By Alex Koons

I recently had a conversation with another business owner about the key elements of running a restaurant. He emphasized the importance of having a reliable oven and a functional phone for social media, both vital tools in the restaurant industry. This discussion led me to ponder which tool, in my opinion, holds the greatest value in a restaurant. My conclusion? It’s a laminator. 

Okay, well, it’s what goes inside the laminator. I make it a practice to laminate all the checklists for the restaurant and distribute them throughout the establishment. The significance of these checklists cannot be overstated. They promote accountability and provide clear guidance to everyone involved. Personally, I’ve found them to be incredibly beneficial. By establishing consistent guidelines, we ensure that everyone is on the same page and operating efficiently. 

My pizza consulting approach revolves around two crucial aspects of a restaurant owner’s journey: getting into the restaurant business and ensuring a smooth exit strategy. Establishing consistent checklists, guidelines and policies that are clear and supportive can give you a significant advantage from the outset.

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In my view, what distinguishes the shop owner who gets to enjoy weekends off from the one who works every night is simply the presence of checklists. Whether it’s for training, pizza toppings, cleaning procedures, cheese portions or any other essential task, these checklists should be prominently displayed on the wall or readily accessible on an iPad for your team. This ensures that your employees have the understanding and tools necessary to succeed.

It took me a while to truly grasp the importance of checklists. In the past, I might have assumed that people could recall instructions after hearing them once. However, I’ve learned that this is rarely the case. 

While some may argue that checklists feel “too corporate” or “sterile,” I believe they provide guidance rather than limitations. It’s not about dictating what to do, but, rather, ensuring clarity about expectations and creating accountability. The power of a checklist, along with its laminator, should never be underestimated.

Alex Koons is a pizza industry consultant and the owner of Hot Tongue Pizza and co-owner of Purgatory Pizza, both in Los Angeles.