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How to Make a Server Opening and Closing Checklist (Free Template)

Marcel DeerAuthor

What is a server opening and closing checklist?

Server Opening and Closing Checklist Guide

Even if you have fewer than 50 staff, like 90% of restaurants, following up on every task that each server does can seem like an impossible task. That’s why checklists are great. They’re clear, easy to read, and effective. They let people know exactly what to do and let them tick off tasks as they accomplish them. They just make things easier. 

When you’re working hard in the fast-paced restaurant business, the last thing you want to be doing is micro-managing your staff. You don’t have the time anyway, and they probably don’t have the patience. But there are a ton of tasks to perform for every day’s opening and closing routines, and it can be hard to keep track of whether everything is getting done. 

Until server opening and closing checklists come into play. 

These simple tools can take the confusion and human error out of opening and closing procedures and replace them with smooth sailing. And who doesn’t like that? 

In this article, you’ll learn about:

  • What server opening and closing checklists are

  • Why these checklists are so useful for servers

  • How to make a server checklist

  • Different types of server checklists

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Server Training Checklist

Use this comprehensive checklist to streamline your training process and cover all the essential tasks new servers should learn, from basic steps of service to side work.

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What is a server opening and closing checklist?

A server opening checklist is a to-do list of all the tasks servers have to complete to open your restaurant each day successfully. A server closing checklist covers all the necessary closing tasks that need to be done. These lists can be combined into one or separated, especially to help organize staff on different shifts throughout the day.

Your checklists can be on paper, on a board, or even on a computer terminal. You’ll want to keep tasks specific and separated, but hopefully all on one page for ease of display. 

You’ll need a place for people to check off the different tasks that they perform. You can also include a space for the staff to initial or sign their names to let you know who did what. This greatly increases accountability and gives you the added bonus of knowing if anyone is doing a lot more or a lot less than they should be.

Why does a server need a checklist before opening and closing a restaurant?

Server opening and closing checklists really do make everything easier and smoother. They keep managers from having to tell staff what to do all the time and help avoid human error caused by people’s fallible memories. These simple tools keep things on track and organized.

Easier training

You know when you start a new job and are told so much on your first day that you get information overload? Instead, you just end up nodding to appease whoever’s showing you the ropes, knowing that you’re missing at least half of what they’re telling you. Well, your new staff feel that way, too. And since 35% of restaurateurs name training staff as a top challenge, you need something to help this go more smoothly. 

Having a checklist eliminates this awkwardness and helps onboard new staff more easily. They can see the tasks they need to do on a clear list, so before they memorize everything, they have a convenient document to refer to. 

Team accountability 

Keeping a team happy and well-oiled isn’t just for sports franchises. Your serving staff needs to feel like they’re working cooperatively, with each person pulling their weight and making a contribution. So why not enhance your server opening and closing lists with a section for signing or initialing? This will give you data in real-time to help you assess how much each member is contributing.

Ensures cleanliness standards

Keeping up cleanliness standards is crucial for the success of your restaurant. And you wouldn’t want them to slip just because someone forgot to clean the glassware or wipe down the tables, would you? By putting all your servers’ cleaning duties onto a checklist, you can be assured that nothing gets forgotten or missed, and your restaurant will be kept clean to your exact standards.

Reduces mistakes

When servers forget to do things, it can cost you money or customers. Imagine how high your heating bill would be if staff consistently forgot to turn down the thermostat overnight. And you know how antsy customers get when they can’t pay their bill quickly, especially because someone forgot to charge the handheld. When people are busy and working hard, they make mistakes, but checklists can help to limit these by providing a way to ensure that everything gets done correctly.

Increases efficiency

Have you ever lost customers because you weren’t ready to open on time? That was probably because all the tasks from the previous day’s closing didn’t get done, so opening takes extra time and effort. But with a checklist, it’s easier to get everything done appropriately so that your time isn’t wasted.

How to Create and Implement Server Opening and Closing Checklists

Brainstorm tasks 

By yourself or with your management team, think through your opening and closing procedures and write down all the steps that need to be done. Try to isolate these as individual tasks so that no one checks off two items when they’ve only done one.

For example, write: “ – Sanitize tables – Arrange chairs” as two items rather than writing “– Sanitize tables and arrange chairs.”

Consult your team 

Once you’ve finished your draft, get your team in for a consultation. They’ll definitely come up with items that you’ve missed. This is also a great opportunity to help the staff feel ownership over the checklist, and that will help with future compliance.

Use a template 

A great way to make your checklist clear and complete is to use a template. This will also save you time messing around with tables and formatting. You can download Toast’s Restaurant Opening and Closing Checklist template here to get you started.

Train the team

Your checklist isn’t going to be worth the paper it’s written on if you don’t get your staff to use it. Expect some resistance – many people simply don’t like change. However, explaining how the checklist will streamline opening and closing and make things easier will help. 

Show everyone how to use the checklists and check to make sure they’re being used correctly. You can even make copies and place them around your restaurant or send them home with staff to get used to. Soon enough, resistance will fade as your servers will see how this simple tool makes everyone’s job easier.

Update often

Here’s a guarantee – the first version of your checklist won’t be perfect. Someone will add an extra item or 2 in marker at the bottom. Some items will get crossed off as they’re determined not to be servers’ responsibilities. Don’t worry; this is how it goes. Come back and consult with your staff to see if changes are needed. Update your checklists as often as you need to keep things running smoothly, but not so often that it’s confusing or surprising!

Example Server Opening and Closing Checklists 

Server Opening Checklist

The server opening checklist details all the tasks that servers should perform before you can open your doors. Yours can include items like:

  • Turn on lights 

  • Turn on music

  • Set thermostat

  • Turn on and charge necessary technology

  • Stock side station

  • Set tables 

  • Take down / adjust chairs

  • Refill tabletop items (salt and pepper, sauces, etc.)

  • Prepare glassware

  • Prepare menus

  • Fill water containers

During Shift Checklist

If your restaurant has several shifts, you may want to consider a During Shift Checklist to help them tick off the tasks they should complete during each shift. Include items like:

  • Stock side station

  • Sanitize menus

  • Clean POS terminals

  • Refill water containers

  • Sanitize tables

Server Closing Checklist

This checklist details everything servers should do before they can clock out, and you can lock up for the night. Tasks might include:

  • Push in/put up chairs

  • Refill tabletop items

  • Collect menus

  • Turn off music

  • Set thermostat

  • Sign/punch out

  • Turn off lights

Server Cleaning Checklist

Many restaurants depend on servers for opening and closing cleaning duties. This checklist can include tasks such as:

  • Clean floors

  • Clean windows

  • Clean and sanitize tables and other surfaces

  • Sanitize and prepare menus

  • Take out trash

Get Started with a Server Opening and Closing Checklist

Formalizing the tasks of your server team can make everyone’s lives easier. It helps new staff learn the job, limits mistakes and forgotten tasks, and increases accountability for everyone involved. These checklists are easy to create and fast to institute – they simply don’t seem to have any downsides. So why not start using them to help your team get everything done that much more easily?

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Restaurant Opening and Closing Checklist

The beginning and end of a shift can be frantic. Use this free PDF checklist to set your front-of-house staff up for success.

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