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How to Create a Useful Restaurant Server Training Checklist

Marcel DeerAuthor

The restaurant industry is poised to expand in the next five years, and for most operators, that will mean more business, expansion, and, of course, new staff. However, with onboarding new staff comes challenges and expenses. Over 50% of restaurant operators say that staffing is a top challenge, and 35% name training as one of the biggest challenges for restaurant success. It can cost up to $2000 to recruit, hire, and train a new staff member, so you want to be sure you’re doing it right. 

New servers need excellent training because they’re the most important point of contact with your customers. They need to learn how to represent your brand and provide a great customer experience. They also need to know what their responsibilities are and how to perform their role effectively. At the same time, they need to understand how things work behind the scenes and how they’ll be paid and taken care of as employees. A restaurant server training checklist is one of the most effective tools to help managers provide clear and efficient training to onboard new staff as quickly and easily as possible.

 In this article, you’ll learn:

  • Why a server training checklist is important

  • Steps for effectively training serving staff

  • What should be included in a well-designed checklist


Training Manual Template

Use this restaurant training manual template, a customizable Word Doc, to provide your staff with the rules, guidelines, and clarity they need to do their jobs efficiently.


The importance of a well-designed server training checklist

There are different ways to train new serving staff at a restaurant. There’s online training, watching videos, job shadowing, and, of course, a manager can just wing it. But if you want to minimize training time while maximizing its effectiveness, a comprehensive server training checklist can be an indispensable tool. It puts all the things a new server must learn into one clear place and helps the manager keep track of everything that needs to be covered. 

Using a checklist can help ensure that training is comprehensive so that new servers feel confident and properly prepared. This simple tool can improve employee happiness and retention and lead to improved customer experience and satisfaction.

How to Create a Restaurant Server Training Checklist 

Every restaurant is different, and you should always tailor your checklist to your restaurant’s specific needs and operations. At the same time, there are many items that are essentially universal in server training. Here are a few ideas and options to help get you started with your server training checklist.

1. Initial Tasks 

Initial paperwork 

The first step in getting a staff person on board is sorting out their hiring paperwork. They need to have a contract that outlines their role and responsibilities in the restaurant. You’ll also need to collect information on how to pay them (Ex. bank a/c information for direct deposit) as well as a signed W-4 tax withholding form.

Around 68% of restaurants give new staff an employee handbook to study and learn about the ins and outs of their business. The benefit of using an employee handbook is that it gives staff a comprehensive reference they can study and refer back to at all times. This can also save time for the manager by letting the new recruit answer their own questions and do self-study.

General Job Guidelines and Responsibilities 

Once initial paperwork is out of the way, it’s time to deliver an overview of the guidelines and responsibilities associated with the position. In this overview, you can include more general role guidelines as well as specifics that are important to the job and norms of the restaurant. 

This is also time to discuss compensation, sick days, and benefits to make this all crystal clear. Cover scheduling procedures and start the staff person using your restaurant’s scheduling app if you have one. It’s also important here to cover HR policies, including anything that would constitute a fireable offense. 

Personal Appearance, Dress Code, and Uniform

Go over the requirements you have regarding employees’ personal appearance, dress code, and uniform. Provide a uniform if necessary. Explain the importance of managing servers’ appearance as an essential part of your brand.

2. Server Opening Procedures

This section is where you start to get into the daily responsibilities of servers in your restaurant. Give your new employee an overview of the opening procedures for their role, and explain why this is important for smooth operations. 

At this point, you can orient your servers to your current server opening procedures checklist with items like:

  • Stock side stations

  • Set tables

  • Prepare glassware

  • Prepare menus

  • Refill tabletop items

Of course, you should personalize the specifics of server duties for your restaurant. 

3. Server Closing Procedures 

Give your new employee an overview of the closing procedures for their role, and also explain why this is important for smooth operations. Walk them through the procedures one by one and demonstrate how to perform each task up to your restaurant’s standard.

You should familiarize your new server with the server closing procedures checklist that you have in place. That list will likely include items such as:

  • Refill tabletop items

  • Collect menus

  • Turn off music

  • Set thermostat

  • Sign/punch out

  • Turn off lights

Again, your closing procedures and list will have to be personalized to fit the responsibilities of servers for your particular restaurant.

4. Daily Tasks and Knowledge 

Menu Knowledge 

It’s critical that servers know what’s on the menu and what all the items taste like, look like, and are made from. This will help them answer customers’ questions and provide appropriate recommendations. It can also help the server play a critical role in quality control – they should be able to recognize if something coming out of the kitchen is not up to standard.

Learning the menu can take time; however, it’s crucially important to their job success. You can do this part of the training in the kitchen, physically showing them each menu item as it is produced. You can even provide them with a tasting experience. Some restaurants produce slideshows with photos and descriptions of all their menu items, which the servers can study on their own time.

Service Standards, Skills, and Etiquette

Communication with customers is the most important part of your server’s job. Part of their training should show them demonstrations of how to speak with and listen to customers, either through role-playing situations with the manager or shadowing their colleagues during real customer interactions.

All restaurants encounter issues with service, food, and difficult customers. Training should include giving new staff techniques for handling these difficult situations in ways that always seek to maintain a positive experience for your customers.

You’ll also need to teach your new servers how to maintain the quality of service and presentation that your restaurant requires. You may teach them specifically how to set tables, greet, and seat customers, and how to take and place food and drink orders (including checking IDs). Run them through an overview of the typical flow of service and even role-play examples.

Upselling and Suggestive Selling Techniques

You may wish to cover the strategies your restaurant uses to increase revenue through upselling and suggestive selling. It’s important to reinforce the core values of your restaurant and how every action your employees take — whether they’re front-of-house or back-of-house — has an impact on the guest experience.

Take time to train servers on identifying opportunities and making recommendations to provide great service to your customers.

Handling Payments and Technology Training

Ensure servers are knowledgeable about the payment process and familiar with daily technologies you use, such as your POS system and handheld units.


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.


5. Health procedures


Run through guidelines for preventing cross-contamination and handling allergies to ensure the safety of your customers. And, be sure to train your servers to be vigilant about reporting any guest dining with food allergies to your kitchen staff, who can then in term prevent cross-contamination while the food is being prepared. 

Medical Emergencies 

Cover what to do if a guest is choking or there is another medical emergency or safety situation like a fire in your restaurant.

6. Sanitization and Kitchen Safety 


Walk your staff through procedures for hand washing, glove-wearing, food cleaning, serving dishes, and dishwashing to ensure the highest standards of cleanliness possible.

Kitchen Safety

As servers often need to enter the back-of-house, it’s crucial to teach them about how to avoid workplace injury in that environment (burns, slips, cuts) and the typical procedures to follow should an accident occur. 

Restaurant Server Training Checklist – A Manager’s Best Friend

A well-trained server team can make all the difference to the success of your restaurant in this tough and competitive industry. When staff know what to do and how to do it, their own personal success will also be ensured, and this will help you retain staff and keep them working efficiently. You can use a server training checklist to help you on-board new serving staff quickly and efficiently. Make sure that this checklist is well thought-out and comprehensive, covering all the bases and providing your valuable new staff with all they need to succeed in their new roles.

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