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Restaurant operations manual: How to write one in 2024

Restaurant operations manual: How to write one in 2024

Will writing a restaurant operations manual be the most exciting thing you do for your business? Not at all. But is it an essential tool for any restaurant owner that wants to thrive and grow their business in 2022? Absolutely! 

That’s why we want to encourage you to write or update your operations manual by showing you:

  • Why it’s important to have a restaurant operations manual 
  • What information to include in the manual 
  • Five steps to writing one yourself 

But, first, let’s start with the most basic question so that we’re all on the same page!

What is a restaurant operations manual?

A restaurant operations manual is a comprehensive document that consists of the most important information and guidelines for running a restaurant

From restaurant concepts to operational guidelines, the manual explains the processes and procedures you and your staff follow to keep your restaurant running smoothly.

Why is it important to have a restaurant operations manual? 

When written correctly, your operations manual can benefit your restaurant in a variety of ways. Here are five of the top reasons you’ll want to either write or update your operations manual for the new year.

Support the onboarding process

There are a lot of things to learn whenever you start a new job. A detailed restaurant manual can become a reference guide for your new hires, no matter their role. In turn, this helps to speed up the onboarding process and reduce time and resources spent on training.

Increase efficiency

A detailed manual also helps your employees make decisions efficiently, without needing to always ask their superiors for reassurance. With set procedures written in detail, your employees will know the proper actions to take whenever common problems arise. 

Improve the customer experience

Great customer service is key to converting casual customers into loyal customers. When you attain consistency and efficiency through process standardization, you make the process of satisfying your customers much easier. 

Accelerate business growth 

With everything well-explained in the manual, employees will have more resources to focus on achieving goals and expanding how you serve your customers. You could even use the manual to make the process of opening additional locations much smoother.

Provide guidelines for unexpected situations

Your manual can’t predict the future. But it can provide reference on what steps employees should take when unexpected situations occur due to things like weather emergencies, changes to health guidelines or difficult customers. 

How to write a restaurant manual for 2022

Let’s start by looking at what specific information your restaurant operations manual should include. 

What’s included in an operations manual?

Company introduction

This first section introduces your employees to the background, history and goals of your restaurant. For example, you might include information like: 

  • When the restaurant first opened 
  • Your target customers 
  • Long-term goals 
  • Your core values and mission statement
  • General opening and closing schedules 

Organizational structure

It’s important your employees know the organizational structure of your restaurant. This helps to ensure everyone knows who to turn to for immediate questions related to daily tasks.

The most effective way to present the organizational structure is by using a top-down flowchart in hierarchy form. You can also categorize the structure by job functions (e.g. kitchen staff) so it’s easier for employees to identify their team and reporting manager. 

Job descriptions, expectations and responsibilities

In this section, you’ll list each job title along with its core responsibilities. This helps to set and maintain clear expectations for each of your employees and creates a standard they can easily refer to. 

This section also allows employees to understand their co-workers’ responsibilities, creating a culture of appreciation among the team. You can also use this section to identify roles needed to expand your business in the future. 

Contact details

Next, include the contact information of people that your employees may need to reach out to for work-related issues. This may include the phone numbers and email addresses for restaurant managers, human resources and you.

You may also want to include contact information for external services your restaurant uses for things like gas, electricity, water, internet, etc. This will make it easier for your employees to respond to any problems with those services.

Standard operating procedures

Standard operating procedures (SOP) are the backbone of your restaurant operations manual. Why? Because an SOP provides step-by-step instructions for every important task of your restaurant. They also set the standard for how employees should perform certain tasks and can become reference guides for new hires in training. 

Some important tasks that you should write SOPs for in your operations manual include:

  • Food regulations. Include procedures on things like food preparation, ingredient storing, kitchen sanitation, etc.   
  • Opening and closing. Create a checklist for what needs to be done when opening and closing your restaurant.
  • Customer service. Include everything from how to greet customers, how to take orders, how to handle customer complaints, etc. 
  • Technology and machines. Provide instructions on how to efficiently use all technology and machines in your restaurant.
  • Emergencies. Outline the steps your employees should take when there is an emergency, such as a fire, so they know how to handle the situation and minimize the impact.

5 steps to write your operations manual

It might be tempting to skip writing your restaurant operations manual. But please don’t! The long-term benefits will make it well worth your time. 

Plus, you don’t have to do everything in one go! Tackle each of the following steps individually and move on to the next whenever you’re ready. 

Step 1 - Brainstorm and organize the information

What will you need to include in each section of your operations manual? Do you already have that information stored somewhere else? 

You’ll likely spend the most time thinking of what SOPs you need to create. Start by thinking of the most important daily tasks for you and your employees. You may also want to ask employees to write down the steps they take to complete the task. This will help you understand the task from an employee’s point of view. 

In this step, you may also find it helpful to create a table of contents. That way you can maintain organization throughout the entire process of developing the manual. 

Step 2 - Draft your content

Now, it’s time to begin writing the content of your manual! This step will seem tedious. But remember that it will save you time in the future when it’s time to train new employees.

When writing your SOPs, try to avoid generic and broad statements such as “greet the customer” that can be interpreted in different ways. Instead, include detailed instructions and examples for how to perform each task efficiently.

Step 3 - Review and revise the content

Once you have the draft written, share the content with your team to get their feedback. Ask for suggestions that can make your content more user-friendly and check if you have missed any important procedures. 

Then, spend time revising it until you have everything compiled neatly into one document that’s ready to share.

Step 4 - Choose how to save and share your manual

Your first instinct might be to print out your operations manual in booklets and then distribute it among your staff. But is this method ideal? Not really! It’s costly, wastes paper and makes your manual difficult to update.

We suggest you save and share a digital copy of your manual with your staff. If you still want a physical copy, you can print one to leave in the restaurant for immediate reference purposes.

Step 5 - Plan to periodically update the manual

Lastly, update the manual from time to time as your business expands. You may also need to update it as the rules and regulations change for how restaurants operate during the pandemic

After making updates, be sure to highlight new content so your employees don’t have to reread everything whenever a new version of the handbook is released.

Final thoughts

By creating a restaurant operations manual, you ensure that your restaurant can deliver a high standard of service for years to come. It can definitely be time-consuming to create one from scratch. But it’s well worth the investment! 

As we shared earlier, an operations manual that includes detailed information and procedures can help:

  • Support the onboarding process
  • Increase efficiency 
  • Improve the customer experience 
  • Accelerate business growth 
  • Provide guidelines for unexpected situations 

All of those things are essential to thriving in 2022! So, make time to create your manual as soon as you can to prepare for the new year. 

And if you want more tips on how to successfully run your business, check out our library of guides for business leaders and HR managers.

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