Top 3 Benefits of Using Restaurant Checklists

how to run a restaurant restaurant checklists

Restaurant checklists. When I say this phrase, I get looks like I’ve just said something very crude. But if you’ve heard me speak at any point, you know I talk about checklists over and over again because they're a critical system to your business. Now let’s talk about how you make restaurant checklist work for you. Watch the video below, or keep scrolling, to learn the top three benefits of using restaurant checklists. 

How do you feel about checklists? Do you love them? Do you hate them? I generally find it’s a very polarizing issue.

If you love restaurant checklists, I bet I know why, and you’re going to love this validating tip. 

If you hate them, it’s probably because you can't get your employees or your managers to use them. They seem worthless.

Well, I’m going to tell you that if you hate restaurant checklists, it’s because your checklists suck. And you're holding the wrong person accountable. 

How do you make checklists work for you in your restaurant?

To start, if you're running a great restaurant, putting out great product, and you've got great service, checklists are the key critical system you're going to put in place if you want to make money. Why? If you can't get your managers to use a checklist on a daily basis, what makes you think they’re going to take inventory Sunday, on time and accurately. If you can't get them to do the simple stuff, what makes you think it's going to change? The key to checklists is using them to create a culture where the details matter.

Here are my top three reasons restaurant checklists work.

Restaurant checklists, when in place and done right, allow you to impose your will without being there. The perfect example of this is a chain restaurant. Most chain restaurants have no owners in them. They're staffed by managers. These managers give freedom and independence to the restaurant owner and/or franchisees to not be in there. The checklist sets the standard from cleanliness to service to lighting to temperature and so on.

Because the checklists give the managers step-by-step details on how to run the restaurant, your manager gets to play a game with you: find me doing something wrong. Managers love checklists because no one is yelling at them. They’re not being taught how to run the restaurant like a puppy in the old days, getting whacked on the nose with a newspaper when they do something wrong.

If you put checklists in place, you’ve set your standard. You’ve trained the managers on your standard. They either follow the checklist and do it right, or they’re doing it wrong.


The second benefit of checklists is you get rid of commonsense. There's this terrible thing in our business where we say, “Who's the idiot that put the trashcan in the middle of the restaurant? It's commonsense it doesn't belong there.”

Well, repeat after me: There ain't no such thing as commonsense.

Everybody's grown up differently from background, nationality, economics, education, you name it. In the restaurant industry we have a diverse employee base and what's common in one group isn’t common in every group. The more diverse the employees, the larger the group you have, the less you have in common. Stop trying to think people had your life, that they’ve had the same jobs you've had, the same bosses you’ve had, that they've done everything you've done. Your experience builds your commonsense. It’s not the same commonsense as someone else’s.

Checklists set a standard and get rid of commonsense. They give people your standard.

The third great thing about checklists is when you inspect what you expect, when you look at those checklists, you make sure they're being followed. You ensure the process is working. Because ultimately that's what a manager's there to do. A manager is there to make sure things are being done to your standard, that cleanliness is there, the service standards are there, the product is right, the portion control is right and food is safe. Step by step you can checklist anything and everything in your business and it's to your standard.

See? Checklists have incredible benefits.

I cover systems like this and more in my book? Order your copy of  Restaurant Prosperity Formula: What Successful Restaurateurs Do here

If you would like to learn more about the importance of systems and how to run a restaurant, read our free special report, Is Your Food Distributor Screwing You? 5 Things You Can Do Now to Lower Food Cost. Download it here. Be sure to visit my YouTube channel for more helpful restaurant management video tips.

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