting
    • Set an agenda for the staff meeting
    • Establish goals for the day 
  • Menu education
    • Explain daily specials to staff
    • Review menu items
    • Staff tasting of new menu items
  • Finances
    • Pay bills
    • Answer payroll questions
    • Set daily sales goals (your sales reports can help you establish those)
  • Organization
    • Answer emails, respond to reviews and social media posts
    • Organize any incoming inventory deliveries
    • Coordinate any maintenance appointments to fix the premise or equipment 

Restaurant manager’s closing checklist

In addition to ensuring service runs smoothly and engaging with guests, restaurant managers on evening shifts are responsible for cutting staff when sales are slow, making sure the next day’s service is set up for success and recording any service or staff performance issues.

Here are some of the tasks that a restaurant manager is responsible for on a closing shift: 

  • Staff
    • Check staff schedule for next day
    • Check clock-in and clock-out times
    • Take notes on staff performance
  • Organization
    • Put things back where you found them
    • Tidy up office
  • Finances
    • Make sure bills are paid (rent, utilities, etc)
    • Make sure payroll is paid
    • Keep track of overtime scheduling 
    • Assure that cash registers are balanced 
  • Safety
    • Lock POS systems
    • Log off computers
    • Activate alarm system
    • Lock doors

While we have included the responsibility to close and lock restaurant doors and set alarm systems on the manager’s list, these tasks are often allocated to a trusted member of staff working the closing shift.

Feel free to use our example below as a starting point for your own restaurant manager opening and closing checklists. 

Example of a restaurant manager’s daily checklist

Task Done
Upon arrival, ensure entryways and restaurant exterior looks clean and free of trash or debris
Do a walkthrough of dining room, bar area and kitchen to ensure all closing duties were completed (note any issues in Manager’s Log Book)
Run cash out/closing reports, ensure daily readings are set to zero and there are no open checks or tables not closed
Count cash outs and make sure the numbers match with what’s registered in your point of sale system
Count and prepare cash registers
Ensure that staff hours from previous evening are recorded for payroll
Check Manager’s Log Book from night before—ensure you’re aware of any staffing, food or equipment issues that need to be handled ASAP
Coordinate any maintenance or repairs required
Check reservations for the day and communicate to host and servers
Make sure you’re aware of any scheduled deliveries 
Ensure staff scheduled to open are present (record any issues with tardiness or no-shows)
Analyze sales, discount and inventory reports (record any concerns in the Log Book)
Explain daily specials to staff
Ongoing coaching and mentorship to staff
Review any received invoices, document and pay (or send to finance department) as required
Track sales and cut staff as necessary
Take the previous night’s deposit to the bank
Answer emails, respond to reviews and social media posts
Administrative duties as required 
Document any issues requiring attention or action for the 
Ensure doors are locked and closed tightly after closing
Set the alarm system

Make it easy with Lightspeed

Ensuring that your restaurant is organized, clean and well-stocked is integral to creating a safe and positive dining experience for your guests. Having checklists in place for your staff to use as part of their daily duties ensures important tasks get done. 

Use our examples above for inspiration, copy and paste our suggestions into your own checklists and be sure to customize your checklists to suit your specific operations. Place copies in the employee handbook and in easy-to-find spots throughout the restaurant. 

Lightspeed is committed to helping restaurants thrive. Watch a demo to learn more about how Lightspeed helps restaurants streamline their operations, build stronger teams and drive revenue. 

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More of this topic: Management & Operations