After final orders have been prepped and the last customers leave, Quick Serve Restaurants (QSRs) begin their closing procedures. Closing tasks include diligent cleaning, sanitizing, stocking up on materials, and food storage practices. These steps are essential to the health and safety of staff and customers. However, after a busy shift, dedicating the necessary time and effort to these tasks can be daunting. In this blog we will share guidelines for how to optimize restaurant closing shifts with the following tips: incentivize high performance, promote accountability, and allocate tasks.
If you are not yet using a closing checklist, download Squadle’s free QSR Opening and Closing checklist here!
QSR teams continue to feel the burden of the lingering foodservice industry labor shortage. 7 out of 10 restaurant operators still report not having enough staff to meet customer demand. QSR employees are stretched thin and have limited time for closing tasks. Restaurant technology tools can decrease employee lift where possible. For example, QSR’s often carry many ingredients that are not utilized at consistent rates. Automated inventory management software relieves employees from checking inventory during the closing shift by estimating inventory use based on daily sales data. Some inventory systems can even automatically place orders for low-stock ingredients. Additionally, task management software such as digital checklists improve organization in closing procedures. Closing employees are responsible for checking and completing core tasks such as restocking paper towels, cleaning bathrooms, and sanitizing kitchen countertops. Digital checklists and automated inventory systems ensure closing paperwork is saved digitally and protected from restaurant hazards, such as potential food and liquid stains. Overall, it is crucial to equip staff with user-friendly tech tools as a way to help avoid burnout.
Team Building is another essential element to encourage high performance on closing tasks. Closing staff know that opening shift employees will need to pick up any unfinished closing tasks, such as restocking cups or cleaning the ice cream station. Team building will encourage closing staff to pull their weight, in order to limit tasks for their morning teammates. On the flip side, morning staff will have more incentive to complete their tasks thoroughly, if the same care has been taken for them. This, in turn, fosters a more seamless transition for the midday crew, which can lead to a positive chain reaction on subsequent shifts. Team building will encourage closing staff to pull their weight, in order to limit tasks for their morning teammates. How can you strengthen your QSR’s teamwork? Team activities such as friendly competition between QSR locations can help employees understand the value of helping each other out. Explore five team building resources for QSRs here! In short, team building enhances respect, communication, and camaraderie between QSR employees, especially as they’re juggling different opening/closing shifts.
Accountability can only be enforced when employees have a clear understanding of their tasks. Setting straightforward expectations helps employees fully understand their responsibilities. Provide employees with clear details on the desired outcome of the task, an efficient way to complete the task, and clarify how task completion will be measured. For example, for a task such as “clean the coffee maker,” provide employees instructions on how to disassemble the coffee maker, what cleaning solution to use, and how they can ensure it is fully clean. It is important to communicate expectations clearly to employees, and document guidelines in writing so that they can be referenced and completed consistently. Such guidelines help employees understand exactly what falls under their scope of responsibilities. For example, a digital shift management checklist can help teams determine when they are successful in closing for the night, by seeing a 100% completion metric.
Add an element of team accountability by asking closing staff to send documentation of task completion to managers. Or, if using a digital checklist system, remind staff that managers can view task completion rates through the platform. By requiring staff to confirm with management that all tasks have been completed before they leave for the night, employees are less likely to partake in pencil whipping, or the act of signing off on work that is not necessarily finished. Additionally, managers can encourage individual accountability by asking staff to initial individual tasks at the time of competition. This step also helps managers determine the fairness of workload split between closing team members and potentially re-allocate tasks if necessary.
Segmenting closing task lists can help ensure duties are more digestible. QSRs generally follow one of two strategies for allocating closing tasks. The first is to allocate tasks by employee role. In this method, task lists are broken out for individual workers. The cashier, line cook, and shift leader will all have different closing responsibilities related to their position. Such as tracking revenue, storing food, and making sure the floor is sparkling clean. This strategy leverages employee strengths by concentrating tasks into an individual’s area of familiarity. The second method is to allocate tasks by restaurant area. These lists can be as broad as having two front of house and back of house lists, or as specific as individual restaurant station lists (prep area, cleaning/washing, storage, etc.). Dividing task lists by area encourages team members to collaborate on closing certain sections together.
When it comes to allocating tasks efficiently, employee input is valuable. Employees who regularly participate in closing procedures have accurate insights on the most efficient ways to distribute the workload. Employees can also identify where workflow disruptions occur and suggest methods to overcome any bottlenecks. Establish a two-way feedback loop with employees to derive insights from their experience. Two-way pointers allow managers to provide and accept feedback on current closing procedures, with the goal of optimizing efficiency.
Closing procedures are among the most important QSR operations to promote health, safety, and a positive customer experience. Incomplete or inadequate closing practices can pose risks to health code compliance. However, it can be difficult to encourage employees to perform these tasks to a high degree without incentive, accountability, and effective task allocation. A successful closing process will allow tomorrow’s openers the time required to prepare for a successful day. Successful closing procedures also allow employees to focus on higher-value tasks, such as serving and delighting customers.