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The Pre-Opening Restaurant Checklist Every Manager Needs

Checklist Best Practices | By | 14 Nov 2016 | 3 minute read

I bet you can remember every bad restaurant experience you’ve had. From bad customer service, undercooked food, long waiting times, a bad restaurant experience is infuriating. The first time customer experience is crucial to get right. You only have once chance to drive a good impression and there are a few factors involved, like cleanliness and the overall restaurant environment.

On the flip side, every restaurant manager knows just how hectic every shift can be. There is a lot to remember to ensure a smooth guest experience. A restaurant manager’s daily duties are extensive, you’re managing cooks and kitchen hands, handling money, and setting the tone of your customers experience. A checklist is the number one tool you can rely on when you are busy to keep you in control of what you need to do. Having a checklist app in place, is a great way to delegate responsibilities to staff and keep a digital record.

What a checklist can do for every restaurant manager:

  • Keep you on the forefront of restaurant quality
  • Help you manage restaurant food safety – because no one wants salmonella
  • Keeps a record of food temperature checks
  • Alert management of failed areas to make way for improvements
  • Help you prioritize tasks to ensure restaurant success

Now that you understand the benefits of the humble checklist, let’s move on to what should be included in your restaurant pre-opening checklist. Every restaurant needs to have procedures in place. A pre-opening shift checklist is just one of many you need to make your restaurant efficient and keep those customers coming through your doors.

Temperature checks

One of the first things you will do before opening is checking the temperature of food stored in the fridges and freezers. The best way to do this is through a temperature checklist. Whether you are a restaurant manager for a fast food joint or high-end cuisine. All restaurants prep some foods ahead of time. Create a prep checklist for your head cook to complete before the restaurant fills up. On top of the temperature checklist, regular food safety audits are also a crucial process to have in place.

A picture of a mobile performing a temperature checklist for a restaurant.


On opening shifts, a manager should count the safe to keep a record of the amount of money on the premises. Whether you’re managing a single restaurant or multiple, balancing the cost of staff is crucial to keep labor costs low. This is of course a fine balancing act. In the event you don’t have enough staff, service times can lengthen and leave your customers unhappy. Too much staff will eat up your money and widen your margins. Once staff are on the clock, you can make the most of their scheduled time by streamlining the pre-opening process and laying out necessary financial duties in a checklist. This ensures their time is spent effectively when the restaurant isn’t making any money. Even the most senior staff can forget things or lose focus. We are human after all and to err is human.


Everyone’s favorite task. Opening shift team members often perform the heavy-duty tasks. The cleaning jobs required before the restaurant opens include the time-intensive tasks like: scrubbing the floors, cleaning the ovens, (some other time-intensive thing). And emptying and cleaning freezers among others. Set priorities on what needs to be cleaned in what order on your checklist. This makes sure even when you’re in a rush, the crucial items are checked off. These scenarios tend to have a snowball effect if you don’t get on top it quickly. Delegating these tasks to opening staff will help you complete your high-level items.

Dining Room

Your restaurant dining room is where the magic happens. The ambiance and environment set the tone for a guests experience. If the restaurant looks messy or isn’t set-up it doesn’t give potential customers much hope for their food experience. Set the tables, straighten furniture, clean windows and do any other task to make this area ready. It’s not a good look when only 50% of tables are set or some don’t have salt and pepper shakers.

In order for a restaurant to be compliant and a hit with customers, it needs to run smoothly. Cut back on labor costs and streamline your processes with a pre-opening checklist. In a fast-paced environment like a restaurant, it’s hard for anyone to always stay on top of a single issue. Make the checklist your best friend. By doing so, it will set your staff up for success.

Free Resource: Download Restaurant Manager Opening Checklist (Sign-in required)

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