what is SOP

August 12, 2021 •

6 min reading

What is SOP - Standard Operating Procedure?

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When you have an idea to start a business, you create a business plan to describe the goals of your company and how you plan to reach them. From your marketing plan and financial information to employees, equipment needed, and planned methods of operations – a solid business plan is a clear roadmap of what your successful business will look like.

When it is time for your business to finally open, or in some cases, when it has been in business long enough for a tried-and-true testing of operational procedures, it is then time for you to create a SOP for the business.

With this 7-step process, you will have all the tools you need
to master your company Customer Experience.

What is SOP for the Hospitality Industry?

SOP refers to a standard operating procedure, which is the exact routine or procedure a hotel or other hospitality industry related business should follow to perform a specific task.

A standard operating procedure manual provides an employee with all the information needed and steps required to properly perform a job or task. It is a must to ensure all hotel and service industry employees are properly trained.

Most SOPs in the hotel industry include emergency situations, regulatory issues, legal liabilities, and of course, guest experiences. We find that there are two main categories of SOPs – operation and emergency. Here are some SOP examples from each category.

  • Operational Standard Operating Procedures – These tasks and procedures are related to the daily operations of the hotel and include such things as interactions with guests, especially those that may be required as part of local regulations.
  • Emergency Standard Operating Procedures - These tasks and procedures are related to the unique and extraordinary situations that seldom occur, which means fewer staff members may have actual experience responding to these cases. These are the type of procedures that are especially important to have SOPs to refer to in these rare cases.

Good SOPs are focused on alerting the hotel staff of what is expected during certain situations for a successful resolution. Documenting the procedures that will keep staff informed and trained to your property’s expected level of service and safety standards, a blueprint for success.


Why is a Standard Operating Procedures manual important for your hospitality business?

When there is a task to be performed in any department, you should be able to answer any employee or customer who asks, “What is the standard operating procedure?” Having a set SOP for each task is not only important, but it is crucial to effectively provide consistent, quality, and applaudable service in your hotel.

When a business takes the time to develop and implement standard operating procedures, it provides employees with the information needed to properly perform their job by giving a consistent, quality, product which helps keep the integrity of the brand stellar.

In fact, a SOP manual for your hotel is so important to your success and is such an integral part of maintaining the quality system, that all new employees should be trained per the standard operation procedures for their individual department via HR’s regularly updated policy manuals. These SOPs make training hotel staff so much easier due to the fact that the employees and trainers always have a written set of guidelines so that all tasks can be referred to as needed for consistent service.


Which departments need Standard Operating Procedures manuals and policies?

The easy answer is all of them. While having (and preparing) a set of SOPs for every task in each department may seem a bit overwhelming at first, it is truly crucial for organization, resolution, and ultimately the success of the hotel or brand. This is especially true if your hospitality business or hotel has numerous employees, departments and daily tasks, as it is important that everyone, in every location, is literally on the same page.

The Human Resources department is typically responsible for working with leaders in each department to ensure that there is a proper SOP in the company manual for the major tasks the department performs. These procedures should be used as a basis for training all new employees in each department, so that every member of staff is consistent on a daily basis at each location.

Here are some of the departments in your hotel and some of the tasks that should have a SOP in each area.


Hotel departments in need of a SOP for tasks

  • Front office – Check-in procedures, how to make a guest reservation, lost & found guest items, concierge services, guest etiquette.
  • Maintenance & engineering – Preventative maintenance for each area, requests from housekeeping, emergency breakdown situations, parking lot care.
  • Food & beverage – Opening and closing routines, beverage service, entertainment checks, greeting guests, serving alcohol, food prep routines.
  • Housekeeping – Making the beds, childcare, entering guest rooms, turn down service, cleaning guest rooms, handling of guest complaints.
  • Kitchen food production – Proper handling of chemicals around food, plate presentation, proper cooking equipment usage, safe food handling, sanitation, dishwashing.
  • Sales marketing – Setting room rates, hotel inspection, booking entertainment, marketing plan, convention and group sales/bookings, incentive plans, advertising the property.

These are just a few standard operating procedure examples of tasks performed in each department of a hotel. These are the types of tasks that need to be included in a standard operating procedure manual so that employees are properly trained, the guests are happy, and the property is successful in achieving its goals.

SOPs in the hospitality industry help your team by giving employees a valuable resource to refer to when training, performing, or looking for a resolution to an issue within the department.

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How to write a Standard Operating Procedure for your hospitality business

Before you attempt to write the SOP for your hotel or service-oriented business, it is important to have a clear meaning of the standard operating procedure definition so that you are aware of the task at hand.

The Miriam-Webster Dictionary lists the definition of standard operating procedures as: "An established or prescribed methods to be followed routinely for the performance of designated operations or in designated situations."

Savvy business owners and hospitality managers realize the need to effectively create a SOP for all departments and can assign this task to HR and department heads as a collaboration effort. Here are some tips to help you create effective SOPs for your hotel.


3 Tips to help you create effective SOPs for the hotel industry

  1. Determine departments in need of SOP – Do your research to determine the specific departments in the hotel that could benefit by having a standardized procedure in place. You can organize and define the areas by role/function, or even as simply as front of house/back of house.
  2. Research tasks that need SOP – The best way to learn which tasks need to be documented is to simply ask your team. They will know exactly what needs clarification and consistency. In addition, pay attention to important, repetitive tasks that require a step-by-step process and make those, as well as tasks that directly impact the guest experience and safety, a top priority when creating SOPs for your hotel.
  3. Document the proper procedure for the task – Work with department heads and those who have been doing the tasks daily for bet results. Note the specific steps to perform the task properly. Once the SOP is complete, a written or electronic manual with a collection of the hotel’s SOPs for each department should be created and distributed as needed. This collaborative process is then available for training purposes and helps the company be more efficient and consistent.


Using a SOP template

Once you have gathered all the pertinent information needed to document the procedure for each task in your hotel, you can begin to write the SOPs. Start by using a standard operating procedure template that will guide your documentation as well as keep all SOPs for the hotel in consistent form.

Utilizing a standard operating procedure template that consists of visual aids without being too wordy is the best approach. Examples of this style include the use of a standard operating procedures' checklist, bulleted lists of steps to complete the task, paragraphs including the instructions on how to properly perform the task, flowcharts, and even a combination of these styles to make an easy-to-understand manual.

Since your hotel’s standard operating procedure manual is unique, so are the options of the ways you can present it to your staff. While it is always a good idea to have a written copy of your SOP manual for reference, you can also make an electronic version available for your staff to access via their tablet or cellular phone.


Do not underestimate the importance of SOPs for your hotel

Standard operating procedures are important because they document tasks and workflows in each department. From highly involved guest relation procedures to simple daily routines to keep the property running smoothly, every detail of each documented step makes it easier to reach your desired outcome thanks to well-trained staff.

Taking the time to write a standard operating procedure for your hotel ensures that everyone is protected in your business – from your guests and employees to the owner of the business. Providing a system that encourages consistency, efficiency and safety is the sign of a successful operation that offers a truly competitive guest experience each and every time.


SERVICE EXCELLENCE: A 7-step process to master your company Customer Experience. 

1. Customer Behavior
2. Customer Culture
3. Service Design Roadmap
4. Customer-Focus Governance
5. Customer Service Goals
6. Employees Service Excellence Training
7. Service Performance & Continuously Improve