Restaurant Task Management: How to Communicate Tasks to Staff đź“ť

Restaurant Task Management: How to Communicate Tasks to Staff đź“ť
AJ Beltis

By AJ Beltis

Now that guests are coming back into your restaurant, it means there are more tables to clean, more guests to attend to, and more side work to complete.

The problem of restaurant task management is not a new one. Restaurateurs named employee engagement their third-biggest challenge going into 2020, meaning that figuring out how to keep your staff productive and motivated has been (and continues to be) a top priority in the restaurant industry.

But with things picking back up after more than a 40% decline in industry sales, the prevalence of effective and timely task management has resurfaced, and when it comes to cleanliness and attentiveness, now is not the time to fall short.

In that regard, restaurant task management should be more top-of-mind than perhaps it ever has been. But the question remains—with a staff that changes size and personnel by the shift, what is the best way to set, communicate, and enforce restaurant task management to your staff?

In this post, we’ll help you answer that question. Keep reading for our tips on making your staff more efficient and ensuring no task is left incomplete when you go home for the day.

What is Restaurant Task Management?

Restaurant task management is the organization, delegation, and communication of necessary tasks in your restaurant. Effective restaurant task management involves identifying a list of tasks that need completing, organizing them by the frequency of which they must be completed, assigning and communicating these tasks to your employees, and ensuring the tasks are completed in an accurate, time-effective manner.

Task management—and the organization and communication of said tasks—is what keeps your staff productive, your management team organized, and your restaurant running smoothly.

How to Effectively Manage Tasks in Your Restaurant

1. Divide your tasks by time and frequency

Before you divvy up your tasks among your staff, you need to have a list of all the tasks that need to be completed regularly, including:

  • Tasks done multiple times each day, such as server side work and cleaning surfaces in the front and back of the house.
  • Tasks done daily, like nightly deep-cleans and taking out the trash before closing.
  • Tasks done multiple times per week, such as placing food orders from select inventory suppliers.
  • Tasks done weekly, like runs to the bank or to a supply store like Restaurant Depot.
  • Tasks done for special circumstances, like event set-up/breakdown.

Once you have your master list of tasks, break them into the above categories. You should also note if the task should be done during a certain time of the day, and/or if it has a specific due date (i.e. if it needs to be done by 5:00 each day, or if it’s something that needs to be done once a week at any time).

2. Assign tasks to employees

After you’ve exhausted the list of tasks that need completing in your restaurant, you’ll need to put the right people on the right job.

There are two different paths you can take to assigning tasks to your employees – staying consistent, or a rotating task model.

With a consistent assignment model, everybody is clear on the tasks they should be completing, meaning that you can expect those assigned to a certain task to be reliably great at what they do. Inventory takers take inventory, floor moppers mop the floor – nothing to worry about. This model works best for restaurants with a small staff that works a consistent schedule every week.

However, this model can upset some employees, particularly those who have to do the dirty work like cleaning bathrooms. Also, by not cross-training your employees, you run the risk of having no one who knows the proper way to restock the kitchen if the employee who does that quits. Finally, this model limits the amount of employees who are able to do certain tasks, which complicates scheduling flexibility and can create an issue if the manager who places the bread order every day calls in sick.

With a rotating task model, these issues are alleviated. Your staff is cross-trained and capable of stepping up to fill in where needed, and you can trust that all tasks will be completed. That said, no one is great at everything, so a rotating task model can result in some tasks being completed less desirably than you might like.

We’d recommend a hybrid of these two models. In other words, make sure there are a select group of tasks that most or all employees – particularly those on the same side of the house – are proficient at, in addition to another group of tasks that a trusted few are responsible for. This way, everyone is able to lend a hand where needed, and you allow yourself to assign tasks more appropriately if schedules changes week-by-week.

3. Communicate tasks to your employees

Next, you’ll develop a system that works for making employees aware of the tasks they’re responsible for completing. There are a few options you can pursue here, so pick the one(s) that make the most sense for your restaurant.

A restaurant task management app

You use technology to communicate with your employees about their schedules, pay, and time off—why not their on-duty tasks?

With a restaurant task management app, you can easily assign tasks and manage their completion in your restaurant.

7tasks, task management software for restaurants
7tasks: an easy way to manage restaurant tasks

The biggest benefit of an app in this space is immediacy and ease of updates. Instead of printing out a new checklist when you need to add an action item or redoing your entire whiteboard at the start of each shift, instantly update the app with a new task to complete alongside who’s responsible for completing it. This is the best option for communicating last-minute, forgotten, and/or special circumstance tasks to your staff.

Additionally, an app gives you the insight into the employee productivity metrics you need in your restaurant. Apps like 7tasks send you real-time notifications when a task is completed, who completed it, and which tasks remain—alongside a full report of who’s doing what.

7tasks allows you to:

  • Build custom recurring or one-time task lists to manage duties to be completed daily, weekly, monthly, or just once-in-a-while
  • Assign task lists and specific tasks to your staff so they know what to do on-duty
  • Keep your team accountable by monitoring what they're completing and when

A back-office whiteboard
So long as you don’t mind the smell of dry-erase markers, the back-office whiteboard is an appropriate management model for the tasks that get completed on a daily, nightly, or even weekly basis.

While the whiteboard is hard to customize without erasing and redoing the entire board, it works as an unmissable visual reminder about who needs to do what and when in your restaurant.

Restaurant checklists

Restaurant checklists are a good way to organize longer lists of tasks. They work best for managers who hold the master list—although they may find themselves chasing down employees to double check their work is done before marking an item as complete. On top of that, checklists need to be printed multiple times per day and are less interactive and shareable with a larger staff, which can make it difficult to delegate and communicate responsibilities.

Still, restaurant checklists remain a reliable way to lay out and mark a list of tasks complete, especially at opening and closing.

The honor system

An absolute last resort—especially for restaurants with big staffs that rotate frequently—is the honor system. This system is where managers tell employees what tasks they need to do as tasks come up, with the expectation that employees will honour that agreement and follow through.

For a small restaurant with a reliable staff that work the same shifts every week, the honor system isn’t the end of the world, but given the intricate details of running, cleaning, and organizing a restaurant, it should be considered an “all else fails” option.

4. Hold your staff accountable

The final step of effective restaurant task management is holding employees accountable for the tasks for which they’re responsible.

All of the above examples—with the exception of the honor system—have a clear way to hold employees responsible. With whiteboards and checklists, a simple X or check mark inside a blank square works—use red markers instead of blue or black to mark when a task hasn't been completed.  

With a restaurant task management app, employees responsible for tasks can mark each task complete as they finish it, sending an instant notification to their manager that the job is done. These instant updates are helpful for time-sensitive matters.  

Even after seeing a task crossed off a list, it’s on you to do your due diligence with cursory checks around your restaurants. While you should trust the employees that you hired, some tasks just require a second set of eyes.

For example, if you always seem to come in to supervise the Wednesday morning shift and notice the front-of-house floor isn’t sparkling, you may want to follow up with the employee who’s responsible for mopping on Tuesday evenings. Maybe she just needs a reminder about the best way to clean, and you can take some time to show her so that when you see the “floors clean” task complete on Tuesday night, you know it to be true.

Mastering Restaurant Task Management

With a little organization, communication, and faith in your staff and the way you’ve trained them, restaurant task management goes from a logistical nightmare to a doable part of the job.

Since you and your staff need to be on your A-games now more than ever, don’t take this essential part of keeping your restaurant running smoothly for granted. Invest in the right tools, hold your staff accountable, and you’ll start worrying less about whether or not the tasks in your restaurant are being done right.

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AJ Beltis
AJ Beltis

AJ Beltis is a freelance writer with almost a decade of experience in the restaurant industry. He currently works as a content manager at HubSpot, and previously as a blogger at Toast.