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Restaurant Server Sidework Checklist for a Restaurant to Run Smoothly

Restaurant Server Sidework Checklist for a Restaurant to Run Smoothly

A server’s primary role is to take food and drink orders from customers, relay them to the kitchen (and bar), and then serve the food and beverages when they’re ready. This is the side of the service industry that most people see and what people who haven’t worked in the industry before assume is the entirety of a servers job. However, those who have been a bartender or server before know that there’s much more to it than meets the customer’s eye.

Servers and bartenders also have to perform sidework during their shift in addition to their primary work to ensure the restaurant runs smoothly. From rolling silverware to restocking salad station components to marrying condiments to get the most from every bottle, there are a wide range of tasks that constitute waitress sidework. 

The thing about great servers is that they go looking for work—they don’t like to stand around idly and prefer to keep clipping along throughout their shift. Why not make it easy for them to do? Restaurant sidework varies by business, but typically consists of duties such as cleaning service areas, refilling table condiments, tidying menus, restocking beverage and server stations and so on.

Even though servers engage in a relatively steady stream of similar sidework each shift, a detailed restaurant sidework checklist for waiters helps ensure these tasks get done promptly and consistently. A checklist removes the need for them to memorize the elements of each task and saves their mental energy for more intensive tasks like memorizing the orders of regulars. The best thing you can do to make restaurant sidework as easy as possible for your staff is to compile a server sidework checklist for your front-of-house (FOH) staff and a separate checklist for your back-of-house (BOH) staff. 

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Creating a server sidework checklist 

To develop a customized checklist, first identify all of the sidework duties that need to be completed every day. It’s important to list everything that needs to be done, and to be as specific as possible. Start with a particular area, such as a serving station, then work around the rest of the restaurant, taking note of all sidework tasks.

Once you have everything written down, break these tasks down into preliminary tasks that need to be done before the restaurant opens. This could include tasks for specific server stations, running sidework tasks, end of shifts tasks and closing duties, such as closing out the restaurant POS. 

By dividing the tasks up between daytime and nighttime shifts, you ensure that the work is distributed across staff while simultaneously making sure that everything that needs to get done each day is explicitly covered. 


The preliminary tasks

Before the restaurant opens, a server needs to determine which tables will be their responsibility, and ensure they’re ready for customers. This can include filling and cleaning condiment containers, salt and pepper shakers and sugar containers as well as placing silverware, napkins and glassware on tables. 

These tasks can also include wiping down booths and chairs, making sure to even get the legs in the process. It might seem excessive, but without daily attention the parts of chairs where dozens of people put their feet each day can get grimey quickly. Rather than forcing someone to handle an insurmountable task of cleaning them once they’ve gotten to an unbearable point, just add a quick wipe down to each opening server’s sidework instead. 


Restaurant sidework tasks for specific server stations 

These tasks are for the first shift, and should be assigned so that servers can complete them efficiently and they should be evenly divided between all stations. Typically it will take around 30-minutes to complete opening server sidework. 

This element of sidework involves making sure that each server station is stocked with everything it needs—from sani buckets and towels to extra napkins—while also making sure that each server has convenient access to the items they’ll need to carry out their work as soon as they clock in. 

Especially busy restaurants should consider doing station-specific sidework at the end of each shift if possible. 


Running sidework tasks

These tasks are performed during a server’s shift (bussers should do these, too), and involve stocking server work areas and minor cleaning chores such as wiping down surfaces or sweeping the floor. It may also sometimes be necessary to fetch clean glasses and cutlery from the dishwasher. If there’s a mess, or there’s a break between a rush, and the floor could use a quick sweep, each server should know that part of their running sidework entails keeping the floor clean. 


End of shift tasks 

These tasks can include stocking empty napkin trays and condiments. They should be assigned to servers based on the order they’re scheduled to leave. Don’t assign certain tasks to a server who leaves early or they’ll have to be done again at the end of the shift. Sidework like rolling silverware can be assigned to any server, while it’s obvious that closing out the salad station can only be handled by closing servers.


Closing duties

These include putting food products away in fridges, cleaning, setting napkins and cutlery and refilling table condiments. These are tasks that have to wait until the end of the night to be completed and that set up the next morning’s severs to hit the ground running when they come in the door.   


What’s next? 

Creating a server sidework checklist is just one of the first steps of optimizing your restaurant operations. Talk to one of our restaurant experts to learn how Lightspeed can take your efforts to the next level. 

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More of this topic: Management & Operations