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5 Reasons Why Your Restaurant Needs SOPs

A restaurant with a bar that prioritizes standard operating procedures.

As a restaurant owner or manager, driving profit margins are a primary goal. Alarmingly high turnover rates and the subsequent backfilling, onboarding, and training results in higher costs. According to the Center for Hospitality Research, the cost of losing an hourly employee and replacing them is almost $6000. Add to this the inconsistencies in processes, affecting customer satisfaction. Lets dig in to the 5 reasons why your restaurant needs SOPs.

This article will consider what restaurant Standard Operating Procedures are and why they are key to keeping restaurant turnover to a minimum, lowering costs, and keeping jobs filled. We will also take a look at some core restaurant processes, how to write them, and what help is available to you.

Why Restaurant SOPs Are Vital to Repeat Business

Restaurant Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are step-by-step standardized, documented instructions that enable both front-of-house and back-of-house workers to accomplish routine tasks consistently, improving efficiency and productivity, and leading to predictive outcomes. These can be in the form of checklists for food prep sanitation, the preventive maintenance of kitchen equipment, and customer service.

According to the article mentioned above, there is a direct correlation between having SOPs for your restaurant’s operating procedures and lessening employee turnover. Additionally, documenting and familiarizing yourself with all your restaurant’s operating procedures will enable you to find the right fit when hiring to fill a position. The selected candidate can then benefit from comprehensive training afforded by a standardized onboarding process.

Effective restaurant SOPs ensure that motivated employees stay focused on what needs to be done, by whom, and when. Hence such preparation will help prevent one more employees from having “too much on their plate,” causing burnout and eventual termination. Continued employee attrition and lack of robust operating procedures can lead to chaotic restaurant operations and customer dissatisfaction. On the other hand, with complete adherence to documented procedures, your team will be like a well-oiled machine, ensuring that they, and most importantly, your patrons, are happy and eager to return.

So let’s take a closer look at why you need Standard Operating Procedures for your restaurant.

5 Reasons You Need SOPs for Your Restaurant

Fulfill Regulatory Compliance

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration expects food establishments to use Standard Operating Procedures to comply with certain requirements for safe food handling. The FDA also outlines specific food service codes and regulations for each state. Effective kitchen SOPs minimize opportunities for miscommunication, address safety concerns, and avoid  health code violations related to:

  • Time and Temperature Control
  • Improper Food Storage
  • Improper Tool and Utensil Storage
  • Poor Personal Hygiene
  • Poor Kitchen Sanitation
  • Cross-Contamination
  • Chemical Use and Storage

SOPs assist your team members in prioritizing these critical issues to remove the probability of food contamination. Sanitizing all surfaces, including prep areas, equipment, storage areas, trash cans, and floor drains in the back-of-house and cleaning all counters, tables, and utensils in the front-of-house, are standardized. No one wants to go to a restaurant where employees are not clean. Cleanliness directly affects both the quality of food, the health of your customers, overall customer experience, and can make or break a restaurant. Furthermore, well-written SOPs translate food service regulations into easy-to-access checklists, simplifying the process of performing self-audits.

Hand washing, tasting methods, contact with blood, and more must all be addressed in the standard operating procedures. The FDA and local and state inspectors will want to see your restaurant’s SOPs to assess its compliance.  

Streamline Employee Onboarding

With SOPs in place, you can simplify the process of training new hires, creating a more seamless and enjoyable experience. You can have complete confidence that nothing is overlooked in training new employees, from every detail of POS data entry to food safety measures. This gives new members greater confidence, bringing them up to speed faster and reducing labor costs.

Restaurant Standard Operating Procedures also ensure that tactical knowledge is retained when you lose a team member. They can also be used for cross-training in the event you become short-staffed.

Improve Worker Communication

According to the Harvard Business Review, 69% of managers report they are not comfortable communicating with their employees in general. This is reflective of 57% of employees who report not being given clear directions.

An SOP software app such as Notion, accessible from a desktop or smartphone, makes a restaurant manager’s job much easier. Documents and procedures are stored in one location. Maintaining a centralized hub increases the accessibility of relevant critical processes and documents for all your restaurant employees.

Having all SOPs online ensures that your staff knows where to quickly find the information they need in real-time as updates are made due to procedure changes or if they have a question.

Enhance Customer Service Fulfillment

Enforced SOPs will help you consistently provide five-star service to your customers. They expect good customer service every time you greet and seat them, take their order, check-in after serving an order, and so on.

For people who visit a new restaurant the first few times, each successive positive experience increases the likelihood that they will keep coming back.

Increase Employee Retention

The average restaurant worker’s tenure is 110 days, just over three months. But you can do something about it.

“According to Little Caesars’ Manager of National Training Jeff Drozdowski, the pizza chain had a company-wide turnover rate of 170% in 2006. After instituting a comprehensive training program, their turnover dropped to 80%.”

            Implementation of Standard Operating Procedures is integral to comprehensive training and employee retention.

When building your SOPs, get as much input as possible from your back-of-house and front-of-house staff. As a result, they will likely “buy into” internalizing your SOPs through continuous training for restaurant success that they help build. With SOPs in place, your motivated employees won’t feel their skills are underutilized in their current positions. And with the confidence they need to perform their best, you will keep your employees longer.

5 Main Types of Standard Operating Procedures for Restaurants

Vital routine restaurant operations are the core processes or main pillars for which managers need step-by-step documentation.

Facility and Equipment SOPs

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

Staff and Personal Hygiene SOPs

  • Hand-washing
  • Employee health and personal hygiene
  • Staff uniforms
  • Use of utensils and gloves
  • Staff contact with blood
  • Cleanliness

Food Flow SOPs

  • Food safety compliance
  • Food inventory management
  • Time and temperature control
  • Refrigerator and freezer maintenance
  • Food storage
  • Food donations
  • Purchase and handling food from outside sources
  • Food preparation and presentation
  • Take-out and delivery standards
  • Recycling and composting food waste

Customer Service SOPs

  • Order taking and serving
  • Instructions on answering phone calls
  • Customer greeting and seating
  • Billing and final settlement

Communication SOPs

  • Staff onboarding and training
  • Engagement with kitchen visitors
  • Safety measures
  • Response to food-borne illness complaints and reports
  • Response to negative online reviews

How to Write SOPs for Your Restaurant

You are right if you think these are a lot of SOPs. Developing SOPs is crucial to your restaurant. Coming up with and documenting procedure steps and checklists for your restaurant operations can seem a bit overwhelming. So where do you start?

  1. Use the five main types of restaurant operating procedures above to identify the core procedures performed at your food establishment. You can list these processes on a digital workspace such as Notion, and this keeps everything organized in one place. Begin tackling the tasks most integral to both employee and customer safety.
  1. Consult with those who do the work. Then write down each of the steps in the order needed to complete each task using the same workspace. Certainly include as much detail as necessary to ensure that no action is missed. Base these on precisely the way you want things done and the best practices of your staff in accordance with food service regulations.
  1. Create checklists for audit. Use these to implement self-audits to ensure your restaurant is meeting compliance. This way, you can see if your restaurant’s SOPs are being followed. You can also identify gaps in your process and correct them ahead of the audit, before they result in non-compliance.
  1. Document all restaurant operating procedures in one location. Your workers can access these using a mobile app should questions arise about food-related matters, customer service, equipment handling, staff, and personal hygiene. Your employees can see process updates in real time. Furthermore, your team members can access these when questioned by an auditor, providing proof that they follow your restaurant’s SOP guidelines.

Why does your restaurant need Standard Operating Procedures? These can help your restaurant fulfill regulatory requirements, simplify hiring and onboarding, improve worker communication, and enhance customer service fulfillment.

Implementation is vital. Do this by properly training both new hires and current employees. Keep documented SOPs in one location that your staff can easily access with a digital app like Notion. All of this will benefit motivated workers as they will be able to fully develop their skill set and reduce boredom. This can lead to increased employee retention, lowered costs, and ultimately, increased success for your restaurant.

Building the numerous Standard Operating Procedures your food establishment needs, even with input from your staff, requires time you may not have as a restaurant owner.

Additionally, Check out another great post below!


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