Today we are going to discuss the riveting topic of checklists –I Love checklists and by the end of this pep talk, I hope you do too.

Do you ever think your people don’t care? OR don’t have a clue as to what to do?

The truth is, if they don’t know what to do, it’s because you have never taken the time to show them. What if there was an easy way to get your people tuned in and doing their job the way you want them to? Would you be interested?

Hey It’s Peter Harman The Food Guru here with your weekly Pep Talk…

My goal is the teach restaurant owners and managers like you, to focus on Eight Basic Fundamentals that lead to a better life and financial freedom.

Checklists will help you Build a better operating system. Checklists take the mystery out of the process. You simply make a list of what you want done, give it to your people, and ask them to follow it. This sounds really simple – because it is.

Most restaurants don’t have good checklists because the people who operate them, think that checklists are only for places like McDonald’s – who only hire monkeys and need to spoon feed them. Hey don’t laugh – it’s true… and you know it.

There are three reasons why you don’t have checklists.

1. It would take too much time and effort to create them.

2. You think checklists are stupid and people should be smart enough to know what to do.

3. You are afraid your people will not use them.

To build effective checklists you must admit that your people need then, and they would do better if they knew what to do first, second and third.

One problem is that restaurant managers hire people with previous experience and they come in and do the same things they did at their last job. Then, we get upset because the new people can’t read our minds.

Another problem is that most restaurant owners and managers have not though about what they expect their people to do, OR the owner and manager simply doesn’t know what they want. Most managers assume that people just know what to do - AND when they don’t - they think the employee is stupid. Other managers leave the training to the employees, which sometimes works ok, but most of the time it doesn’t. It is our job and our obligation to hire good people and teach them EXACTLY what we want them to do. We must teach our people and our managers – HOW WE DO IT HERE. The truth is that our people are only as good as our training system. The BEST restaurants - have the BEST Training systems.


A Checklist is a piece of paper that lists everything an employee must do. I like to divide into three categories –

1. Opening Duties

2. During the Shift Duties and Priorities and

3. Closing Duties.

Let’s look at them one at a time. Opening duties are the things that need to be done before the restaurant opens, like prep work and side work, like turning on the lights, the TVs and the music.

During the shift are things like seating guests, taking the cocktail order, running food and handling the financial transactions.

Closing duties are things like, sweeping the floor, wrapping up food, cleaning counters. Turning out the lights and locking the doors.

BE SPECIFIC: If you want me to stock wine glasses tell me exactly how many to stock. If you aren’t sure – give me a number anyway, make me think you know what you want. Hey, it’s my first week, how am I supposed to know what you want. If you don’t know the answer talk to your senior staff, they will know, or at least have an good idea. You can always change the check lists. Think of your checklists as iterations - 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 and so on.

Imagine that you are opening 10 identical restaurants and you can’t work IN any of them. This means you must divide the work up between the different departments (kitchen, dining room, bar, office, etc.) and then break the department jobs down to the individual positions in each department (cooks, waiters, bartenders, and managers),

Yes - folks your managers must also have a list!

I'm sure - they will bitch about being treated like monkeys, but after a while they will get used to it - and it will become part of your culture; which means, things have to go through five steps before they become part of our culture. Those steps of building a culture are –

Assumption, Belief, Acceptance, Expectation and Artifact.

1. First is Assumption, we assume that a checklist will help us improve and that our people will use them.

2. Second is Belief. People start to use them and we begin to believe it will help us improve.

3. Third is Acceptance, our people accept the checklists as part of daily life.

4. Four is Expectation. Our people expect to use them on a daily basis and so do we. Payday is a great example of an expectation, if our people don’t get paid on Friday, there will be blood.

5. Fifth is an Artifact. The checklist becomes an artifact of our culture, when we have a huge pile of them filled out 100% in the office!

It will take a considerable amount of work on your part to get this idea started, but I guarantee it will be worth the effort, BUT first you must be willing to stick with it until it goes through the five stages of becoming a culture.

Here’s a fun way to think about your checklists. Imagine, in the not too distant future we have robots. I love this concept, so please stay with me, before you think I’m nuts. The big auto manufacturers have robots and they are far more efficient than humans at many jobs. The same thing will happen in the restaurant industry. It will start in the fast food industry because they have lots of money, and then work its way up to full service and fine dining.

Think about the TV show West World. The premise is that there is a western town inhabited by robots who look and act like humans. The robots are programmed to act as citizens and create a real life experience for the human visitors to the town. I hope you have the picture. Now, let’s imagine that you have a staff of robots in the kitchen and the dining room. The first thing you will have to do is program the robots to act and behave EXACTLY as you want them to. This will require a ton of time and patience - AND you will have to have an amazing programmer on your staff.

The best part is – once you get it all figured out – your robots will do exactly as you want them to, task after task, hour after hour, day after day and year after year. Don’t laugh, I'm very sensitive - AND this is going to happen sooner than you think. But that’s another podcast, let’s get back to checklists.

The point is you must decide exactly what you want your people to do - AND you must commit your ideas to a check list. Then, you must work with your people to execute the items on the checklist. Think of it like writing the screenplay and script for your restaurant and then training the team members (actors) to recite their lines perfectly - over and over, day after day, for the next ten years.


Checklists must be printed daily. Yeah, I know this will use a lot of paper, but the grease pencil idea never seems to work for me. Each item on the list must be checked off by each team member, THEN each item must be inspected by the shift leader or MOD – every day before, during and at the end of each shift. Then, all the checklists must be signed by the MOD and turned into the office. As time goes on and you will tighten and improve your checklists.

If and when something is being missed or not being done correctly, you can refer back to the checklist and see who the culprit is/was. When a team member checks off an item that they did not do – there must be consequences.

Now hear this ladies and gentlemen, most of the time – the culprit will be a MANAGER!

That’s right because as I’ve already said - most managers think this is a silly process that is for places like McDonalds – AND Most managers think they are over worked and under paid AND they think erroneously – that this should give them immunity when it comes to things like checklists. This is a BIG problem in most restaurants and you know it – right?

Think about it - McDonalds is one of the best companies on the planet – they have thousands of stores and an amazingly consistent product and – here’s the biggie - McDonald’s uses checklists for everything AND they make BIG Money – how about you – how much money did you take home last month?

Here’s one for ya – Fighter Pilots use checklists. Airline pilots use checklists. They check everything BEFORE they take off to insure that their bird is in perfect working order. They do this because they are SMART! What about you, do you walk around your car and check the tires BEFORE you drive off? Most people don’t – they - leave everything to chance – and bitch when something is screwed up. I say if it’s good enough for a fighter pilot – it’s good enough for me.


EVERYONE needs a check list. The cooks, the waiters, the buser, the host, the housekeeper and the managers. The problem is that most restaurant owners (80%) don’t have checklists for their people or their managers. YES – if you are the GM of your own restaurant – YOU must have a checklist AND you must follow it every single day for the rest of your life.


The reason that you probably don’t have a good checklist is that you can’t make up our minds as to what you want your people to do. Or you are afraid to commit to a checklist because you are afraid your people will blow you off. OR you are a perfectionist and are afraid to miss something and might end up with something NOT getting done – because it isn’t on the list.

Here my advice.

Start with ONE position. Your Day Manager. Sit down with them, make the list and have them use it for one shift. Then, do a de-Brief, ask them how the check list worked and if there was anything missing. Then, add the missing stuff and try again, the next day.

Continue to refine the list until you have it perfect. Then, move on to the next job and repeat the process. Before you know it everyone will have a good check list and your business will be running better than ever. Remember this - The best restaurants have the BEST checklists.

If you want a better restaurant – you need to have better checklists


My Name is Peter Harman, I am the Food Guru. My goal is to start a restaurant revolution where every restaurant owner and manager who joins us has the information they need to earn a 10% Profit, create financial freedom and live the life of their dreams. If you really want to turn your restaurant and your life around in the next 90-Days, here’s my four step Plan.

1- SUBSCRIBE TO THIS PODCAST This weekly pep talk will keep you on your toes and give you inspiration to keep moving forward.

2- BUY MY BOOK I have written a book called Restauranting 101, it focuses on Eight Basic Fundamentals and it has the power to change your life and as luck would have it - it's available on Amazon today. This book will catapult your knowledge into the top 5% of all restaurant owners.

Then, after that you can come to food guru . com and…

3- SIGN UP FOR ONE ON ONE COACHING: face it… We all need a Coach… as a restaurant owner you need SOMEONE TO TALK TO, someone who understands your struggles and can hold you ACCOUNTABLE for the results.

I want to be your coach… Think about this opportunity for a second… What are you waiting for?

Are you waiting for someone else to step up and make it happen?

Or are you ready to take the bull by the horns and kick some ass?

When the student is ready… The Food Guru will appear…

This week your homework assignmant is to get everyone on your team using a checklist.

Thanks for listening, I’ll see you next week…

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