Managing and operating a restaurant is an overwhelmingly complex job. On top of achieving target sales, you need to ensure that your customers are satisfied and that your staff members are following multiple standard operating procedures. The lack of documented standards can lead to the inconsistent and randomized implementation of procedures in product preparation and service to your customers, which could lead to unsatisfied customers and your restaurant losing business. To address this, you need to document standards in a restaurant operations manual.

What is a restaurant operations manual?

The restaurant operations manual is a comprehensive documentation of all pertinent and relevant information, standards, process, and systems needed to operate your restaurant. This manual is the reference of your staff when they need to perform tasks or procedures in your restaurants. All guidelines, procedures, standards, checklists, descriptions should be documented in your restaurant operations manuals to guide your staff in their day-to-day job. This means that you need to create multiple sections in the operations manual to ensure that all sectors of running the business are documented. 

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What business components to include in your restaurant operations manual

The restaurant operations manual is not just simply the documentation of your restaurant’s operating procedures, it is the bible and main reference in running your entire restaurant business. All aspects of the restaurant business that require tasks that need to be done by your staff and managers should be included in your restaurant operations manual. These are the components of your restaurant business that need to be included in the manual: 

  • Restaurant concept
  • Human resource
  • Product preparation
  • Service implementation
  • Customer experience
  • Equipment maintenance
  • Food safety
  • Cleanliness and sanitation
  • Safety procedures
  • Inventory management
  • Marketing management
  • Handling technology
  • Quality management

What are the steps in creating a restaurant operations manual?

1. Divide the manual into sections

Because there are a lot of interweaving systems and processes in restaurant operations, the first step is listing them down and grouping all similar subjects. You can also group tasks that are done by the same staff. For instance, food preparation procedures should be in the same document where food safety protocols and raw material holding time standards are. Another example is that the service standards should be in the same document where the customer experience guidelines are because both service and customer experience standards are done by the service staff. 

2. Write user-friendly content

Each section of the manual should explain why this section is documented in a manual. Your team must be informed that certain standards are set to meet business goals and requirements and that they are the key implementers of these standards. Your team will likely follow your standards if they know why they need to do tasks in certain ways and putting this in the introduction will help you in the execution. 

Next is to write each process with detailed procedures. The restaurant operations manual will be the reference when you hire new staff. While some procedures seem to be too straightforward such as “greet the customer” for senior members, new staff might need more details and even step-by-step procedures. It is important to write how they need to do the greeting, what are the gestures that they need to do when greeting a customer, and what are the appropriate greetings they can use in your restaurant. You may also complement this with illustrations or photos to make it more user-friendly.

You also need to ensure that your content is easy to read and easy to follow. For step-by-step procedures, use a number list instead of paragraphs. You may also consider using bullet points for critical standards that need to be memorized by your staff.

3. Allow users to review the content

After writing the sections of the restaurant operations manual, allow your staff team members to read them and solicit their feedback. You can also allow new hires to read the manual before they start their official training schedule. This will let you know how you can improve your manual to be more friendly to its users. You may ask them if there are sections that are difficult to understand and ask them what their suggestions are to make it more user-friendly. Remember that if your staff members do not find the manual useful, the standards will not be followed and implemented in your restaurant.

What is the content of restaurant operations manuals?

Company introduction

Your company should be the first content of your restaurant operations manual to introduce your company to your employees. In this section, you can include your company’s mission, vision, and core values. This introductory information creates a sense of responsibility and accountability that your employees will live by while working in your restaurant. Sharing a little history of your restaurant and how important your staff members are in the growth of your business to give them pride in their work.

Restaurant concept

The restaurant concept section is where you explain what type of restaurant you are running, who your customers are, what kind of foodservice do you provide, what your core products are, and what your brand speaks about. You need to be specific in describing your restaurant concept because this will set the tone for the next sections of the restaurant operations manual. For instance, if you are a fine dining restaurant, you may mention that your customers are expected to follow a certain dress code. This detail will also influence your staff members to be more mindful of their appearance to be aligned with your brand and restaurant concept. 

Restaurant organization structure

The restaurant organization structure section of the restaurant operations manual shows the hierarchy of staff members in your restaurant. It gives an overview of what one person is in charge of, to whom they report, and how many members do they need to manage. It will also allow your staff member to know to whom they report and escalate certain situations in the restaurants. For instance, if there are damaged raw materials, the stockman will know that this needs to be reported to the production manager, not the service manager. 

Roles and responsibilities

Knowing the roles and responsibilities of your staff members allows them to identify which tasks they are accountable and responsible for. For instance, if your wait staff knows that food preparation is the responsibility of the chef and when there are specific customer inquiries on food preparation, it would be better to let the customer directly talk to the production manager rather than giving answers that your waiter is not knowledgeable of. This will result in better customer service because your customers are assured of how their food was prepared and how well the situation was handled.

It will also allow them to know which people to collaborate with especially during peak hours. If there are responsibilities listed in your manual but no one is currently handling them, your staff team members can volunteer to your managers that there are tasks that they need to do because of manpower shortage. 

Product preparation standards

The product preparation standards section is the longest portion of the restaurant operations manual. It contains the comprehensive and step-by-step procedures of opening, operating, and closing processes of all menu items. This section aims to ensure that products are cooked and assembled consistently all the time.

For every menu item, you need to create a list of opening procedures that they need to do before you open your restaurant to customers. This includes cooking or raw materials, transferring of stocks to stations, preparation of tools and utensils, and pre-heating of equipment. 

During the operating hours, the preparation, cooking, and assembly instructions of each menu item your restaurant is offering need to be enumerated. Each step also highlights critical parameters that need to be done during the cooking process. This is the most critical part of the food preparation section because it will enable your team to produce consistently high-quality products when using this section. 

The closing procedures refer to the list of tasks the staff needs to accomplish before clocking out. This includes the specific cleaning instructions in the kitchen, the processes to turn off the cooking equipment as well as menu profitability analysis by the upper management. It may also include refilling of raw materials that will be processed the following day. 

Service implementation processes

The service implementation section discusses the service standards that need to be followed by your restaurant’s service staff. It includes a detailed description of the type of service you are providing to your customers. Here are some questions that you need to consider when writing this section:

  • How do your service staff receive customers?
  • What is the proper way to greet your customers? 
  • What is the standard method of taking orders? 
  • Are there specific suggestive selling techniques that need to be implemented?
  • What are the standard key performance indicators that need to be met by your service staff? 
  • What are the opening and closing procedures for the dining area?

This section ensures that you are giving a fast and friendly service to your customers while addressing their needs and wants according to their requirements and expectations. 

Customer experience standards

The customer experience section talks in detail about what matters to the customer when visiting your restaurant. The primary objective of this section is to keep your customer happy so that they keep on returning to your restaurant for another transaction. It includes the requirements of customers that need to be met to achieve satisfactory or even exceptional customer service. It may also include how the customers want to be engaged and how they want to be served. 

If you are a quick-service restaurant, you may say in this section that speed and convenience are what your customers are looking for and you now need to list down the tasks that your staff need to do to deliver speed and convenience for your customers. If you are a coffee shop with regular customers, you may want to list down tasks that need to be considered by your cashiers when taking orders from regular customers and include tips on how to personalize service to senior and new customers. 

Equipment maintenance

In the equipment maintenance section, the proper usage, repair, and maintenance procedures are discussed. Operating costs can be decreased when staff members know how to properly use and maintain your kitchen equipment. It also allows you to increase the equipment life if these are timely maintained and repaired. It starts with the standard instruction on how to turn on, turn off, and use the cooking equipment. Next, you can talk about the indicators if there are minor damages and errors encountered, equipment warranty coverage, and how the staff should address them. The right way to spot major breakdowns will allow your staff to know when they need to call an expert to repair them and when they can do minor repair steps. 

You also need to include the schedule and procedures of cleaning vents, filters, and exhaust systems to ensure that your production area is also safe from fire hazards. If there are special chemicals needed to maintain your equipment, this information also needs to be discussed in this section. 

Food safety procedures

The food safety section contains the information and regulation that need to be followed to ensure that the food being served to customers is prepared in a safe environment. It starts with an introduction of how raw materials and food can get contaminated and the impact of contamination on customers. Then detailed information about temperature danger and safe zones, proper food handling, correct food storage, personal hygiene, and tips to avoid contamination in the production area are discussed. To make this section more interactive for your team, you may create a quiz-type assessment to ensure that they were able to retain important information.

Cleanliness and sanitation processes

In this section, the procedures for keeping the cleanliness and sanitation of your restaurant are enumerated. All elements in your customer area such as tables, chairs, floor and carpet, fixtures, and eating utensils should be covered. The cleaning procedures ensure that these elements are free from physical dirt and trash. Then the sanitation instructions ensure that no germs and bacteria are thriving and growing in these elements. Usually, the cleaning and sanitation procedures in the dining area are standard across different elements but you also need to specify if there are elements with specific cleaning instructions that your staff need to look out for. For instance, if several hardwood dining tables require special cleaning oil, you need to include them in this section to maintain the cleanliness of your restaurant’s customer area. 

Customer and employee safety procedures

The customer and employee safety procedures list several scenarios that could endanger your customers and employees in the restaurant and the actions that need to be followed to ensure business continuity. It may also include first-aid procedures that can be administered for minor injuries that can happen with your employees and customers. 

If there are scenarios that require assistance from public offices such as robbery and fire, your staff need to know the first steps that they need to do. Do they need to turn off the main outlet first or do they need to call for assistance first? When do they need to implement an evacuation plan in your restaurant? Who should be the last person to leave the vicinity to ensure that there are no customers or employees left? 

Because the primary objective of this section is to ensure the safety of your customers and employees, you need to think of all the worst scenarios that could happen in your restaurant and should they be dealt with. 

Inventory management

In this section, the correct handling, usage, receiving, and storing of raw materials are tackled. The main objective of this section is to ensure that you have enough stocks to serve your customers during operating hours. You can create a list of raw materials that need to be stored in freezers, chillers, and dry stock rooms. If there are maintaining quantities that need to be monitored, you need to enumerate them in this section so that your staff will have a document to refer to. 

You may also create a checklist that needs to be accomplished when accepting deliveries. Also, if your staff needs to manually count high-value items such as cooking oils and frozen seafood being received from your supplier, include that in this section. You may also write the list of instructions they need to follow if they need to reject some items from your supplier. 

The proper storing and stacking of raw materials in your storage should also be discussed in this section. If there are limits on stacking heights per item that must be itemized to minimize quality deterioration in your storage, you may also add photos to make this section more user-friendly. You can add any information or guideline that can be referred to to maximize your storage space. 

Marketing management

The marketing management section aims to grow your business by attracting more customers or by increasing the average check of your transactions. You may include some tips on how to create an enticing menu board that will attract your customers to order high-profit items and to encourage them to order more items to increase average check. 

You may also include promotions that can entice your customers to order frequently such as loyalty programs wherein customers can get free items when doing multiple visits in a week. If you have a list of email addresses of your customers, you may also create a template that can be sent in email newsletters of your promotions to encourage them to dine in your restaurant. 

Handling technology

The handling technology section refers to all systems and software used to run your operations. These are the detailed task checklist on how to use the systems and software to promote efficiency in your restaurant. It includes the point-of-sale system where you punch all orders you have received during your operating hours. If you are using customer relationship management (CRM) to handle your loyalty and marketing programs, you may need to include screenshots on how to launch promotions. If there are generated reports for your inventory and sales variances, you may also need to give tips on how to generate insights from these reports such as the steps they need to follow if there are discrepancies in the reports or if the variances are out of the acceptable range. Having a list of procedures in using handling technologies in your restaurant will ensure that you can reap out the operational benefits of implementing these. 

Quality management

The last section of the restaurant operations manual is quality management. This section discusses how the quality mindset is implemented in your restaurant. All the standards, instructions, task checklists, and procedures in the previous sections aim to deliver a consistently high-quality product and service to your customers. If those are all followed and imbibed in your staff’s daily routine, there will be minimal disruptions in your operations and you can focus on attracting more customers. 

The quality mindset creates an ambiance where every team member champions quality in their tasks. It also allows your team to suggest ways to improve processes in your restaurant. Your restaurant managers should be aware that it is their responsibility to ensure that quality is practiced by all your staff members. 


Creating a restaurant operations manual may overwhelm you because of the details and tasks that you need to document but if done correctly and completely, your restaurant business will definitely benefit from it. Your restaurant will be consistent in all its aspects because standards operating processes are in place and there is a document they can refer to when they need to. Training new employees will also become easier because all processes and guidelines are documented. 

To ensure that your restaurant operations manual is kept relevant, always update it when there are changes in your standard operating procedures and include all the rationale why procedures need to be followed and the impact on your customers and the business. 

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