Get a Demo
Under 10 Employees?Shop Starter Kit
Server management

How to Create a Useful Restaurant Server Training Checklist

Marcel DeerAuthor

icon RESOURCE
Thumbnail

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.

Toast | BUILT FOR RESTAURANTS

The restaurant industry is poised to grow significantly over the next decade, and for most operators, that will mean more business, expansion, and, of course, new staff. However, onboarding new team members invites challenges and expenses that can be difficult to navigate.

According to the National Restaurant Association, more than 200,000  new restaurant jobs will be added by the end of 2024. Back in 2019, our restaurant industry success report found that over 50% of restaurant operators said staffing was one of the biggest challenges, with 35% naming training as an additional hardship.

This trend will continue for the foreseeable future unless restaurant managers find the right resources to help train and onboard new servers more effectively.

This is where a restaurant server training checklist comes in. It’s one of the most effective tools for helping managers provide clear and efficient training to onboard new servers as quickly and easily as possible. In this article, I’ll cover:

  • The Importance of Server Training

  • Create an Effective Server Training Checklist in 5 Steps

  • The Responsibilities of a Restaurant Server

  • Frequently Asked Questions

icon RESTAURANT RESOURCE

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.

Toast

Why is Server Training Important?

The best restaurant managers know that you cannot underestimate the power of a solid training process. New servers need training because they’re the most important point of contact with your customers. They must represent your brand and provide outstanding customer service. 

Servers must acquire both hard and soft skills to fulfill all their daily duties. In addition to front-of-house work, they need to understand how your busy restaurant operates behind the scenes and how they’ll be paid and treated as employees.

There are different ways to train new serving staff at a restaurant. You can provide online training, tutorial videos, shadowing experience, or just wing it. Having worked for managers who “just wing it”, I would certainly advise against this training method.

If you want to minimize training time while maximizing its effectiveness, a comprehensive checklist can be an indispensable tool. It organizes all the things a new server must learn into one clear place and helps you keep track of everything that needs to be covered. 

Using a server training checklist ensures that the training schedule is thorough and well-structured, helping new employees feel confident and properly prepared. This simple tool can improve employee happiness, staff retention, guest experience, and customer satisfaction.

Create a Restaurant Server Training Checklist in 5 Steps

There are all sorts of establishments in the restaurant business. No two training programs will be the same, as 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

The first part of your restaurant training program should be handling initial admin. Discuss aspects that are vital to your company, such as values, expectations, and dress code. You’ll also need to collect and hand out paperwork and provide new staff with an employee handbook.

Here are four items that you should include in your restaurant server training checklist:

  • Initial Paperwork: The first step in onboarding new servers and food runners is to sort out their initial paperwork, such as a contract outlining their roles and responsibilities in the restaurant. You’ll also need to collect information on how to pay them, including bank account information for direct deposits and a signed W-4 tax withholding form.

  • Employee Handbook: Around 68% of restaurants give new staff an employee handbook so they can learn about the ins and outs of their business. The benefit of using a server training manual is that it gives staff a thorough reference they can study and refer back to at all times. This also saves time for the manager by allowing the new recruit to answer their own questions, helping them learn more quickly.

  • General Job Guidelines & Responsibilities: Provide a general overview of the role and the new server’s responsibilities. This is the time to discuss specifics that are important to the job and restaurant norms, such as compensation, sick days, benefits, shift schedules (including how to use the restaurant scheduling software), HR policies, and anything that would constitute a fireable offense.

  • Personal Appearance & Dress Code: Most successful restaurants have a uniform that keeps their employees looking smart and professional. Include in your checklist the requirements you have regarding employees’ personal appearance and dress code, and explain the importance of maintaining appearances as an essential part of your brand. 

icon RESTAURANT RESOURCE

Employee Handbook Template

Outline your restaurant’s staff policies in this customizable Word doc to help restaurant management and staff get on the same page.

Toast

2. Server Opening Procedures

The second section of your checklist should cover a server’s role in setting up for the day or starting their shift. This is where you can discuss the daily responsibilities of servers in your restaurant area and dining room. 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 restaurant opening procedures checklist to help them visualize what they have to do. This could include:

  • Stocking side stations

  • Setting tables

  • Logging on to the point-of-sale (POS) system

  • Preparing glassware

  • Organizing menus

  • Refilling tabletop items

  • Memorizing specials

With proper training and the right guidance, these duties become second nature for new servers. Of course, you should tailor the specifics of server duties for your restaurant. 

3. Server Closing Procedures 

In addition to opening procedures, you must familiarize your new hires with their closing duties. Give your new restaurant staff an overview of the closing procedures for their role, explaining why this is important for a successful restaurant. Walk them through the procedures one by one and demonstrate how to perform each task to your establishment’s standard.

You may also want to utilize a closing procedures checklist. This will likely include items such as:

  • Refilling tabletop items

  • Collecting menus

  • Turning off music

  • Setting the thermostat

  • Signing out of restaurant systems

  • Turning off lights

  • Cleaning the seating area

  • Locking up

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

icon RESOURCE

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.

Toast

4. Daily Tasks and Knowledge 

By now, you’ve discussed with your new server the start and end of a typical shift. But what about everything in between? In this section of your restaurant server checklist, you should cover the day-to-day duties and expectations of the role. 

Explain basic responsibilities like serving food and waiting tables to more intricate duties like upselling techniques. Here’s what you could cover in this section:

  • Menu items

  • Waiting etiquette

  • Serving expectations

  • Taking orders

  • Offering recommendations

  • Upselling specials

  • Handing payments

  • Operating restaurant technology

Even if you’re hiring an experienced server, this part is vital in ensuring they work to your restaurant’s own core values and standards. There are things that even top servers won’t yet be familiar with, such as the restaurant layout, which is why being a server requires ongoing training.

5. Health & Safety

Lastly, it’s time to go through the health and safety procedures to ensure your new employee works efficiently and safely. This helps them become aware of the potential hazards in your establishment and provides them with the training they need to accommodate guests with allergies and medical emergencies. Here’s what you should cover in the final part of your server training checklist:

  • Allergies: Run through guidelines for preventing cross-contamination and handling allergies to ensure the safety of your customers. Train your servers to be vigilant about reporting any guest with food allergies to your kitchen staff, who can then do their best to prevent cross-contamination while the food is being prepared. 

  • Medical Emergencies: Your restaurant staff should be trained to know exactly what to do if a medical emergency arises. For example, they should know the procedure for when a guest is choking or if there is a fire in your restaurant.

  • Sanitization: Walk your staff through the 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 how to avoid workplace injuries (burns, slips, cuts, etc) when walking around the kitchen. They should also know about the typical follow-up procedures should an accident occur. 

What are the Responsibilities of a Restaurant Server?

A server is responsible for providing exceptional service to your customers, ensuring everyone’s orders are correct and delivered, and ensuring the front-of-house runs smoothly. They need a range of hard and soft skills, including good memory, a knowledge of service standards, and problem-solving abilities. In this section, I’ll discuss the typical responsibilities and skills of a server.

Menu Knowledge 

All servers must 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 restaurant menu can take time, but it’s integral to their job success. You can train this skill in the kitchen, physically showing them each menu item as it’s 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 in their own time.

Service Standards, Skills, and Etiquette

Communicating with customers is the most important part of your server’s job. As part of their customer service training, you should demonstrate how to speak with and listen to customers, either through role-playing situations with the manager or by letting them shadow 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 could teach them specifically how to set tables, greet and seat customers, or 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. This will benefit both your restaurant and your servers, as you improve your reputation for excellence while your servers can collect more tips

Upselling and Suggestive Selling Techniques

You can also discuss what your restaurant does to increase revenue strategically through techniques like upselling and suggestive selling. It’s important to reinforce your restaurant's core values and explain how every action your employees take – whether they’re front-of-house or back-of-house – impacts the guest experience.

Take the time to train servers to identify opportunities and make recommendations to provide great service to your customers. Creating a premium guest experience should be your servers' number one priority, so they need the proper training to ensure they do this well.

Handling Payments and Technology

Servers also interact with restaurant technology and payment processing systems, areas in which they require training. As a restaurant owner, you must ensure servers are knowledgeable about the payment process and familiar with the daily technologies you use, such as your POS system and handheld units. This will minimize errors and improve transaction speeds, in turn building a more efficient workplace and a more pleasant guest experience.

Download Your Restaurant Server Training Checklist

A well-trained server team can make all the difference to your restaurant's success in this tough and competitive industry. When team members know what to do and how to do it, they are happier in their roles, fulfill their duties diligently, and simply do better work.

Using a server training checklist will help you onboard new serving staff quickly and efficiently. Make sure that this checklist is well thought out, covering all the bases and providing your new employees with all the information they need to succeed in their new roles.

You can download our pre-designed restaurant server training checklist below. Alternatively, try Toast today to discover all the tools you need to run a smooth and successful restaurant.

icon RESOURCE

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.

Toast

FAQs

Is being a server hard?

Like any restaurant job, being a server has its stressful moments. However, serving customers can be straightforward with the right training and proper experience. Provided you have a good memory, strong communication skills, and a positive attitude, being a server isn’t all that difficult.

What can you expect from server training?

Server training includes learning many hard and soft skills, as the job often entails varied responsibilities. For example, server training may cover restaurant policies - including shift schedules, health and safety procedures, and expected etiquette - menu items, processing payments, and dealing with intoxicated or disorderly customers.

What type of training is the most important for servers?

Restaurant server training can include all sorts of aspects, and it’s important to provide a varied and comprehensive training program for your new hires. Your top training priorities should be your restaurant’s etiquette and serving expectations, as this will help your new staff create the best guest experience possible. Going over daily procedures, payments, and menus is also highly important.

Is this article helpful?

DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.