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Use a Restaurant Opening Checklist to Get Your Staff in Order

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Ashley PerssicoAuthor

Anyone outside the restaurant industry may be surprised to hear how much work goes into opening a restaurant every day. From setting the tables to prepping the counter, it can sometimes feel like a restaurant can’t possibly operate on the same 24-hour clock as the rest of society. 

That’s why restaurateurs know just how important it is to streamline day-to-day operations.

A restaurant opening checklist can be a big help in providing guidelines to take some of the stress out of front of house (FOH) staff management. It helps keep your employees accountable and clears up any confusion on how things should be done.

Plus, an opening checklist can help simplify onboarding for new employees. And tenured staff can benefit, too. As experienced as your staff may be, using checklists for daily procedures also guards against forgetfulness and human error.

Many restaurants divide up the opening duties into three sections: a front of house checklist (done by a floor manager or senior server), a back of house checklist (done by a chef or sous chef), and a manager checklist (done by the general manager). While these assigned staff members aren’t directly responsible for doing every task, they are responsible for making sure the checklist gets completed. 

Checklists can be further divided by type of task, and placed into the order they should be completed. Once created, they should be printed out and laminated so the responsible staff member on each shift can tick off items with a dry-erase marker. 

Feel free to modify the lists below to fit the needs of your restaurant — this is really just a template to customize for your restaurant business’ unique needs!

(Are you looking for an opening checklist for your brand new restaurant? We’ve got you covered there, too. Here is our checklist to set your restaurant up for success on opening day, whether you have a soft launch or a grand opening.)

What to Include in Your Front of House and Bar Opening Checklist


  • Spray and wipe down high-traffic surfaces in the dining room, like door handles, railings, seats, and table tops.
  • Wipe down communal condiments that usually live on tables, like bottles of ketchup.
  • Spot clean windows and glass doors so they are free of smudges and streaks.
  • Check that each table has a clean and fully-stocked setting.
  • Check bathroom(s) for cleanliness and clean if necessary.
  • Ensure that trash bins are empty.


  • Wipe down the bar.
  • Clean and empty garnish trays.
  • Wipe down bottles and speed rails.
  • Run barware through the dishwasher and restock the bar with clean glassware.
  • Clean soda guns.
  • Empty and sanitize ice wells.
  • Set up mise en place at the bar.
  • Restock liquor.


  • Check the exterior of the restaurant for debris.
  • Turn on open signage and lights.
  • Unlock the front door.
  • Set music volume, lighting, and room temperature accordingly.


  • Punch in.
  • Set tables with place settings (napkins, silverware, and plates).
  • Restock tabletop items, such as sugar packets, ketchup, salt and pepper shakers, etc.
  • Check that all menus are in the menu holder.
  • Turn on the point of sale system (POS).
  • Put the day’s specials into the POS restaurant menu.
  • Refill receipt paper.
  • Review the reservations list and/or catering plans for the day.


  • Confirm that the register is set from the previous shift and includes expected cash amounts.
  • Count and assign cash drawers.

What to Include in Your Back of House Opening Checklist


  • Do a walkthrough to ensure nothing on the closing checklist was missed
  • Empty the dishwasher from last night’s run
  • Make sure you have enough cleaning supplies and cloths for the day
  • Check all surfaces to make sure they were cleaned
  • Mop the floor


  • Turn on/pre-heat stoves, ovens, fryers, and heaters
  • Restock all stations for line cooks
  • Refill all dressings, sauces, and condiment holders
  • Prep food and take perishables out of the walk-in
  • Identify and report any short or missing inventory for 86'ing or inventory orders
  • Prep kitchen utensils and ready cooking supplies


  • Make sure walk-in is organized according to food safety standards to prevent cross-contamination (from floor to top shelf: raw poultry, raw seafood or fish, raw meat, cooked chicken, meat, seafood, and fish, sauces and prepped dish components, produce).
  • Empty the dishwasher and put everything back in its correct place 


  • Check the temperatures on hot or cold food-holding units, such as refrigerators and the walk-in.

Restaurant Cleaning Checklist

Download the Restaurant Cleaning Checklist, created in partnership with, to keep track of the cleaning tasks that need to be completed in your restaurant.


What to Include in Your General Manager Opening Checklist 


  • Walk through the whole restaurant and make sure everything is clean, or being cleaned.


  • Set an agenda for the staff meeting.
  • Establish goals for the day.
  • Review the staff schedule for the day.
  • Explain the daily specials to staff and review menu items.


  • Answer emails, Yelp reviews, and social media posts.
  • Organize incoming deliveries.
  • Organize upcoming maintenance of kitchen equipment.


  • Set daily sales goals.
  • Pay any bills that are due.

Mastering Your Restaurant Opening Checklist

There are so many moving parts when it comes to opening a restaurant for the day  — without a list, it’s really tough to juggle it all. If you have a list for every area of the restaurant, the tasks are more manageable, and every supervising staff member will know what they need to get done before the first guest walks through the door. 

These checklists will help you streamline the daily prep and focus on delivering a great dining experience for your guests. 

Looking for other restaurant management tips? Check out these articles next: 

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