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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 leave, there are two very important things that happen: getting the restaurant ready for opening and closing the restaurant once the dust has settled. 

With COVID-19 making cleaning and sanitizing your restaurant a top priority, operators need to assure that employees consistently keep the workplace clean and safe for everyone: An opening and closing checklist is a helpful tool to keep staff accountable and assure that the day-to-day management of your business runs smoothly. 

Opening and closing shifts at a restaurant are arguably the most important shifts of the day. There are a ton of things to get done, and it’s helpful to build a clear checklist of tasks for staff to complete. An opening checklist and closing checklist assure that tasks that are crucial for maintaining a clean and orderly establishment that’s safe for both employees and customers.

Best of all, checklists are cheap to create and easy to use. Most restaurants divide opening and closing tasks into three categories: 

Restaurant opening checklists:

  • Front of house
  • Back of house 
  • Management

Restaurant closing checklists:

  • Front of house
  • Back of house
  • Management

While the assigned employees aren’t responsible for doing each task, they are responsible for making sure someone has done them. 

In this article, you’ll learn what tasks you should include in each of the three checklists. While this checklist uses guidance from the FDA and CDC, we recommend reaching out to your local authorities to ensure the tasks you include are complying with the relevant local and federal laws and regulations in light of COVID-19 and modifying your checklist to fit your unique needs. 

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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 and tasks they’re responsible for: the front of house (FOH), back of house (BOH) and the management team. 

 

What are the benefits of an opening and closing checklist?

Especially in wake of COVID-19, having a systematic process for tackling cleanliness before and after you’ve opened for the day is to both the benefit of the community at large; customers, employees, owners, everyone. 

Here are some of the key benefits of having a restaurant opening checklist and restaurant closing checklist in place:

Helpful reminder

Running a smooth operation at a restaurant requires each team member working together towards a common goal. When there are lots of people doing things and many things to be done, however, even the most obvious tasks, like cleaning the door handles, can be forgotten. Checklists help staff members make sure that no task, big or small, gets forgotten. 

 

Checklists help staff members make sure that no task, big or small, gets forgotten. 

 

Staff accountability

When you have checklists that employees have to complete and sign off on at the start and end of each day, you can hold these staff members accountable if something goes wrong or 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 be able to know who was responsible for what task on any given day. 

For example, if you notice that your restaurant runs out of inventory anytime Jack closes, then perhaps you’ll need to retrain him on how to count and order inventory

Cost savings

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, then 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. 

Increased safety

Another important closing task is locking up the restaurant, arming the security system and making sure that large 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 closing checklist, they’re more likely to happen, which increases restaurant security. 

Now you understand why having a restaurant open and close checklists is so important. Include the checklists in the employee handbook so that employees can always find it.

 

Tips for implementing an opening and closing checklist

What’s the best way to implement closing and opening checklists? Here are a few steps to make sure that your team embraces the checklist process.

  1. Brainstorm tasks: First, you need to come up with the tasks that will be on the checklists. Shadow FOH, BOH and management team members and write down the routine tasks that they do at the start and end of the day. Additionally, ask them which tasks they think should be a part of their opening and closing routine. They’re the ones on the ground floor and their insights will help. 
  2. Create checklists: Create your checklists based on these tasks. Place a checkbox next to each item and have staff check tasks off as they do them, then sign off, date, and timestamp the checklist when it’s completed. If you split up duties, ask team members to place their initials next to items that they’ve completed to increase accountability. Create separate checklists for opening and closing shifts, and for various roles in the restaurant (ex: FOH, BOH, management).
  3. Share checklists 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. Stay organized: Keep copies of the checklists in a binder in the office or in an area that’s relevant to each function (ex: 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 assuring each task is completed.  

If you follow these steps, you’ll have an effective opening and closing checklist protocol up and running in no time.

 

The 3 types of restaurant opening checklists

Daily opening restaurant checklists help you and your team set up for a successful day. Here are three lists for the same roles as in the previous section but for opening shifts. 

1. Front of house and bar opening checklist

The FOH team needs to ensure that the restaurant is ready for customers when it opens. Check out this server opening and closing checklist to help your team prepare for a day of service.

  • 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

If your restaurant is focused on takeout and delivery rather than dining in, customize this restaurant daily opening checklist to focus on delivery-fulfillment-focused tasks.

2. Back of house 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.

  • 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

Can you think of other important tasks that your cooks can do to make kitchen operations more efficient?

3. Restaurant manager opening checklist

What does a restaurant manager have to do to prepare for a successful day? They’re focused on organizing daily specials, leading staff meetings, taking care of the restaurant’s finances and analyzing sales and employee reports. 

  • 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 

 

The 3 types of restaurant closing checklists

Introduce these three restaurant closing checklists to your team to ensure that tasks get done by the right people. 

Under each checklist example below, we’ve included task categories that your checklist should include and examples of some tasks that could fit into those categories, but each restaurant is different. Customize and expand upon our restaurant open and close checklists to make them fit your specific needs. 

1. Front of house and bar closing checklist

During a closing shift, the front-of-house 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. 

  • Cleaning
    • Wipe down and sanitize all surfaces
    • Tuck chairs back into place
    • Sweep entryway
    • Wipe down and sanitize menus
  • Bar
  • 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 

2. Back of house closing checklist

The kitchen team has to do a lot to ensure the cleanliness and safety of the back of the house. These are the tasks we recommend having 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

Make it easy for your team to access this checklist by placing it in an obvious, highly visible spot in the kitchen.

3. Restaurant manager closing checklist

Managers oversee daily operations, finances and staff needs, which is why their restaurant open and close checklists are separate from that of server opening and closing checklists and cook checklists. 

  • 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

For more tips, check out our guide on how to be a good restaurant manager.

 

Restaurant opening and closing checklist 101

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

Create your own custom checklists for your team members. Use our examples as templates, then customize them to suit your restaurant’s needs. Place copies in the employee handbook and in easy-to-find spots throughout the restaurant.