If you use the Pilla app to create and carry out your checklists, then you have a head start because Pilla will create your food safety opening and closing checklist template for you. However you will need to create your operational checklists, and this guide will help you.
If you don’t use the Pilla app, why not? You will have to create all of your all of your opening and closing checklists from scratch, as well all of the checks which are required through the day so take notes as this article will be a helpful tool for you in creating those.
If you are brand new to the restaurant industry, creating restaurant opening checklists can seem daunting, similarly if you are setting up your first coffee shop or bar, the volume of back of house and front of house tasks to keep on top off is huge, so bear with us as we break down restaurant operations in to a series of key tasks.
Having a consistent and concise operation checklist will literally make sure that everyone is on the same page, but it also comes with plenty of other benefits:
Knowing what needs to be done and how long it will take also helps with scheduling staff and potentially reducing wasted hours.
One third of your food hygiene rating score comes down to confidence in management, meaning how sure the EHO is that your restaurant manager and their team have a robust system. A clear restaurant checklist system with sound reporting is one of the things they are looking for.
A better service during opening hours
Your team will knows exactly what needs to get done and when, meaning they are always prepared for service. Having the necessary restaurant opening checklist completed well in advance of your first customer will contribute hugely to ensuring your business runs smoothly.
A better team dynamic
There are few things worse than a morning team coming in to find that the evening crew haven’t cleaned down properly. When your house staff know who needs to do what and when, then they are more likely to complete those tasks and work better with their colleagues.
Don’t forget that creating your checklists is just 1% of your business operations, you need a robust solution for carrying out your checks regularly. Pilla users record checks on the app but if you are not fond of a digital checklist, then you need to have another way to record your restaurant checklists (or coffee shop, bar or pub).
Food safety opening checklists (Kitchen opening checklist)
Every morning there are a series of kitchen opening tasks which you should complete to ensure that your food safety standards are up to scratch and your team is prepared for the day. Depending on the equipment set up you have and your cooking utensils, these checks will differ from business to business and even site to site, however below you will some standard checks which will apply to most food and drink businesses.
- PPE is in place for staff and well stocked
- Chemical substances are securely stored
- Washrooms and welfare areas are clean
- Hand-soap, hand sanitisers are stocked
- Morning deliveries checked, recorded, labelled and stored appropriately
- Hand wash basins and sinks clean with hot/cold running water
- Food stock been rotated/out of date foods recorded and removed
- Food preparation surfaces are clean/disinfected
- Equipment clean and operating correctly
- Extraction/ventilation systems working
Quick break – download our free guide to nail your next EHO inspection. This is everything you need to know to achieve a five star rating.
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Health and safety opening checklists
Because you are welcoming the public onto your property, you also have a significant duty of care to them which means that there are regular health and safety checks which you should carry out.
A lot of these might carried out by front of house staff while bar opening but it is important to have a way of recording these as part of your daily restaurant operations so that staff members regular carry out the necessary specific tasks which usually include:
- Escape routes are clear
- Area outside the fire exits are clear
- Internal fire doors are closed
- Fire alarm panel indicates ‘normal’ to show the alarm system is working correctly
- Fire extinguishers and blankets are in place, undamaged and visible
- Emergency lighting including fire exit signs are working
- First aiders and fire wardens are on duty for all shifts
- PPE is in place and well stocked
Operational opening checklist
An operational restaurant opening checklist is integral to the day-to-day running of a successful hospitality business. You have a limited window to serve your customers and make money, so your venue needs to be a clean and orderly establishment, well stocked and ready for service – otherwise your restaurant managers will be chasing their tail from the beginning of the day.
Not having a robust set of operational checklists can be a disaster for any restaurant and should be put in place ready for the opening of any restaurant, bar or cafe. Here are examples of common operational tasks which may go in your opening checklist:
- Lights and Music switched on
- Floors hoovered/ mopped
- Toilets cleaned and re-stocked
- Bookings checked and tables reserved
- Check menus/ Print new menus for the day
- Coffee dialled in
- Table linens prepared
- Break room cleaned
- Place table settings arranged
- Office log (paperwork) completed
- Social media posts organize
- Bar restocked
- Clean glassware
- Restock toilet paper and consumables
- Record any staff meeting notes
Fridge, freezer and dishwasher records throughout the day
As well as your opening and closing checklists, there are a series of food safety checks which your business needs to carry out throughout the day. Food businesses need to consistently ensure food safety, this means managing the food products on your site, especially high protein and high moisture foods which provide perfect growth conditions for microorganisms, both pathogenic and spoilage types.
These foods can be both ready to eat and raw, bacteria will not distinguish between the two. Low temperatures of between 1- 5°c will, in most cases slow bacterial growth down considerably, which is why foods are refrigerated to this low temperature.
One or two bacteria, known as psychrotrophs can multiply at normal rates even at very low temperatures in a refrigerated unit e.g. Listeria monocytogenes and clostridium botulinum. Strict temperature control of refrigerated units must be maintained at all times to keep the risk level as low as possible.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) recommends that you check and record fridge and freezer temperatures at least once per day however it is best practice to check each unit twice per day.
It is also important important to check the rinse temperature of your dishwasher to ensure that thermal disinfection is taking place at the required high water temperature.
This means that you will have six unit temperature checks per day:
- Morning fridge temperatures
- Morning freezer temperatures
- Morning Dishwasher temperatures
- Afternoon fridge temperatures
- Afternoon freezer temperatures
- Afternoon Dishwasher temperatures
You should record the temperature of each unit and the time that the recording was taken. If you are using the Pilla app to record your checklists, you should make comments on the check by clicking the pencil icon, the system will record the time for you, so all you have to do is input the temperature for each unit.
UK law says a fridge must store high risk foods below 8°c. However, the ideal temperature for a fridge is below 5°c in order to ensure that the temperature never reaches above 8°c. There will be some instances where the unit temperature rises above 5°c, but this should be the exception, not the rule. A temperature of 8°c is the critical limit, any breach of this limit is when corrective actions must be implemented to bring the temperature back to a safe limit as quickly as possible.
This may involve you moving the food from the high temperature fridge into a fridge which has the correct lower temperature or some other corrective action.
Cold food may be kept above 8°c to accommodate certain practicalities for a period of up to 4 hours. This can only happen once, no matter how short the period of time. Food which remains at the end of service period should be discarded.
Cooked food records through the day
It is important that food is cooked to a time and temperature combination that will reduce bacteria to a safe level for human consumption. During the cooking process, energy transfers into the food through heat, breaks down proteins and kills the bacteria. It’s this process which changes the colour from pink to white/brown.
Bacteria usually grow in the ‘Danger Zone’ between 8°C and 60°C. This is why it’s important to store food in fridges under Below 8°C as growth of the bacteria is stopped/slowed down. Above 60°C the bacteria will start to die. Some foods, such as meat, require extra care and diligence when cooking in order to be consumed safely.
You should always check the advice on food packaging and follow the cooking instructions provided however there are industry standards which you can follow.
Random temperatures should be taken during each food service period and recorded in your checklists. This means that you will have 2-4 checks per day, where you record food temperatures:
- Cooked food sample 1
- Cooked food sample 2
- Cooked food sample 3
You should record the food item type and the temperature of the item. If you’re using the Pilla App, the system will record the time, otherwise you should also record the time of each sample.
The following time and temperature combinations have been scientifically proven to reduce bacteria to a safe level. These combinations rely on staff checking that the whole of the product has been cooked thoroughly throughout the food at the required temperature for the required time.
The figures below are minimum time/temperature combinations. I.e. Critical limits, longer periods or higher temperatures represent good practice.
-60°C for 45 minutes
-65°C for 10 minutes
-70°C for 2 minutes
-75°C for 30 seconds
-80°C for 6 seconds
Cooled foods records throughout the day
It is essential to cool food quickly to avoid the risk of bacterial spores germinating, becoming viable and then multiplying and/or releasing toxins into the food. (Toxins are generally heat stable and not removed by cooking, reheating or microwaving). It is also essential to cool food quickly as non-spore forming bacteria can multiply rapidly once temperatures fall below 63°c, generally, the temperature range between 20-50°c will present the greatest risk.
Hot food must be cooled to a temperature suitable for refrigeration within 90 minutes of cooking, then placed under refrigeration or frozen.The law allows an extra 30 minutes of cooling time for exceptional circumstances, which would be the total time to 120 times (2 hours).
You should record a sample of 2-4 occasions throughout the day, if applicable, were food has been cooled:
- Cooled food sample 1
- Cooled food sample 2
- Cooled food sample 3
You should record the type of food item, the cooling start time, end time and the end of temperature.
If food is not found to be cooled adequately after 90 minutes, consider alternative methods in the future or review weight and portion sizes. If food has not cooled safely, discard it.
Closing kitchen checklist (Food safety closing checklist)
At closedown each day, you should carry out a kitchen closing checklist to ensure that food, equipment and the building is left safe and ready for the next day. Your restaurant closing checklist will comprise a mix of operational and compliance checks and will depend on the setup you have in your kitchen, however we have listed a series of common checks below.
- Waste disposal carried out
- Chemicals securely stored
- Electrical/Gas equipment left safe
- Kitchen and storage areas are clean, disinfected with perishable foods removed
- Food is labelled, stock rotated, stored correctly with out of date food discarded
- Defrosting/cooling foods are stored
- Ventilation/extraction systems are off
- Equipment clean and operating correctly
Operational closing checklists (Front of house closing checklist)
Your closing shift will need to ensure that a series of closing procedures are carried out to end the day effectively and prepare for the next day. This front of house closing checklist is at the end of a long day, so it’s easy to become complacent and ignore these closing tasks however they are often as important as those at restaurant open.
Example checks which you may use in your closing checklist templates include:
- Cash registers emptied
- Staff meeting written up
- Maintenance appointments recorded
- Bins emptied, furniture removed and stored
- Tables cleaned & relaid
- Drinks fridge restocked and orders placed for tomorrow
- Bookings, overtime scheduling and staff schedule for the following day arranged
- Doors locked, street signage brought inland security system operating
Weekly food safety and health and safety checklist
At the end of every week, you’ll need to carry out more in depth checks. It’s great having a robust set of opening and closing checklist however you want those to be fairly short and so they don’t leave time for more depth compliance checks and tests which you should do on a weekly basis.
- Weekly fire alarm test. Testing one different location in your building each week
- Water temperature test. Testing the temperature of your hot and cold hand wash basins
- Probe accuracy test. Testing the accuracy of probe thermometers
- Call points are free from damage
- Push pads/bars work correctly
- Electronic release mechanisms work correctly
- Extinguishers free from damage
- Extinguisher tamper seals are intact
- Extinguisher pressure gauges are within tolerance
- First aid boxes are properly stocked
Weekly operational Checklist
As discussed, your daily checklists will be your bread and butter, but there are more jobs that need attending to. For restaurants that close on a regular day, these jobs tend to be completed before closing on the day before in order to prepare for the week ahead. These jobs may be less regular, but just as important.
Example weekly checklist items are:
- Check stock and reorder drinks
- Check stock and reorder long-life food items
- Arrange staff rota for following week
- Deep cleaning of ovens/ grills
Monthly compliance checklist
Each month you are required to carry out a test of your emergency lighting system. This should be done for a minimum of 15 minutes using your test key.
Issues and corrective actions
Throughout the course of your bar and kitchen operations, your team will from time to time come across issues. This may be a fridge temperature too high for example or something similar.
It’s important that you make notes on whatever issue you can come across and action you take to correct it, If you are using the Pilla App, you should record your corrective action in the comments on the check itself(the same place you record the temperature). You can also send your comments to a colleague by email so that the issue can be reported immediately and action taken if necessary.
If you are not using the Pilla App, then you must have a structured way to record issues, escalate them to management and keep track of the updates as they happen. This organised way of doing things will ensure that you don’t miss anything and it will also provide confidence to the EHO on their site visit.
Opening and closing checklist bonus tips
You will now be ready to create your own sets of restaurant opening and closing checklist, and various compliance checklists to ensure that your restaurant runs smoothly. Below are some of our favourite bonus tips to help make the most of your lists:
● Don’t overload your lists – Your restaurant checklists must be concise but contain everything necessary so your staff members can work through them effectively and they don’t become too admin heavy. If your restaurant opening is bogged down by paperwork, then you may be stopping your team from completing pro-active tasks. It’s a balancing act between providing enough prescription so your restaurant employees know what must be done and leaving enough time for ad-hoc things to be done on opening and closing shifts.
● Create an operations manual – An operations checklist will make sense to those who regularly use it, but less so to a new starter. Pilla allows users to add a description to every check which means that staff have guidance at every stage but if you’re not using Pilla then consider how you can reduce human error in your checklists. Perhaps an accompanying manual will allows you to explain the lists so that anyone can come in and learn the role and what is required quickly and easily. Your restaurant manager will thank you.
● Encourage feedback from your team – Encourage your team to help you improve your checklists so that they can be made better. After all, they are ones who will be carrying out the checks, so ask them what could be better about them.
● Regularly update your lists – Any new equipment or change to operations will need to be added to the checklists right away. Also, go through all of your operational checklists every so often to make sure that they are as productive as possible. This will be a great item to add to a manager’s checklist.
● Ensure that your checklists are made as part of your overall approach to food safety. This means that your checklists should be created to implement and document your specific approach to food safety.
Read about food safety management systems.
Read about how Chefs use Pilla to create a food safety management system.
Read about HACCP.