How many times have you heard that answer to the question, “Are you using the checklists?” Probably every other time you ask it. For the sake of embarrassment alleviation, let’s just assume that every restaurateur worth a clean salt and peppershaker has checklists floating around. By the way, you should have an original set of laminated back-up checklists locked in the safe or hidden in the cabinet with the cleaning supplies. Few people go in there.
The checklist is the bible for any good supervisor or manager. An opening and closing checklist simply states what procedures need to be accomplished, and in what order they should be performed. It doesn’t take the concentration of a brain surgeon to develop one, but most restaurant employees, at least in the beginning of their careers, assume that they need not look in the direction of a checklist because they are too bright to rely on a guide to make one’s job easier.
I always found checklist animosity ironic. If a checklist were made available with the answers to a final college exam at a University of higher learning, everyone would take one. But, in the hallowed halls of dining room discourse, checklists get hidden, torn, and often thrown away in hopes that they will never surface again. Why would bright people not use something that gives the answers and guides them in their jobs?
One of the most productive ways to accomplish checklist respect is to assign a portion of the list to a dining room section. Match the list and a face. The best section gets the hardest list. The second best, the second hardest, and the worst section, well, they get the easiest list. Using this method also alleviates wait staff from begging night after night for the best section in the dining room.
What needs to be on those checklists is entirely up to the owner and the managers. Opening and closing procedures need to be categorized and organized in the order they are to be performed. And, unfortunately for those pros that never need a checklist, write it as though a person with as little restaurant experience as possible is coming into your eatery to open and close for the first time. Checklists are supposed to be tools in the multi-task world of hospitality. They do not make one look dumb and dumber. They actually signify intelligence and a management style of one who enjoys injecting a bit of organization into a world of stress a chaos.
Now I am not professing that the dining room staff walk around with a checklist hanging from the cord that holds their register sign on card. But until the duties of the checklist become second nature, instinctive, they should be posted in the wait station, the back of the exiting kitchen door, behind the bar, and don’t hesitate to put a copy in their paychecks. That really makes for great weekend reading.
Give a pop quiz on occasion. Ask a waitperson or a manager to go through the opening checklist with you without having the list available. Now in many instances, managers and supervisors assume that checklist usage is a reflection of poor management. In actuality, not using the checklist, or any other guide to complete the job efficiently, is a sign of miss management.
Readers may think that I live and breathe checklists. I have in the past. During the development of my last restaurant concept, I was so checklist oriented that one of our partners got a job at Starbucks to learn the regimentation that has become the corporate mantra. And, when he was done with that gig, he developed our checklists, menu quizzes on ingredients, and other incidentals that made running a restaurant with anti-checklist people easier.
Don’t think that the checklist system is the solution to all of your problems. It’s just a vehicle to keep your staff focused on what they need to accomplish to make the business a success. And, it gives everyone piece of mind that the job got done.
IN the long run, it´s easier to use a checklist than to continuously be haunted by the question, “Did that get completed tonight, or will I be facing the mess in the morning.”