If you’ve ever been a server in a restaurant, you know that side work is often one of the most dreaded aspects of the job. It’s monotonous, sometimes dirty work that doesn’t garner extra tips. But from a management perspective, side work is essential to keeping things in order and maximizing labor costs.

Side work consists of the chores that are generated by a service shift in a restaurant and can include things like filling salt and pepper shakers, wrapping silverware, cleaning floors, or even checking inventory. If there’s a holdup in side work, the next shift is going to feel the consequences. They’ll be looking to see who was working the shift before to figure out what went wrong. Here are some tips to make sure side work is just a little easier.

Create a List

It’s important for side work to be reasonably manageable for staff. Your servers’ primary concern is providing exceptional service to your guests, and side work should never take away from that. Make sure to create a side work checklist that can be accomplished easily on most shifts.

Allow for Some Choice

Once you have a list of tasks for each shift, create a laminated checklist that stays in one central location. Train your servers to identify which tasks (maybe three or four per shift, depending on how many servers you have on the floor and how many tasks need to be done) they would like to be responsible for, initialing the ones they’ve chosen. When employees are given freedom to choose their tasks, they are more likely to take them seriously and perform them thoughtfully than if you were to assign them.

Train Your Staff

Just like your server script, menu, and other policies and procedures, side work is something on which staff should be trained from day one. And just like any other training, it should go like this: show, observe, correct, encourage. Have management show staff how you would like side work to be done; then management should observe the new hire performing the task unassisted, correcting for errors and providing encouragement when the task is completed correctly. In the first few weeks make sure management is watching new hires to see that they are retaining the information that’s been given and doing their tasks properly so they don’t develop bad habits.

Acknowledge Good Work

One of the reasons side work can be so tiresome is that it can feel especially thankless. More often than not, conversation around side work is about what wasn’t done or what was done poorly. Flip this way of thinking by taking time to acknowledge when servers do a good job of accomplishing these tasks in a timely, efficient and thorough manner. Consider offering some small, monthly goal for servers doing a particularly good job. A small gift will go a long way in this regard.

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