Use a Closing Checklist to Get Your Crew in Order

When the last customer is paying their bill and the dust has settled after the rush, one of the toughest parts of the shifts begins: closing. There’s still a whole batch of tasks that have to get done after the guests have left, and they happen when the team is pretty burnt out. 

That’s why restaurant closing checklists are a helpful part of day-to-day management of your business. They keep your staff accountable, and clear up any confusion about how things should be done.

As experienced as your staff may be, using checklists for daily procedures also guards against forgetfulness and human error. And if you order the list in a way that’s logical, allows your staff to multitask and get things done more efficiently, they can quickly complete their duties and get home to bed after a long shift.

When you’re building your employee incentive program, you can even use the closing checklist as part of a challenge.The employee that’s the quickest at effectively completing their list can get first dibs on a shift off, for example.

Many restaurants divide up the closing duties into three: 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 someone has done them.

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 jumping-off point!

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

  • Clean all tables and chairs.
  • Flip chairs on top of tables.
  • Remove and clean non-slip mats behind the bar.
  • Pull up grate and clean spills underneath.
  • Sweep floor.
  • Mop floor.
  • Put non-slip mats back.
  • Make sure all the tables are back in the right position according to the floor plan.
  • Empty rag buckets at server station.
  • Wipe down checkbooks.
  • Empty & clean coffee and ice tea makers.
  • Take apart the soda machine and clean out well at the bottom.
  • Clean and plug beer taps. 
  • Clean guest bathroom and restock if needed.
  • Empty any trash cans available to guests (including bathroom) and put garbage in the dumpster.
  • Wipe down the bar, the host stand, and any POS tablets and stations.
  • Polish glasses and roll silverware.
  • Shine glass surfaces and windows.
  • Turn off the dining room lights.
  • Turn off all the bar lights.
  • Pull out pouring spouts from liquor bottles and clean them; close the bottles.
  • Seal any open wine bottles.
  • Restock the fridges with any canned drinks.
  • Restock inventory on liquor bottles and mixers.
  • Burn the ice and make sure it drains out fully.
  • Refill bar garnishes.
  • Restock all beer kegs.
  • Lock alcohol cabinets, if used.
  • Lock the door to any restricted areas.
  • Put all menus in the menu holder.
  • Refill the napkin dispensers.
  • Refill salt and pepper shakers.
  • Make sure everyone reported tips and distributed tip-out when applicable.
  • Close out the floor register and store in a safe location.
  • Close out the bar cash register and store cash in a safe location.
  • What to Include in Your Back of House Closing Checklist
  • Remove non-slip mats and clean them.
  • Sweep kitchen floor.
  • Mop kitchen floor.
  • Put back non-slip mats.
  • Empty kitchen trash cans into dumpster.
  • Wash and/or sanitize all cooking utensils, cutting boards, hotel pans, etc.
  • Clean all prep areas and line stations.
  • Scrub the flattop.
  • Change fryer oil. 
  • Clean and restock the employee bathroom.
  • Make sure the break room is tidy.
  • Double check inventory and adjust any orders.
  • Consolidate containers of the same foods. 
  • Put away any leftover deliveries that arrived throughout the day.
  • Date and label all food that hasn't been dated or labeled.
  • If you find a container older than 5 days old in the walk-in fridge, toss the contents. 
  • Restock all line stations.
  • Ensure all perishable foods are stored in the walk-in fridge or freezer.
  • Make sure the walk-in and any other fridges or freezers are shut tight.
  • Make prep list for tomorrow’s prep cook based on what’s left. 
  • 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).
  • Rotate inventory in fridge (FIFO — first in, first out — is the cardinal rule of restaurant fridge organization. The oldest things in the fridge should be placed at the front of their shelves, so they’ll be used first.)
  • Empty dishwasher and put everything back in its correct place 
  • Verify temperature of freezer and fridge.
  • Turn off all heaters, ovens, and gas stoves.
  • Properly store any sharp kitchen tools. 
  • Make sure all equipment is off.
  • Make sure employee lockers are locked.
  • What to Include in Your General Manager Closing Checklist 
  • Walk through the whole restaurant and make sure everything is clean, or being cleaned.
  • Collect linens and prepare them to be sent to be washed.
  • Say thanks and goodbye to every employee.
  • Make sure everyone clocked in and out.
  • Fill out manager log book if anything notable happened during shift.
  • Build and post staff schedule (in break room, online, or in your scheduling software).
  • Post any outstanding job postings on job sites.
  • Answer emails, Yelp reviews, and social media posts received during the day.
  • Tidy back office.
  • Organize incoming deliveries.
  • Take care of any outstanding paperwork.
  • Organize upcoming maintenance to equipment.

  • Compare your sales report from your POS with your money in the register and your credit card receipts.
  • Check sales data and create a report for the day’s sales.
  • Address any outstanding checks or orders.
  • Make deposits.
  • Double-check any voids or comps.
  • Pay any bills that are due.
  • Make sure office is locked and the computer is off (and password is active).
  • Double check that every exit is locked, and lock the restaurant on your way out.
  • Set building alarm.

Mastering Your Restaurant Closing Checklist

There are so many moving parts when it comes to closing down 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 heading home.

Dahlia worked in restaurant kitchens for six years before changing careers. Now she produces Toast's podcast, The Garnish.alert-info

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