I have a quick question for you:
Have you ever ordered food at a restaurant you’ve been to many times before, only to have it come out this time with an extra serving of hair, nails or insects?
Or, if you ordered food at that same restaurant, only to have it arrive at your table cold, forty minutes later?
If you’ve been a long-time customer of this restaurant, how would you feel?
In most cases, angry, frustrated and disappointed. And if the situation repeats on your next visit, I’ll bet you won’t be going back to the same restaurant the next time you’re out for a meal.
Take a look at how this customer reacted when she found a cockroach in her Aglio Olio serving from a restaurant at Shah Alam.
For the business, this is really bad news. If they don’t make quick improvements to their food and service quality, they’ll likely lose all their most loyal customers and shutter their business.
But then, it might already be too late if news of customer’s experience has spread all over social media.
As a cafe or restaurant owner, this scenario is one that you’ll want to avoid completely or keep to a minimum if you want to keep your doors open.
So how do you make sure that your customers don’t end up with the experiences above and get served with the best quality food and drinks, and service each and every time they come?
The answer is by using SOPs, or Standard Operating Procedures. These are documented, step-by-step instructions of how things should be done at your business.
With SOPs in place, your waiters, kitchen staff and hosts will know exactly what to do every day to make sure food gets served and the restaurant or cafe runs smoothly.
If you are a small cafe or restaurant and feel like creating SOPs are a little extra, think again. For small businesses, keeping even one customer happy can make a huge difference for your business.
Regardless of your business size though, we think you should have an SOP.
How exactly can SOPs improve your business and more importantly, how can you start preparing for them?
Let’s take a look:
4 Ways SOPs Can Improve Your Cafe or Restaurant Business
#1. Keep your customers happy with high-quality food and service every time
The easiest way to lose a customer is to get them to pay for something they’re not happy with.
No matter how well your food and service have been in the past, delivering even a single bad experience may mean losing up to 90% of your customers forever.
By having SOPs in place, you’ll be able to keep your food and service consistent, even if you have 100 outlets across Malaysia.
If you think this is an impossible goal, take a look at how well McDonald’s is doing. Even with over 36,000 outlets worldwide, you’ll likely get served with the same quality of food, no matter if you are ordering from a McDonald’s in Kuala Lumpur, or in Singapore.
That’s because they have a 75-page SOPs manual in place to take care of every single part of the restaurant experience. Talk about dedication to quality!
#2. Quickly train new staff up to par
Without SOPs, you’ll have to rely solely on your existing staff to train new staff. Regardless of the size of your business, this is often a time-consuming process.
Without proper training, your new staff can put your business at risk by delivering a sub-par experience. Worse, you could be the victim of assault, like this restaurant owner in Penang who got robbed and beaten by a patron due to slow food delivery:
With SOPs in place, your existing staff can train up new people using the SOPs as a reference. On top of that, your new staff can also refer back to your SOPs anytime they encounter a problem.
All this just means you’ll be able to get your new staff up to speed without skipping a beat.
#3. Keep your kitchen and food clean and sanitary
Keeping your restaurant clean and sanitary is a basic requirement for an FnB business. Nobody wants to pay to get served some “extra ingredients”.
In fact, bad hygiene can cause you to lose your business entirely. Just take a look at what happened with Raj’s Banana Leaf in Bangsar:
After a video of their staff washing plates in dirty water, their business went south.
While we can’t be entirely sure what happened here, it’s quite possible that if they had SOPs in place, this incident could have been avoided and they would have been able to keep making money with their popular restaurant.
#4. SOPs make improvements easier and faster
Finally, SOPs make it much easier for you to make improvements to your restaurant or cafe.
Instead of having to overhaul your processes each and every time you come face to face with problems, SOPs allow you a place of reference where you can make tweaks where necessary.
With SOPs, you can identify the exact steps where improvements can be made and quickly pass on the necessary improvements to all the affected staff.
How to Create Effective SOPs for Your Cafe or Restaurant
By now, you might know that SOPs are important for your FnB business. But how do you go about creating SOPs that work?
Simply committing to creating SOPs for your cafe or restaurant doesn’t mean you’ll fully benefit from having them. You need to do it the right way.
Here’s how you can do that:
Step 1: Look into every area in detail of your operations
Every FnB business is different in its own way, but most of the time, they also share some main areas. Whether you run a cafe or restaurant, you’ll like to have the following in common:
- Customer service
- Food preparation
- Food serving
- Kitchen operations
- Kitchen cleanliness
Depending on the type of FnB business you’re running, you might add a lot more processes to this list. The key here is to look into as many processes as possible in detail.
This way, you’ll be able to cover a broad range of instructions. Once you’ve covered everything, you and your staff won’t be caught by surprise by any unexpected events that come your way!
Pro Tip: Streamline your operations by investing in an FnB-specialised POS System like GetSlurp. GetSlurp comes with all the features you need to streamline your Front Desk to Kitchen operations.
With Slurp, you can simplify some of your major kitchen and service SOPs:
Step 2: Be very specific with your SOP instructions and steps
Once you’ve identified all the areas where processes are involved, it’s time to get specific with instructions on what’s expected with each process.
The best way to do this is by observing and recording down the steps involved. Repeat this many times until you’re sure you’ve recorded every single step.
If you’re unsure how to get started, here are some specific SOPs with detailed steps you can emulate from:
Take this as a reference and modify them according to your own needs. Who knows? You might also be able to identify some blind spots in your processes.
Step 3: Train your staff to use them
The one mistake that a lot of Malaysian FnB owners make is that they keep their SOPs neatly filed in a folder in a room, instead of using them as an active training tool.
So once you’ve completed all your SOPs, you need to make time to train your staff to use them. Having SOPs in place which your staff isn’t using are as good as not having any at all.
Schedule time every week for training, ensuring that staff gets SOP training that matches their area of work.
Step 4: Get feedback and improve
While most business owners think that having SOPs in place is enough, sadly it isn’t. SOPs are best seen as a moving document that requires alterations over time.
Be open to receiving feedback from your staff about your SOPs. Get to know which areas they think the SOPs need improvements on and discuss with them on how to best make those changes.
Don’t be that boss who forces their staff to comply when it doesn’t make sense to them. This will only make your SOPs redundant over time when none of your staff are interested to use them.
Step 5: Run audits from time to time
Unfortunately, using SOPs don’t come naturally to most people in Malaysia. This is why you’ll need to have audits in place to ensure that your staff is using the SOPs to run their processes.
If this is the first time you are implementing SOPs, you’ll need to run the audits at least once a month to make sure your staff isn’t slacking off.
After some time, you may reduce the frequency to an audit every quarter and then every six months.
The key thing here is to ensure there is always an audit schedule in place. Without one, it’s easy for people to start looking at the SOPs as just pieces of paper.
Step 6: Set an example
Finally, there are few things worse than an owner who instructs their staff to do things one way and end up doing it quite another way.
If you want your staff to follow your SOPs, you must be committed to set an example by sticking to them at all times too. This way, your staff will know you’re serious and remind themselves to take them seriously too.
Always remember: building a culture of quality, safety and service always come from the top management.
Whether you are an up and coming new cafe or restaurant, or an established FnB business looking to streamline your operations, you’ll want to have SOPs in place if you want to keep your food and service quality consistent.
With SOPs, it doesn’t matter if you have just one outlet of one thousand outlets, your staff at every single one will know exactly what to do in their areas of expertise.
While it may not look like it to the naked eye, running a cafe and restaurants can be complex. With SOPs in place, you’ll be able to simplify your processes and quickly make improvements to them according to customer and staff feedback.
Finally, having SOPs in place can give your cafe or restaurant an edge over your competitors who don’t. When their processes fail, guess where their customers will be bringing their business?
Let us know: how many SOPs do you have in your FnB business now? How has SOPs changed your business?