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A Brief Guide to Creating Your Cafe’s Operation Manual

Go From Chaos And Overwhelm To Calm And In Control

The biggest challenge most owners face is running a business which they feel they have control of while also giving a consistent level of service to customers whether they’re there or not.

These issues are really symptoms of a lack of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s), which can be boiled down to not clearly stating the procedure of how every task is to be performed by each person who works in the premises from owner to staff.

While this may sound like a lot of work, not doing it is creating a mountain of problems for the business, the staff and most likely you if you’re the owner.


Let’s discuss this a little further…The Problem for the Business

The business is operated in a haphazard way, there’s a lack of direction and it’s unprofessional as there’s no consistency in how the customer is served, how it’s opened, closed, cleaned, how coffee and food is made and all the other aspects that go into making the business function properly.

The Problem for the Staff…

For the staff they are having to create their own ways of doing things, they are lacking any real leadership or direction. They will generally feel like they are undervalued and possibly that the owner does not care about them. This causes resentment and high staff turnover.

The Problem for the Owner …

For the owner the problems feel insurmountable. They find they are trying to do everything themselves, they can’t work out why their staff are so incompetent. They feel like they are the only ones who can “do it right” which is correct as they’ve not trained their team on how they want the business to be run. An owner like this will be exhausted, stressed out and feel completely out of control. Instead of the owner controlling the business it’s controlling them. This will generally result in burnout and or business failure.

How this then affects the customer…

It affects the customer experience negatively as there is no consistency. The staff may be overwhelmed and to the customer, look like they’re incompetent. Staff will often get orders wrong so there will be food and beverage wastage and the customer will have to wait longer for their order. This will result in an overall negative experience. Two things will happen 1 – they do not return and 2 – they will also tell people not to go to your business. Bad reputations are incredibly difficult to change.

Creating your Operations Manual

It’s like writing an instruction manual. If you (I’m assuming you’re an owner) write a manual and gave it to someone on the street (someone who has cafe experience) could they run the business without you needing to be there? This is the depth of information that is needed.

It does not matter if you are already open and operating in the way I have laid out above or you are in the process of launching. Start by getting a notebook. On every page list the areas which will need to have a process (one process per page) then simply list the best way to perform each and every task in your business.

If you’re already operating, a great way to do it is to note every area you see a conflict during the day. Then at night note what the conflicts were and how you can fix it. This will become you new SOP which will need to be introduced to the staff.

Implementation the SOP’S with Your Team

Your staff may be used to doing things their own way, which is why it’s important you explain why you want to implement the procedures how they will help to better run the business and how it will give the customer an experience which is consistent and professional.

If you are in the pre opening phase it’s better to start with as many of your SOP’s in place before opening. You can introduce ones you did not consider once you are open. You’ll also be able to, in fact you will need to make periodic updates to your SOP’s as you find better ways of performing a particular job.

Pre-Opening Procedures to Launch With

Here are some of the big procedures which you should have in place and train your launch team before you open. If you have never been involved in a restaurant of cafe launch before it’s incredibly chaotic.

Put into place as many procedures as possible before you open, and get your staff up to speed with the way you want them performing those procedures. The Customer will get a far better experience. They will be more likely to come back if you and the team look like you know what you are doing (even if this is not how you feel).

Here are several procedures for you to launch with – there will be more, which you need to think of…

  • Coffee – Hold a full training session with all baristas so they are know the exact timings, weights, milk texturing and temperatures for each beverage. Do a tea and hot chocolate training as well
  • Food – How will this be presented? portion sizes, prep methods, storage etc.
  • How do customer order? Table or counter service and how to get people to make a second orders, of coffee or cake after a meal?
  • Opening procedures – How many staff will you need, when will you open and close what time will you be doing meals? Do you close at any time during the day?
  • Closing procedures – cabinet cleaning, floor, toilets kitchen, front of house, coffee machine cleaning, cashing off etc.
  • OH&S (Occupational Health and Safety) fridge temperatures, rubbish, food handling certificates for staff
  • Regular cleaning procedures the entire shop must have a deep clean at leas every week, break it down into daily tasks.
  • Cashing Off – be very specific about this you may want to cash off yourself to develop a bulletproof system.
  • How to change your displays during the day to maximize sales – ensure you are changing your display after breakfast, morning, lunch and again for the afternoon to maximize impulse purchases at the till.
  • There are so many more, sales procedures, uniform, staff breaks, pay, greeting customers, Suppliers etc.

Starting with these procedures may be enough to get you started, but it’s vital to develop a procedure for every duty that is performed more than once. This may sound like it’s constricting but it’s not, it gives the whole operation a powerful framework on which the business can be built.

You will be able to develop a reputation that your business is professional and consistent with great customer service. It will give you the freedom to delegate to your team who will know exactly what’s expected of them. And it’ll allow you to work on other cornerstones which are going to need to have more of you attention.

A Warning, You can’t spend the time you need working the final two cornerstones if you haven’t got this one in place first!

Once you have you SOP’s in place it’s essential that you have your own system to check that procedures are done. It is human nature to relax once the pressure is off so it is up to you to keep people’s feet to the fire.

A great way to make sure it’s being done is to have staff sign a sheet with date and time and if necessary any notes, even then I would do an occasional full premises check to make sure you are happy with the way the processes are performed. People who are not checked will drop their standards. Doing several shifts in the business each week will also allow you to keep a tight reign on the way staff are performing.

To maintain the standards, give regular weekly training so staff are up to speed on the latest procedural updates. Give them the details on how to perform the duty and allow them to practice them or ask any clarifying questions they may have. This will also give your staff a chance to raise any issues they may have noticed that need your direction or further consideration on.

An added benefit of this is that as staff become better at performing the tasks you can assign them the responsibility of ownership by delegating tasks to them. As I have mentioned, this does not negate that you need to continually check that everything is done to the standards (attention to detail is vital) but it allows you to be less in the day to day operation and allow you more time to focus on the final two cornerstones that focus on developing and growing the business. which we will get to in the next few posts…

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