restaurant staff outside the restaurant

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, so 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 because it removes the need for them to memorize the elements of each task and saves their brain space for memorizing the orders to 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 FOH staff and a separate checklist for your BOH staff.

restaurant server doing sidework

If you’re not quite sure where to start when it comes to whipping up a restaurant sidework list, here are some tips to help you create a restaurant server sidework checklist.

Creating a Server Sidework Checklist

To develop a customized checklist, first identify all of the sidework duties that need to get completed every day. It’s important to list everything that needs to be done, and 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, 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 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, so why not make it easy for them to do?

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 and making sure to even get the legs in the process—it might seem miniscule, 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 up once they’ve gotten to an unbearable point, just add a quick wipe down to each opening server’s sidework instead.

You can control the conversation and change the way guest communication is handled with proper staff training.

Download the Guide
Download Our Restaurant Guest Experience Guide

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 just in case—to make sure that each server has convenient access to the items they’ll need to be ready to carry out their work as soon as they clock in. Especially busy restaurants might do station-specific sidework at the end of each shift if necessary.

Running Side Work 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 in 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, for example.

End of Shift Tasks

These can include stocking empty napkin trays and condiments and 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 never hurt while it’s obvious that closing out the salad station can only be executed by closing servers.

restaurant employee evaluations

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.

Server Duties 101: A Sidework Checklist Template

Pinterest is home to a variety of excellent examples of server sidework checklists on. Some of the best ones are this neatly organized checklist one-pager, this one that is opening-shift specific. If Pinterest isn’t your thing, Restaurant Owner has some downloadable templates and there’s this comprehensive pdf to inspire you as well.

When it comes to crafting your restaurant’s sidework list, the important thing to remember is that it should be tailored to your specific needs. Use these templates as a starting point, but add and subtract whatever tasks you need to in order to cover everything that has to happen in your restaurant on any given day.

Check out Upserve’s guest experience guide!

Written by   |  
Mitchell Hall is a writer and editor living in Boston, MA. Originally from New Zealand, growing up he spent nearly ten years greedily imbibing the spirit of hospitality as a kitchenhand, waiter, and barman.