The Beginner’s Guide to Restaurant Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

The key to developing long-term relationships with patrons is to provide consistently positive dining and take-out experiences. This means running preventive maintenance programs on kitchen equipment, optimizing inventory supplies, and scheduling required inspections. Essentially, standard operating procedures (SOPs) are the glue that holds tasty meal preparation, exceptional customer service, and asset management together. So let’s take a closer look at the definition of restaurant SOPs and their many benefits.

Think about it like this:

Have you ever not visited a restaurant because of a bad review? It happens all the time.

FOX 13 News-Salt Lake City reported that review sites are often “the first place people turn when trying to find a new restaurant.” Yelp, Facebook, and Google My Business are among the most popular food service resources. A whopping 87 percent of consumers read online reviews before visiting local businesses.

Tune in to the TV show, Top Chef, and you may form the impression that sourcing quality ingredients, developing innovative dishes, and training staff are the most critical ingredients to succeeding in the restaurant business.

However, those who have run profitable establishments know something else: poor-quality dishes, lousy customer service, and negative reviews don’t just happen—they are often the result of several crucial missteps in restaurant standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Additionally, prioritizing less glamorous activities like developing systems for managing inventory, preventive equipment maintenance, and inspections are every bit as important as “the fun stuff.”

This article will explore the relationship between carefully constructed restaurant SOPs and the likelihood of establishing a loyal fanbase. We’ll also dive into different restaurant processes, how to document them, and the benefits of standardization.

Why Restaurant Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) Are Crucial

Restaurant reviews matter.

As reported by Harvard Business School, a one-star increase in Yelp ratings can increase a food service establishment’s revenue by up to 9 percent. Most new restaurateurs are aware of how crucial online reputation management is to their success.

That’s why they put so much effort into designing Instagram-worthy backdrops, hiring personable servers, and developing mouthwatering combinations of ingredients. But, unfortunately, these heartfelt details fall flat without proper O&M management.

What Are Restaurant Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)?

Restaurant standard operating procedures (SOPs) are written lists of rules, standards, and norms that describe how to complete routine tasks. Well-structured SOPs are important because they ensure both front-of-house and back-of-house workers know exactly how to satisfy work requirements safely, efficiently, and professionally.

Benefits of Using Restaurant Standard Operating Procedures

1. Simplify Regulatory Compliance

Develop SOPs that align with local food and health laws to ensure the restaurant complies with regulatory requirements. Completed SOP checklists prove precautionary meal preparation, cleanliness, customer service, and maintenance of facilities. SOPs also make it easier to self-audit processes and make improvements.

2. Streamline Employee Onboarding

SOPs make employee training programs more accessible, enjoyable, and convenient. So, don’t rack your brain to remember dozens of minute details involved in diverse processes like POS data entry, cocktail curation, and bathroom sterilization.

Instead, refer new hires to documented work instructions that leave no room for misinterpretation or oversights. Restaurant SOPs also ensure that tactical knowledge isn’t lost whenever staff members leave their jobs. Management can lean on the documents for both training new team members and cross-training when short-staffed.

3. Improve Worker Communication

In the face of ever-changing regulatory guidelines due to COVID-19, it’s now more important than ever to standardize real-time communication channels. When used in combination with business instant messaging functionality, digital SOP apps make it easy for management and ownership to stay in contact with restaurant employees throughout the day. Should confusion ever arise over updated protocols, workers can instantly reach out to supervisors by sending a quick instant message on the app.

4. Enhance Customer Service Fulfillment

Good SOP enforcement helps standardize services across the board. Regardless of the size of your establishment, your aim should be to deliver a five-star experience. Patrons know what to expect every time they visit the restaurant, place an order, eat a meal, interact with employees, and so on. Positive predictability keeps customers returning.

5. Standardize Recurring Operational Responsibilities

Additionally, documentation enables management to recall the numerous operational procedures integral to running food services. Optimize recurring processes for operational tasks—ordering supplies, scheduling preventive maintenance, conducting safety audits—to ensure they are completed in the same manner every time. Standardization provides peace of mind that essential task details get completed without error.

6. Ensure Cleanliness and Personal Hygiene

Finally, nothing is more important to restaurant operations than cleanliness. Preparing food items for others necessitates proper sanitation to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses at all times. Front-of-house workers should know exactly how to wipe down counters, sterilize utensils, and wash hands. Back-of-house workers also must know crucial food preparation precautions. And all employees should exercise excellent personal hygiene.

Next, we’ll explore the types of restaurant processes worth documenting.

The 5 Types of Restaurant SOPs

Restaurant managers should document step-by-step instructions for the following types of routine procedures:

1. Facility and Equipment SOPs

Facility and equipment SOPs establish how to properly handle the restaurant’s physical assets. They cover:

  • Laundry and linen use
  • Dining area sanitation
  • Thermometer calibration
  • Ice machine cleaning
  • Pest control
  • Dishwashing
  • Equipment cleaning and sanitizing

2. Staff and Personal Hygiene SOPs

This category of SOPs ensures that employees maintain good personal hygiene practices and protect food safety. Staff and personal hygiene SOPs include:

  • Handwashing practices
  • Employee health and personal hygiene
  • Use of utensils and gloves
  • Staff contact with blood

3. Food Flow SOPs

Food-flow SOPs contain detailed, written instructions to ensure the safe and consistent handling of foods. Examples include:

  • Food preparation and handling
  • Holding- and reheating food temperatures
  • Take-out and delivery standards
  • Refrigerator and freezer maintenance
  • Food storage
  • Purchase and handling food from outside sources
  • Recycling and composting food waste

4. Menu Production SOPs

Menu-production SOPs ensure managers create menus that align with the restaurant’s concept, customer expectations, and business goals. They also deal with the following:

  • Food presentation
  • Order taking and serving
  • Food donations

5. Communication SOPs

Finally, communication SOPS help ensure dialogue between restaurant management, staff, and customers are geared toward successful outcomes. Communication SOPs usually cover:

  • Customer service standards
  • Front-of-the-house greeting and seating
  • Billing and final settlement
  • Food safety regulations
  • Staff orientation and training
  • Engagement with kitchen visitors
  • Communication of restaurant safety measures
  • Response to foodborne illness complaints and reports

If you’re thinking, “Wow, that’s a lot of checklists,” we don’t blame you. Outlining procedures for dozens of processes can feel overwhelming.

The good news is you don’t have to document everything at once. Tackle your restaurant standardization program one process at a time, starting with the tasks most integral to both employee and customer safety.

Following Food Service Regulations

As previously mentioned, restaurants are required by law to maintain written procedures for safe food handling. Effective SOPs translate both local health department and FDA regulations into daily protocols that keep everyone safe.

Restaurant owners are responsible for demonstrating visible plans of regulatory compliance. Plans should outline processes for safety procedure monitoring, verifying, record-keeping, and taking corrective actions (when needed). Auditors will request documentation of procedures.

To maintain effective regulatory adherence, management should:

  • Follow Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Guidance: the FDA’s Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) training and monitoring principles address employee training, record keeping, quality improvement, and food-safety training.
  • Follow Local Health Department Food Laws: SOPs should cover heating, cooling, labeling, handwashing, and other practices that prevent foodborne illnesses. Implement these processes and document their adherence to pass inspections with flying colors.
  • Post OSHA and Food Regulation Signage: These actions are necessary to passing compliance inspections and receiving the illustrious Grade A sign that encourages both customers and potential employees to come inside.
  • Regularly Review Food-Handling SOPs: Human beings are forgetful creatures. As such, it doesn’t hurt to regularly review safety SOPs with employees. Health inspectors may test their knowledge during routine health inspections.

Final Tips for Writing Restaurant SOPs

Before documenting SOPs, consult with the workers involved in the specific processes to ensure realistic outcomes. Often, employees can draw attention to problematic aspects of procedural plans that management can address to avoid confusion.

Additionally, straightforwardly structure your procedures. Avoid using unfamiliar terminology, writing lengthy paragraphs, and cluttering checklists with extraneous information.

You can attach additional work instructions or illustrative workflows to clarify complex processes if necessary. Mobile SOP software providers like MaintainX streamline this process with PDF attachments, photo attachments, and SOP templates.

Finally, focus on how you want customers to perceive the business. Put yourself in your patrons’ shoes to write more comprehensive procedures that lead to rave online reviews, word-of-mouth referrals, and repeat business.

Read 8 Tips for Developing Standard Operating Procedures (That Get Used)

Rake In the Positive Reviews with MaintainX

Running smooth restaurant operations requires management to organize several moving parts. Restaurants need documented SOPs for PM assignments, regulatory inspection checklists, food safety rules, and equipment tracking.

It’s not unusual for SOP creators to overlook one crucial aspect of program success: employees need to use SOPs for them to work! The best way to ensure compliance is through digitization with CMMS systems applications like MaintainX

With MaintainX, restaurant workers can follow along with digital checklists from the convenience of their smartphones. In addition, management can create, assign, and monitor SOP completion in real-time; oversee maintenance activities for restaurant assets, and troubleshoot unforeseen challenges with team members via in-app messaging.

Ready to reduce the stress of standardizing the procedures necessary to succeed?


How long does it take to implement MaintainX?

On average, it takes three weeks to implement one site on MaintainX. Learn more about our Implementation services here.

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MaintainX is compliant with security standards, including SOC 2, ISO 27001 & GDPR. It also supports Single Sign-On (SSO), multi-factor authentication (MFA) and custom permissions and roles. For more information, visit our Trust Center page.

Does MaintainX support multiple sites?

Yes, MaintainX Enterprise allows you to manage multiple plants or facilities within the same platform. You can also create customized reporting dashboards to track KPIs across multiple sites on the same screen.

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