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Server Sidework Checklist for Your Restaurant

Server Sidework Checklist for Your Restaurant

Last updated on 10/6/2021

If you operate a restaurant, you know that it’s important to train your servers well. They should be able to take orders, deliver meals, and sort the bill with professionalism and efficiency. However, there is a whole slew of sidework in a restaurant that must be accomplished to keep the establishment running smoothly. It's important to maintain a balance for your servers between sidework duties and tip-producing tasks so they can be compensated appropriately at the end of the day. According to the “Tip Regulations Under the Fair Labor Standards Act” that was put into effect on Dec. 28, 2021, tipped employees should not be performing non-tip producing labor for longer than 30 minutes.

Keep reading to learn how to create a side work task list to ensure that all of the duties in your restaurant are accounted for. We’ve also created a printable server side work checklist template that you can use in your restaurant.

Click below for our downloadable restaurant side work checklist template:

Printable Server Sidework Checklist Template

What Is Side Work in the Restaurant?

The definition of side work is any chore-like task that servers accomplish before the end of their shift outside of the main task of serving customers. These tasks may include front-of-house and back-of-house responsibilities that keep a restaurant dining room looking presentable for customers and improve the flow of the kitchen. Whether it’s cleaning, restocking, or organizing, servers perform an array of daily side work tasks that are essential to the success of a restaurant.

How to Make a Server Sidework Checklist

A server sidework checklist can help your staff understand what needs to get done and help them pace their day. This prevents tasks from being overlooked, which can lead to pricey mistakes. We’ll teach you how to create a server checklist to fully utilize your staff and keep your restaurant labor costs down.

1. Identify All Sidework Tasks

The first step to preparing a server side work checklist for your restaurant is to identify all of the tasks that need to get done. Walk through each area of the restaurant and jot down every task you can think of, it does not need to be in a particular order at this time. You’ll want to be as specific and thorough as possible with your list so nothing gets neglected along the way. It may be helpful to complete this task with the shift managers to ensure nothing is forgotten.

2. Assign Sidework Tasks into Stations

hands of hotel waiter arranging silverware on napkin on table

Once you have a completed list of tasks, you’ll then want to divvy them up to the stations for your staff. This will ensure that servers can focus on one station and accomplish the assigned responsibilities with the most efficiency. You can separate the tasks to the following stations:

  • Carryout Station - cleaning and stocking
  • Flatware Station - polishing and rolling
  • Wine Glass Station - polishing and stocking
  • Highchairs and Booster - cleaning and stacking
  • Salad Bar - prepping and restocking
  • Drink Stations - stocking glasses, straws, and garnishes
  • Ice Bins - refilling through shift
  • Dessert Case - restocking and cleaning
  • Iced Tea and Coffee Station - brewing coffee, tea, and prepping drinks
  • Outdoor Dining - setting tables, prepping caddies, and handling umbrellas

Provide each station with the supplies your servers need to accomplish the responsibilities assigned to them.

3. Separate Station Tasks into Shifts

With the server tasks divvied up, it’s time to prioritize them into shifts so they get done at the appropriate time. Create a server opening and closing checklist, along with an end-of-shift task list so your staff knows exactly what they need to accomplish and when. You can also find resources for your bar with our bar open and closing checklists.

Opening Tasks

Your server opening checklist should include responsibilities for your staff to complete as soon as they get into the restaurant before customers arrive. It usually takes servers approximately 30 minutes to an hour to accomplish opening tasks. The following are just some opening server tasks:

  • Unstack chairs from tables
  • Wipe down surfaces
  • Clean windows
  • Check table condiments and/or condiment station
  • Check drink station for cups, lids, and straws
  • Prep bar garnishes like lemon and lime wedges
  • Make coffee and iced teas
  • Light table candles and votives

The more your opening serving staff can accomplish, the smoother the day will go.

End of Shift Tasks

employee sweeping with broom in coffee shop

Before your servers clock out for the day, there are a few responsibilities they can accomplish to lighten the load of those coming to relieve them. This will reduce lags between shift changes and keep your dining room operating like a well-oiled machine. Here are some of the tasks to put on your end of shift checklist:

  • Clean tables in their section
  • Sweep floors under their tables and booths
  • Push in chairs
  • Clean crumb catchers
  • Ask manager/shift leader to approve the cleanliness of their section
  • Restock low condiments and napkins
  • Put away clean dishes
  • Load dishwasher with dirty dishes

You’ll want to add tasks to this list that can be slightly delayed by not placing them on the opening list but should be done before closing.

Closing Tasks

Your closing staff will be responsible for most of the cleanup tasks in your restaurant so it’s important to provide them with a clear list of responsibilities. The work they accomplish after the guests have gone for the day can set the tone for the success of the following day. Below are some jobs you may want to include on your restaurant closing checklist:

  • Wipe down tables, chairs, and booths
  • Stack chairs on tables
  • Sweep and vacuum the floor
  • Label and refrigerate any remaining prep ingredients
  • Empty and wash coffee and iced tea carafes
  • Clean dessert and salad stations
  • Reconcile the register with POS system
  • Load dishwasher
  • Close windows
  • Turn off the lights
  • Set alarm system
  • Lock up restaurant

4. Identify Running Sidework Duties

waiters cleaning the tables in restaurant

There will be some tasks on your restaurant sidework list that will have to be performed regularly throughout the day. These are considered running sidework tasks and are to be done whenever your servers have a spare moment. These are some running server side work tasks to include on your checklist:

  • Wipe down tables after each guest
  • Clean highchairs and boosters
  • Push in chairs
  • Set tables for the next guest
  • Tidy up menus
  • Wipe down counters to remove cup rings and spills
  • Replenish table condiments, sweeteners, and salt and pepper shakers
  • Restock napkin dispensers
  • Restock drink stations
  • Refill ice stations
  • Take inventory and alert management when products run low

Running side work tasks are vital for keeping your dining room operating smoothly. They are the details your customers will notice if missed, which can lead to a bad experience in your restaurant and negative reviews.

Types of Side Work for Restaurant Servers

To ensure that your restaurant is properly cared for, there are 4 types of server side work tasks you’ll want to consider while creating your checklist: cleaning, restocking, organizing, and safety duties. Using these categories, you’ll be able to draft a cohesive list and account for all of the necessary areas of your business.

1. Cleaning Duties For Servers

Many cleaning tasks must be performed throughout the day by your staff to ensure that your restaurant is presentable, even if you hired a cleaning service or custodial team that comes through at the end of the night. Some cleaning responsibilities include the following:

  • Sanitizing surfaces
  • Sweeping and vacuuming
  • Wiping handprints off windows and doors
  • Dusting ceiling fans
  • Cleaning beverage stations
  • Sanitizing TV remotes
  • Wiping off menus
  • Cleaning booster seats
  • Checking restroom cleanliness

You can also use our restaurant cleaning checklist to identify cleaning duties that you may want to add to your sidework checklist.

2. Restocking Duties For Servers

In a busy restaurant, it’s important to stay on top of your supply levels. With servers performing most of the refilling and restocking tasks, they’ll be the first to know if something is running low. These are a few of the restocking duties your serving staff can perform during their shift:

  • Refilling salt and pepper shakers
  • Replenishing cups, straws, lids, and syrups are drink stations
  • Restocking salad and dessert bars
  • Refilling the receipt paper on POS machines
  • Brewing fresh coffee and iced tea
  • Filling soap and sanitizer dispensers
  • Cutting additional bar garnishes
  • Restocking napkin dispensers

Servers should be trained to notify management if they notice that a product is running out so that more can be ordered in time.

3. Organizing Duties For Servers

female employee with apron cleaning window

The first impression your customer will have of your restaurant is from the appearance of your dining room. Since your serving staff spends the most time in the dining room, they are the best equipped to carry out the organizational and tidying tasks required to keep the space looking presentable. Here are a couple of organizing side work tasks to assign to your staff:

  • Setting tables with fresh tablecloths, plates, cups, and flatware
  • Light table votives and candles (relight them if they go out)
  • Push in chairs between parties
  • Set up outdoor tables
  • Open patio umbrellas on sunny days
  • Wipe off outdoor chairs after it rains

4. Safety Duties For Servers

Safety is one of the top priorities for any business but it can get lost in the shuffle on a busy day. Have your servers keep an eye out for the safety of your customers and your business as they navigate through the dining room. Add some of the following safety tasks to your server checklist:

  • Check the integrity of tables and chairs, and set aside anything that looks unstable
  • Ensure that emergency exits remain clear
  • Reconcile the cash in the register
  • Lock up liquor bottles at the end of the day
  • Lock windows at the end of the day
  • Set the alarm before leaving
  • Lock the doors when leaving (or know who is responsible for locking up)

You’ll want to make sure all of your servers are aware of the location of your emergency supplies and are familiar with emergency procedures in the event of an incident.

Use our restaurant side work template as your guide to developing your own server checklist. With a cohesive checklist, your staff can focus on their tasks for their workday and keep the restaurant operating smoothly.

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