What is the Difference Between a Restaurant Checklist and a Prep Sheet? That is the subject of today’s video.

To learn more please either watch the video above, read the transcript or listen to the podcast below.

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Read the Video Transcript by Clicking Here...


In last week’s video, I showed you step by step how to build an effective restaurant checklist. Today, in part 2 of our checklists video series, I want to talk about the difference between a checklist and a prep sheet. Restaurant checklists generally don’t work well partially because restaurant owners don’t fully understand the difference between checklist and prep sheet. 

What’s the difference?

In last week’s video, we talked about how a checklist assigns tasks to an individual person or station that tells them anything and everything they need in the correct quantity and quality for a successful service or a successful shift.

Prep sheets are a little different – they are still assigned to a specific person or a station but instead of listing what is needed to get through that shift, it’s what needs to be prepped to keep your restaurant moving properly. Let me break this down even further – it’s basically what needs to get prepped. 

How do we define what needs to get prepped?

Let’s say that you operate a pizza restaurant and that you buy cheese that’s already grated. I open up the pizza station in the morning and pull out my checklist that lists the following: pepperoni, bell peppers, mushrooms, onions, tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. All I have to do is check my station to see if I have all of that. If you’re either out of or low on cheese I can go to the walk-in, grab the cheese I need, fill up my container and now I’m ready for service.

What if you don’t buy the cheese already grated and you need to grate it? Then it needs to go on a prep sheet. The difference is with the checklist, we’re going to do that now before our shift starts to get ready for it. The prep sheet is basically refilling the refrigerator, restocking the shelves or the big storage quantities for later in the evening or the next day.

Quick and simple way to turn your checklist into a prep sheet

Ask yourself this question: Does an item on the checklist take more than 30 seconds to prepare? If it takes more than 30 seconds, it has to go on a prep sheet. It stays on the checklist but it also goes on a prep sheet.

Build a checklist for every station, front of the house, back of the house or managers. Then after your checklist has everything listed that is needed for a successful shift, go back through and ask yourself: Does this take more than thirty seconds to prepare? 

This could even be something as simple as canned pineapple for a pizza station. You can argue that it takes less than 30 seconds and is already chopped up in the can. But in reality, on a busy Saturday night, it takes more than 30 seconds and you know it does. By the time someone leaves their station goes to the back, grabs the can, messes with that terrible can opener, drains it out, puts it in the proper container and puts the container back walk-in, you’ve wasted 3-5 minutes of very precious time during service. In my opinion, the pineapple should be on a prep list AND a checklist. 

One of the biggest challenges I see is that restaurant owners and managers don’t take the time to build prep sheets; they only build the checklists. People are busy prepping when they’re getting their station ready, when in reality they should just be getting what they need to get their station ready then go do the prep.

Summing it up:

I hope that clarifies the difference for you. Remember, you need a checklist and a prep sheet for every single person or station in your restaurant. Even if you don’t have a ‘prep person’ or a ‘prep station’, all of your cooks and servers need a prep list. You might not actually call it a prep list for your front-of-the-house, you probably call it side work but it’s the same thing. I hope you enjoyed today’s video, I look forward to bringing you another one just like this next week.Have a wonderful day!

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