In the restaurant business, it is not just the food that makes a wholesome and complete guest experience. Each element adds to the grandeur of the experience, such as welcoming the guest at the entrance, cleanliness, ambiance, food, service, payment method, and ease, all the small interactions that contribute to the entire experience.
To take each element of the restaurant to the next level is of utmost importance. To do this is hard, if not nearly impossible, and requires a whole group of people working for it.
Everyone from the receptionist to the chef, the waiter, and manager, has a vital role to play. Managing all these complex restaurant elements across multiple contributors and people requires standardization of processes. For short, it is called an SOP is called, and this ensures proper coordination, execution, a system for accountability, and a similar understanding of rules and policies. A restaurant bible can achieve this lofty aspiration and organization approach or, as the MBA’s call it – an operations manual.
This article will dive into the reasons why your restaurant needs an operations manual. To better understand the reasons why you need this restaurant bible, we take a quick look at what constitutes an ideal operations manual; this will help us relate to the ideas below.
Read Also: 9 Ways to Improve Restaurant Operations
Table of Contents
What Is a Restaurant Operations Manual?
A restaurant has several activities coinciding. It is one of the few businesses that produce and sell at the same time under one roof in a matter of minutes (most production for other companies occurs overseas and is not manufactured where it is sold). Purchasing, cleaning, accounting, reporting, servicing, cooking are some of the main activities that occur under the restaurant roof and need to happen regularly.
An operation manual is a comprehensive guide to these activities. It includes details about each of these restaurant tasks. The manual has answers to questions like what are the tasks that need completing, who will perform these tasks, how and when they will do these tasks, who will they notify when complete, and what happens if someone does not complete said task.
Every detail from the front of the house (E.g., room decorum, reservation management, seat allocation, closing duties), to the back of the house (e.g., food preparation, cleanliness levels, food safety), and administrative side (e.g., accounting, menu management) are included in the manual.
Here are some sections that should be covered in the restaurant manual:
- Team structure
- Job description and responsibilities
- Process documentation (Team + Role wise)
- Safety and Sanitization
- Emergency Protocols
Why Should You Invest in an Operations Manual?
To Have Smooth Restaurant Operations
Every restaurant needs to have a certain level of process standardization and consistency. When a customer walks into a restaurant, as much as they like to be surprised, they also expect a certain quality and standard each time. Think about it like this: why do your repeat customers come back? They have clear expectations for their experience with you.
Your manual will define a standard way of dealing with every situation. For instance, the manual will cover customer management. It will detail all aspects, such as dealing with customer queries, feedback, orders, fury, follow-ups, relationship building, and everything else related to the customer. These documented details will ensure that all the customers that come into your restaurant are treated equally and fairly each time.
Your manual will cover the dress code for your staff, including details about items like short nails, nail painting, etc., to adhere to the safety and hygiene rules. When you have these instructions loud and clear in the manual, it is easier to ensure its implementation or people are held accountable for not following the rules.
Next, having a manual will centralize the source of information. The manual is like your restaurant encyclopedia. Every staff, whether new or old, permanent or temporary, will use it. While you can take inputs from your team and managers, as the owner (or top-level manager), you should compile and finalize it.
The standard guidelines are “set in stone” when it comes from a single and central source. This centralization helps build credibility and authority in the manual. The staff will come to rely on it, and this will ensure that your restaurant manual implementation is more straightforward.
To Manage Difficult Situations (Restaurant Rush)
There is a whole list of items that can go wrong in a restaurant. Unsatisfied customers, kitchen disasters, staff scarcity, ingredients shortage, air-ventilation failure – the list is long. Even with the slightest slip-up, you risk losing a customer. While mistakes are inevitable, handling them with care can help you save face and the customer relationship. The operating manual is like a survival training kit for the staff. Knowing what to do when the restaurant disaster strikes reduce panic and ensure the team behaves per your expectations.
Next, like many other businesses, there are liabilities from the employee side. For instance, if a staff injures themselves in the kitchen or falls on the floor, actions need to be taken on the management side (as you help them address their immediate medical issue).
If you have standardized operations and have this document, then it helps the restaurant to prevent the significant negative consequences of these situations. If there’s any dispute related to the liability and who is at fault, having these procedures documented and regularly followed shows that your organization is attempting to prevent mishaps. The restaurant must be able to show that it complies with all safety and quality measures, and restaurant standard operating procedures do just that.
Disasters and accidents are not the only tough situations restaurants can face. Many times, restaurants need to introduce new changes. For instance, the current pandemic forced the restaurants to bring about significant changes to their operational procedures. When there are such changes, a piece of written information from the central source can prevent confusion and help implement changes quickly.
To Increase Team Accountability
When there are so many activities to coordinate with a large team, errors are inevitable. Holding people accountable for their actions is one of the oldest tricks in the book to reduce mistakes (and repeated mistakes). When you define the team structure in a manual, the hierarchy, also known as an organization structure, is clearly outlined.
Every staff member knows who they report to or who they are accountable. This distributes accountability to different team members. If there is a problem, you as an owner do not need to micromanage and look into every small item. Your direct reports, at the top level, can look into things and give you a joint report, ensuring that you stay out of the minutia. This also helps the staff ensure they are clear on who they report to and who can help them address their issues.
Further, we already discussed how there are different activities in a restaurant, and divide people into different teams (front of the house and back of the house). The line cook or dishwasher may not be clear on their schedule for the coming week or when they should expect it to be published. When you have the responsible person clearly defined, the line cook or dishwasher will know who to approach instead of asking around and wasting everyone’s time.
The manual helps increase intercompany accountability.
To Build Your Dream Team
A restaurant is only as good as its weakest staff member. From chefs to servers, everyone should know exactly their role in the bigger scheme of things. An operation manual is an excellent human resources (HR) partner for you as an owner. Here are some areas where it can be of great help:
Hiring and training new employees
The manual will have a clear description of the team structure and the role of each member. When you are in the labor market hunting your next hire, you already have something to refer to and know what qualities to look for during the interviewing process.
After you hire new employees, they must be trained no matter how much or little experience they have. They need to learn about the restaurant and also understand the restaurant-specific rules and protocols. If you have these facts and guidelines well-documented, you do not have to train every new hire verbally and potentially provide conflicting details (who can remember what they said last week anyway). Instead, they can refer to the manual.
If you go a step further and also include FAQs in the manual and answer commonly asked questions by the new hires before they asked – this will reduce the time you or your employees spend on training and onboarding.
Many restaurants do not just cover role-specific or restaurant-specific guidelines in their operating manuals. The restaurant industry is a customer-facing business, and requires skills like understanding and empathizing with the customer. You can also add information in there, which helps all employees to improve their interpersonal skills.
In restaurants, it is common for staff members to switch between roles or take on multiple tasks simultaneously. For instance, the floor manager will sometimes also take tables or act as a food runner, depending on the business’s volume and needs.
When you have a manual with documented roles and tasks, then it is easy for the staff to refer to it when they need to do duties beyond their regular ones. Further, if a staff member is unavailable on a particular day, and you hire someone for the interim period, the temporary person can again learn via the manual and get up to speed.
Over time, your staff gains experience and knowledge on topics like how to do their tasks better, or perhaps they gain deep customer understanding. Restaurants struggle with the high turnover of the staff. When these experienced and knowledgeable staffs leave the restaurant, their restaurant-specific wisdom goes with them.
If you have a manual in place, you can find a way to document their learnings. Through pre-shift meetings, feedback meetings, group discussions – you can collect insights from them and document it in the manual. This way, when the next staff comes, they can get some of these insights.
To Grow Your Restaurant Profit and Sales
Documenting procedures help with speed and growth. To better understand this, think about a franchised fast-food chain. One of the reasons fast-food chains can provide quick service is because they have well-documented and standardized procedures. From hiring, training, food preparation, packaging, serving, and the cleaning protocol, it is all in the manual.
When everyone on the floor already knows what to do, they need to focus on implementation and not on figuring out what to do. This approach speeds up things. When a new franchise opens, they receive this quick-service process in the manual. They even send out the experts when you launch your franchise, to educate your team on the manual and how the company operates stores. They replicate the process with ease since they receive step by step guidance on how to go about it.
Documented procedures also help increase the value of your restaurant when you want to raise funds or sell your restaurant. When the investor can see written details, it is easy to understand the operations better. This approach gives more clarity on what can be done in the future. Similar to the buyer of your restaurant, it is easier for him to build upon the existing business when he has the operations figured out with ease.
To Increase Overall Efficiency
When the restaurant is busy, every minute counts. The restaurant manual provides several tools to increase restaurant efficiency at such times. For example, think about an assembly factory. Each equipment is assigned a particular task, and the machinery works according to schedules. There are gatekeepers in between to ensure quality, identify any abnormalities, and to keep a watchful eye.
The manual gives the restaurant craziness a similar flow as a factory floor. Every staff performs the duty as per the schedule, and there are managers to overlook the whole operation. Without this flow, it could look like a mad-house with everyone trying to figure out where and what they should do. The chaos is time-consuming, which a busy restaurant cannot afford.
Manuals also help prevent waste. For instance, it dictates weekly cleaning schedules and the proper procedure to do it. When the responsible person cleans the ovens, freezers, and the other equipment timely and correctly, it reduces maintenance and equipment costs. The manual dictates recipes and preparation methods. As a result, the individual placing the orders knows what and how much to order, and ultimately reduces wastage and food costs.
When you write down processes, it forces you to visualize it again. This approach helps get more clarity and identify ways to optimize it. Further, you can work on it continuously to update and compare to the previous processes to track and measure improvements.
Documentation makes things more systematic and tactical. For instance, you offer happy hours every day between 6-8 pm. You notice that by 8:30, the crowd is slow, and your staff is not fully utilized. The updated manual dictates happy hours between 6-9 pm. You compare the performance between the two, the one extra hour of the happy hour brings in more customers and makes up for all the extra discounted drinks you need to provide.
Writing Your Training Manual
You are crafting a training manual, although a time-consuming effort, has long-term benefits. If you are building it from scratch, there are several sample manuals and templates available that you can refer to. These references will help you speed up your writing by just customizing it according to your restaurant.
Once you have a manual ready, also have a set protocol to revise it regularly. Every 6-months or a year, go back to your manual and update it. Encourage employees to follow not only it but also find ways to improve it. If you receive specific questions or issues repeatedly, include it in the manual to save you time. When you bring out optimization changes successfully, document it immediately for faster implementation and no confusion. Maintenance of your manual is essential as building it.