Running a successful restaurant involves a lot of moving parts working flawlessly together. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are essential for a highly coordinated business like a restaurant. Without SOPs, restaurant operations would be downright chaotic. In a restaurant context, we can define Standard Operating Procedures as instructions on how to do specific tasks.
In addition, health regulations require that every restaurant has written SOPs. But having a manual written somewhere is useless if you don’t have implementation systems in place and if employees aren’t familiar with their responsibilities.
SOPs help create consistency in your restaurant’s services from the time you open up to food preparation to closing down procedures. Ultimately, if you have clear SOPs, you’ll have happy employees and even happier customers.
How to get started with SOPs
Your goal should be streamlining every single process in your establishment so that no staff member thinks twice about what they should be doing next. You want your restaurant to run like a well-oiled machine and that’s where SOPs come into play.
Creating your restaurant’s operating procedures begins with:
- Research: The food industry has many regulations, and non-compliance can cost you fines, consumer perception, and profits. It’s essential to research the necessary steps that ensure your SOPs don’t violate any of the set regulations.
- Implementation: Different restaurants have different procedures. It’s imperative that you identify, outline, and implement clear processes adapted to your restaurant’s signature style.
- Training: Your SOPs won’t benefit your business if the staff doesn’t know what they’re supposed to do. It’s crucial to train the team for their specific jobs, as well as for safety measures.
- Communication: There’s going to be a transition period when you introduce SOPs to your staff, and you’ll need to keep communication channels open. Regular staff meetings are essential to ensure everyone is all caught up and clear about their responsibilities. Continuous communication and a willingness to adapt are the essential ingredients in making SOPs work for your business.
- Trust: Once your team has internalized the SOPs, it’s time to let them take ownership of their jobs. Establish trust with your employees and encourage them to ask questions when needed. It’s never a good idea to micromanage the team or try to do everything on your own.
The main areas of focus of a restaurant’s operating procedures
A restaurant has two main areas. The Back of House, where all the food preparation takes place, and the Front of House, where you serve your customers. The two areas differ on multiple fronts, so it’s crucial to establish the SOPs for both.
Back of House
The kitchen is your restaurant’s engine. You need all the moving parts to work together, or you’ll have delayed orders, low-quality food, contaminations, and poor inventory management.
Any problem in the back of house directly impacts the front of house and the overall customer experience. That’s why you need SOPs to guide your staff on what they should and shouldn’t do in the kitchen. Here are some of the things you need to address in your back-of-house SOPs:
- Health and hygiene regulations: Your staff’s hygiene directly affects both the quality of food, the health of your customers, and your restaurant’s image. You need SOPs to address hygiene issues such as hand washing, wearing gloves, tasting methods, and contact with blood and bodily fluids. The goal is to make sure you remove any probability of food contamination. Your staff also needs to have clean uniforms on at all times, so you need to provide several uniforms per employee.
- Equipment and machinery handling: Restaurant equipment needs to be handled with extra care. Replacing and repairing equipment can get expensive, not to mention that any defective machine can be a hazard for your employees. Your SOPs should include a manual on the use, maintenance, cleaning, and sanitizing of all your kitchen equipment.
- Safety measures: Working in the kitchen poses a high risk of injury. Most of the accidents in the kitchen happen from slipping, lifting, and equipment mismanagement. Non-skid shoes should be mandatory in the kitchen. The kitchen staff should also learn to always clean up immediately after a spill. Your SOP needs to address how your staff can maintain safety in the back of the house.
- Complying with food safety regulations: Food safety compliance is critical to your business. Non-compliance might get your restaurant shut down or fined, not to mention the loss of consumer trust and revenue. Your SOP needs to have a detailed explanation of the FDA’s food safety regulations and how the staff can stay compliant.
- Food Flow and inventory management: Food ingredients are one of the most significant restaurant expenses. That’s why we recommend the use of inventory management software to reduce waste and increase overall profitability. Employees need a food storage instruction manual on how to store different ingredients correctly. They will also need to learn how and when to order fresh supplies and discard the expired ones.
- Food preparation and presentation: Every restaurant has its way of preparing and presenting its foods. Make sure your SOP is clear on how you want your kitchen staff to prepare and present every dish. Your kitchen staff should be familiar with crafting beautifully plated dishes, particularly the signature dishes of your restaurant.
- Take-out delivery standards: Clearly outline how your staff needs to pack every dish for take-out deliveries. Explain the criteria that every takeout order needs to meet before leaving the kitchen.
Front of House
If the back of house is the engine, the front of house is the exterior body. This is where your customers interact with your business. Customer service should be a top priority in your restaurant since your customers are the reason you’re in business. The critical areas of focus for your customer service SOP should include:
- Customer greeting and seating: Customers start evaluating your restaurant from the moment they step through the door. Your SOP needs to outline the time within which a customer is greeted and settled in their seats. There should also be a protocol on how your staff greets your customers, including what to do after they are seated – like pouring water and serving bread and butter.
- Answering the phone: Most good restaurants need booking in advance, so you can expect to get many calls for bookings and inquiries. Customers can also call in to order takeout. Your SOPs should include instructions on answering phone calls, what to say, and how to sort out specific customer requests.
- Order taking and service: Your SOPs must contain guidelines related to waiting and busing tables. Bussers are in charge of clearing, sanitizing, and resetting tables before the next guests sit down. Waiter’s duties are more complex and their responsibilities must be clearly stated in the SOP manual. There should also be a set estimated time by which a customer should receive their order.
- Cleanliness: Your restaurant should remain clean at all times. Address your cleanliness guidelines and make sure your staff implements them thoroughly. Your SOP manual should clearly determine how and when to clean the counters, tables, restaurant front, floors, and restrooms.
- Billing and handling the cheque: Clearly establish how the customer will receive their bill and the payment methods accepted in the restaurant. Using a POS requires some hands-on experience, but you can help train your staff with written step-by-step guides.
- Customer complaint management: Ensuring your customers leave happy is a great way to attract repeat business. Instruct your staff on how to bid your customers goodbye or handle complaints if there are any. Simple gestures such as opening doors and wishing them a good day as they leave can make customers feel valued and make them want to return.
Restaurants are high-pressure working environments. You need to have systems in place for everything to run smoothly. Implementing these systems will be crucial both for you as a manager/restaurant owner and for your employees.
Clear instructions, delegating, and gathering feedback are crucial to successfully implementing your SOPs and running a profitable restaurant business.
Written manuals help you comply with the industry regulations, but the real value lies in the implementation. Nobody will have time to stop and read a manual when they’re on the clock, but you can train your staff to internalize your SOPs through continuous training and staff meetings.
Glimpse provides business analytics and loss prevention technology for bars, restaurants and nightclubs.
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