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Restaurant SOP: What It Is & How To Develop (Free Template)

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Restaurant Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are essential for maintaining consistency and high standards across all aspects of a restaurant’s operations. From food safety procedures to customer service standards, these documented guidelines ensure that every staff member knows exactly what is expected of them. 

In this article, we will explore how restaurant SOPs cover everything from preparing food to customer service, what the benefits of the restaurant’s SOPs are, and how to develop your restaurant SOPs. Let’s dive into the details!

restaurant sop - washing vegetables

Opening a restaurant and running it successfully is not easy. Once your restaurant has opened, you must ensure it follows different health and safety regulations while offering exceptional customer service and high food quality. Only in this way will you have repeat customers who keep coming back to your restaurant and provide word-of-mouth recommendations.

So-called SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) are common in restaurant chains and franchise restaurants to ensure consistency, quality, and safety across all locations and maintain uniform standards, regardless of location. 

However, independent restaurants also create their own SOPs to achieve similar goals. 

restaurant sop - washing hands

What are restaurant standard operating procedures?

Restaurant standard operating procedures (SOPs) are detailed, written instructions designed to ensure consistent, high-quality performance in all aspects of restaurant operations. 

Well-structured SOPs are crucial as they ensure that front- and back-of-house staff understand how to meet work requirements safely, efficiently, and professionally. This clarity helps maintain consistent service standards, promotes safety and hygiene, and enhances operational efficiency, contributing to achieving a higher restaurant profit margin.

SOPs examples

An example of a standard operating procedure could be:

  • Before handling food, all kitchen staff must wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Front-of-house staff must clean and sanitize tables and chairs immediately after customers leave. 
  • Raw meat and vegetables must be prepared on separate cutting boards to prevent cross-contamination.

What are the benefits of the SOPs for restaurant operations?

Standard Operating Procedures provide numerous benefits for restaurant operations. Below, we describe the benefits in more detail.

1. Consistency in service and quality

SOPs create consistency by ensuring that all staff follow the same procedures, leading to a consistent customer experience. This includes everything from food preparation and presentation to customer service, ensuring every guest receives the same high-quality service. 

For instance, documenting the exact steps for cooking and plating dishes ensures that meals are prepared the same way every time, regardless of who is in the kitchen. Similarly, having clear guidelines for greeting and serving customers ensures a uniform level of service. 

By involving staff in creating these procedures and staying open to their feedback, you can refine processes to work best in practice while maintaining consistency. 

restaurant sop - serving guests in a restaurant

2. Improved efficiency

Clearly defined procedures help streamline operations, reducing the time needed for training and minimizing errors. This leads to faster service, improved table turnover rates, and increased revenue. 

Additionally, when staff members are confident in their roles and responsibilities, they can perform their tasks more effectively, reducing wait times and enhancing the overall customer experience. 

3. Enhanced safety and compliance

SOPs include comprehensive guidelines for maintaining health and safety standards, which are crucial for preventing foodborne illnesses and ensuring compliance with local health regulations. These procedures cover all aspects of food safety, from proper storage and handling of ingredients to the thorough cooking and serving of meals. 

Additionally, SOPs mandate strict cleanliness protocols and personal hygiene practices for restaurant staff, such as regular handwashing, wearing clean uniforms, and using gloves when handling food.  

restaurant sop - using gloves in a restaurant

4. Employee training and accountability

SOPs provide a clear framework for employee responsibilities, making training new staff and holding existing employees accountable easier. This leads to a more professional and competent workforce. 

Different staff members have varying strengths (for example, one server might excel at upselling menu items, while another is great at quickly turning tables), but documented SOPs help quickly fill knowledge gaps. This ensures procedures are consistently followed, allowing the restaurant to run smoothly regardless of which employees are on duty. 

Well-defined SOPs also help manage labor costs by reducing training time and minimizing errors. 

5. Reduced waste and cost control

SOPs help minimize waste and control costs by standardizing procedures. This includes reducing food waste through accurate order preparation and efficient restaurant inventory management

For example, with SOPs in place, a prep cook knows to trim and slice vegetables efficiently, ensuring minimal waste of usable produce. Similarly, line cooks are trained to use precise measurements, such as using a single scoop of sauce per dish, preventing overuse of ingredients. 

restaurant sop - reducing food waste

Additionally, standardized inventory procedures ensure that new stock is only ordered when necessary, like ordering a new case of fresh herbs only when the current supply is running low and not before. 

Another example is managing dairy inventory, ensuring that milk and cream are ordered based on actual usage trends and upcoming needs, thus preventing spoilage and waste.

These practices reduce food waste and optimize inventory levels, helping to maintain cost control and improve the average restaurant revenue.

6. Maintaining high customer satisfaction

Thanks to restaurant SOPs, consistent and exceptional customer service is possible, allowing a restaurant to maintain high customer satisfaction. 

SOPs help staff deliver a uniform dining experience that always meets customer expectations. This consistency in service quality fosters customer trust and loyalty, encouraging regulars to return and recommend the restaurant to others.

restaurant sop - satisfied restaurant customers

Types of the Restaurant Standard Operating Procedures

Below we prepared a list of some common types of SOPs with examples. 

1. Food Preparation SOPs

Food Preparation SOPs are the cornerstone of any successful restaurant, encompassing the operational procedures and industry best practices necessary to ensure compliance with food safety regulations and maintain consistent quality in every dish served. These protocols govern everything from ingredient handling and storage to cooking techniques and recipe standardization. 

Food Preparation SOPs refer to:

  • How to maintain food quality control
  • How to ensure compliance with dietary restrictions
  • How to handle special orders or customizations 
  • How to manage inventory and stock rotation
  • Coordinating with other departments (such as the front-of-house team or bar staff).
  • How to maintain cleanliness and sanitation 

Examples of Food Preparations SOPs
  • Menu items with a short expiration date must be stored at the front of the refrigerator.
  • Maintain a separate prep area and designated equipment for allergen-free dishes to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Enforce a FIFO (first-in, first-out) system for ingredient rotation in storage areas to minimize waste and ensure freshness.
  • Clean and sanitize work surfaces, utensils, and equipment regularly, following guidelines outlined in the sanitation checklist.

2. Front-of-House SOPs

Front-of-house SOPs are a set of standardized procedures and guidelines that govern the operations and interactions within a restaurant’s front-of-house area, focusing on customer service and satisfaction.

Front-of-House SOPs refer to:

  • How to greet customers upon their arrival to create a positive first impression.
  • Seating customers efficiently and appropriately based on table availability and customer preferences.
  • How to effectively address and resolve customer complaints or concerns to ensure a positive dining experience.

Examples of Front-of-House SOPs
  • A customer must be greeted within 2 minutes of entering the restaurant with a warm welcome and smile from the host/hostess.
  • When seating customers, prioritize assigning tables based on their preferences (e.g., window seating, booth, or patio) while maintaining a fair rotation among servers.
  • In the event of a customer complaint, staff should listen actively, empathize with the customer’s concerns, and offer a solution or escalate the issue to a manager if necessary, aiming to resolve the issue promptly and satisfactorily. Read more on restaurant complaints and how to respond to bad restaurant reviews

3. Online orders receiving and fulfilling SOPs

Online orders receiving and fulfilling SOPs are standardized procedures and guidelines for receiving, accepting, preparing, and fulfilling online orders placed through a restaurant’s website or third-party platforms.

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Online Orders Taking SOPs refer to:

  • How fast must an order be accepted after it is received by the restaurant’s online ordering system?
  • Under what circumstances can an order be rejected, and why (e.g., out-of-stock items, delivery area restrictions, payment issues)?
  • The method and timeline for informing the customer about the acceptance or rejection of their order.
  • The timeframe within which an online order must be prepared for pickup or delivery.
  • The different methods by which online orders can be received (e.g., delivery, curbside pickup, in-store pickup).
  • Guidelines for packaging online orders ensure they are secure and presentable and maintain food quality during transportation.
Examples of online orders taking SOPs
  • To ensure timely processing, the restaurant’s online ordering system must accept an online order within 4 minutes of receipt.
  • Orders may be rejected if requested items are out of stock, the delivery address is outside the designated delivery area, or payment authorization fails.
  • Online orders must be prepared within 30 minutes of acceptance to meet delivery or pickup time commitments.
  • Online orders can be received through the restaurant’s website, third-party delivery platforms, or a restaurant mobile app.
  • Each online order must be packed securely in appropriate packaging (e.g., insulated bags, sealed containers) within 5 minutes of preparation to maintain food quality during transportation.
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4. Cleaning and Maintenance SOPs

Cleaning and Maintenance SOPs are a set of standardized procedures and guidelines that outline the protocols for maintaining cleanliness, hygiene, and proper functioning of various areas within a restaurant.

Cleaning and Maintenance SOPs refer to:

  • How to clean and sanitize the dining area, including tables, chairs, floors, and other surfaces, to ensure a clean and welcoming environment for customers.
  • How to clean food preparation areas, such as kitchen countertops, equipment, and utensils, to prevent cross-contamination and maintain food safety standards.
  • How to wash dishes, glassware, and utensils effectively, ensuring thorough cleaning and sanitation to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria.
Examples of Cleaning and Maintenance SOPs
  • Cleaning equipment, including mops, buckets, and cleaning solutions, is stored in a designated area to ensure easy access and organization.
  • Use color-coded cleaning cloths and sanitizers to prevent cross-contamination between different surfaces and areas when cleaning food preparation areas.
  • Before washing dishes, sort them into designated racks or compartments to ensure no contamination between clean and dirty items during the washing process.

5. Staff and Personal Hygiene SOPs

Staff and Personal Hygiene SOPs are a set of standardized procedures and guidelines that outline the protocols for maintaining cleanliness and personal hygiene among restaurant staff to ensure food safety and customer well-being.

Staff and Personal Hygiene SOPs refer to:

  • How to properly wash hands before and during food handling to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria.
  • How to maintain proper grooming standards, including wearing clean uniforms, tying back hair, and trimming nails, to present a professional appearance and prevent contamination.
  • How to handle food with appropriate utensils or gloves to minimize direct contact and reduce the risk of cross-contamination.
  • How to handle personal belongings, such as phones or purses, to prevent contamination of food-contact surfaces.
  • How can illness or symptoms be reported to management, and how should policies regarding sick leave be adhered to to prevent the spread of illness to coworkers and customers.

Examples of Staff and Personal Hygiene SOPs
  • All staff must wash their hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before starting work, after using the restroom, and after handling raw food.
  • Hair must be tied back or covered with a hairnet or hat while working in food preparation areas to prevent hair from falling into food.
  • Staff handling ready-to-eat food must wear single-use gloves and change them frequently to prevent bare-hand contact and cross-contamination.

How to develop the SOPs for a restaurant business

To develop your own restaurant SOPs, follow the steps from the list below.

Step 1. Name all the tasks within your restaurant.

Begin by naming all the tasks within your restaurant. Identify core operational activities such as food preparation, customer service, cleaning, inventory management, and administrative tasks. 

While writing down all tasks and activities, use easy-to-understand language.

Step 2. Train your staff on your SOPs

Once you’ve gathered all SOPs in one place, it’s time to ensure your staff is familiar with and trained on each procedure. This involves conducting comprehensive training sessions, providing hands-on demonstrations, and offering opportunities for staff to ask questions and seek clarification.

restaurant sop - training restaurant staff

Step 3. Ensure compliance with SOPs

Regularly monitoring staff adherence to established procedures and providing feedback and guidance where necessary.

Step 4. Regularly update SOPs

Update your restaurant SOPs regularly to reflect changes in procedures or regulations, ensuring that your restaurant remains aligned with industry best practices and compliance requirements. This will help you address emerging challenges and optimize operational efficiency.

Where can I find restaurant SOP templates?
You can also find restaurant SOP templates from various online sources that offer comprehensive guides and templates. Here are just a few places to start:

Key Takeaways

  • A successful restaurant requires creating restaurant standard operating procedures to ensure the same quality every time a meal is served.
  • Implementing SOPs brings benefits such as consistency in service and quality, improved efficiency, enhanced safety and compliance, employee training and accountability, reduced waste and cost control, and maintaining high customer satisfaction.
  • SOPs include protocols for maintaining food temperatures, handling kitchen equipment safely, and ensuring customer safety. 
  • Developing SOPs involves training staff on proper procedures and ensuring compliance with industry standards and regulations. 
  • By continually improving SOPs, restaurant owners can adapt to evolving challenges and maintain a competitive edge in the industry.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

According to the Guidance for Preparing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) prepared by the Environmental Protection Agency, the five parts of an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) typically include:  
  1. Title Page
  2. Table of Contents
  3. Procedures
  4. Quality Control and Quality Assurance Section
  5. Reference Section
  These five parts collectively ensure the SOP’s comprehensiveness, clarity, and reliability. 

An example of a food SOP could be a procedure for preparing a specific menu item, such as a signature pasta dish. This SOP would detail the ingredients required, including their quantities and specifications. It would outline the step-by-step process for cooking the pasta, preparing the sauce, and assembling the dish to ensure consistency in taste and presentation. 

Picture of Agata Kubiak - Padkowska

Agata Kubiak - Padkowska

Digital content creator, passionate about helping restaurants to start selling online.

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