How to Create a Foodservice Procedures Manual

Consistency of execution is one of the most important elements of a successful foodservice program. If your stores are not preparing recipes identically, or if your employees are not all receiving the same training, foodservice programs will suffer. Slowly but surely, product and service consistency erodes, and dollar sales and profits decline.

No matter if you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced foodservice operator, a foodservice procedures manual is vitally important and will not vary very much in content. As operators are in the foodservice business longer, their manuals will become more robust as their menu offerings and businesses expand, but the fundamental elements and topical chapters remain the same.

To achieve consistency, operators must train all foodservice and store employees exactly the same way so the company's expectations and standards are clearly delineated, understood and executed. The best way to ensure this happens is to create a customized foodservice procedures manual for the company, which serves as a blueprint of your program and specifically addresses all areas of training and execution. Foodservice manuals should be updated annually or as frequently as new products are introduced, new equipment is purchased and/or regulations are changed, according to Convenience Store News' How To Crew experts.

Hot Tips

  • Make sure you have a foodservice operations manual and that all stakeholders understand that the words and principles in the manual are "law." If someone has a question about how to do something regarding foodservice operations, the answer is or should be, "It's in the procedures manual."
  • Don't allow the manuals to be placed on a shelf in the manager's office to collect dust. Ensure it is used to train all new employees and read through by all new managers. Operational supervisors should read through the guide as well, since they are the ones ultimately responsible for the program's consistency of execution and success.
  • A good procedures manual has all the sections an associate would need to do the job, but with very simple instructions. Pictures are key.
  • Keep it simple and use bullet points to make it easy to read and capture information quickly and easily. Also document all training.
  • Be specific. Don't use words like, "Have a good attitude" or "Be friendly." Instead, state that the expectation is to greet the customer within five seconds of entering the store and script how you want employees to greet customers coming in and leaving your stores. Tell them exactly how you want them to be friendly.
  • Make sure the manual flows from the most important elements employees need to know to those of lower focus and importance.

Foodservice operations manuals are typically written and maintained at the corporate level with input from store and field staff and vendors. While the information typically comes from the foodservice department, your operations, training and human resources departments should actually maintain the manual and keep it updated, some experts state.

Other experts said the manuals should be maintained by the director of foodservice or a corporate chef, depending on the structure of the organization.

Regardless, most experts agree that the procedures manual should be an entirely collaborative effort involving every department with responsibility for the success of the foodservice program.

These corporate procedures manuals should not be confused with in-store quick reference guides, which are also important but developed for in-store reference and support. Of course, information for quick reference guides should be pulled from the core foodservice manual to ensure all information that employees use in-store is identical to what employees are trained with in the manual. Those who write and maintain the manuals should be extremely detail oriented and take pride in precision. The foodservice business is as much about hospitality as it is precision and consistency.

Chapter Topics
So, what information should a good foodservice procedures manual contain? It should have chapters and sections that are very specific about recipes, product receiving procedures, rotation of inventory, food safety, training, cleaning schedules, shift duties, production and spoilage reports, specific equipment manufacturer care and cleaning details.

One How To Crew expert offered the following elements as critical topics to include:

  • Detailed pictures of what products looks like before, during and after preparation;
  • Simple but detailed instructions on how to make the product;
  • Simple but detailed instructions on how to properly store the product. Does it go in the freezer, cooler, storage room before being prepared, etc.;
  • Temperature logs for various food products;
  • Spoilage instructions;
  • Time studies. How long should it take an employee to do a specific task (see "A Sample Time Study" on page 50);
  • Pricing guidelines;
  • Planograms with pictures;
  • Vendor ordering instructions and inventory procedures;
  • Cleaning procedures and schedules;
  • Other aspects of food safety and sanitation; and
  • Quality control.

A good foodservice operations manual should also clearly outline the company's philosophy and mission so employees fully understand the heart and soul of the organization as well as its procedures.

"It should include an introduction that lays out the guiding principles of the organization's philosophy of foodservice," said Mathew Mandeltort of Technomic Inc., a foodservice consultancy based in Chicago. "After that, it should cover every aspect of successfully operating a unit from a foodservice perspective, from the moment the door opens to the moment it closes."

The manual should include the full menu offering, daily operating procedures, opening setup and closing breakdown procedures, quality standards and checklists for each daypart and foodservice section (beverages, hot food prep, grab-and-go merchandisers, steam tables, soup stations, etc.). Product safety and sanitation guidelines should also be spelled out, and include everything from food storage and preparation to inspection logs and hand washing.

Customer service expectations should be detailed as well, including the importance of a positive attitude, and how to take and place orders so all employees understand the importance of quality/service/cleanliness/value (QSCV) and the hospitality mindset.

"The manuals are a codification of an organization's foodservice mission, a teaching tool and a source for all foodservice program-related knowledge," Mandeltort said. "It also functions as an encyclopedia of foodservice operations. If someone has a question as to how something is done in foodservice – who are approved vendors, how to set up the steam table, how frequently coolers are cleaned out – the ops manual is the repository of that information."

Resources of Information
For operators that want to write their own manuals, simply Googling "Restaurant Operations Manual" will yield an abundance of results to review and replicate. Websites such as also have sample operations manuals available. The National Restaurant Association's ServSafe training program is another important resource regarding food safety and sanitation.

The CSNews How To Crew is divided about whether to hire outside experts to help write the manual or use internal resources. Those in favor of using internal resources recommend tapping into supplier expertise for guidance.

A Sample Time Study
Below is an example of a time study for making doughnuts at one convenience store retailer's foodservice operation. This particular chain performs and publishes time studies in their operations/procedures manual for the most important foodservice tasks in their stores.

Job Description Time Allowed
Turn oven on and review and write plan for production list. 5 minutes
Retrieve doughnut product from freezer and set up for thawing. 20 minutes
Prepare production area for production; fill glazer, icings and condiments. Dump old product in showcase. 10 minutes
Thaw product. 45-60 minutes
Use this time to clean doughnut case; make brownies, cinnamon swirls and cookies. Check for outdates on thaw-and-sell product. 60 minutes
Run production on doughnut product (heating product, glazing, icing and finishing). 55 minutes
Wash glazer and baking pans and grill inserts. 10 minutes
Place product in the showcase. 10 minutes
Sweep and mop floor. Wipe tables down and clean production area. 10 minutes

"There are many sources that a company could pay for, but overall we find [that] just by getting input from vendors, stores and the field, you can write a pretty detailed plan," one retail expert said. "The vendor community is probably one of the best to utilize. There is no cost associated with it and most of them have already done the work and are very happy to help with it. I would only recommend paying a company to do a manual if you are in the very advanced stages of foodservice and run a program like a QSR [quick-service restaurant]. At that level, the program may be too detailed to do without outside help."

Our How To Crew
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Eric Giandelone,
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Kane Kulas,
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Larry Miller,
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Convenience Store News' How To Do World-Class Foodservice report is researched and written by Maureen Azzato, a freelance content developer and editor with more than 20 years of business publishing experience, with a primary focus on foodservice and retailing. Previously she was the founding publisher and editorial director of On-the-Go Foodservice, a publication for cross-channel retail foodservice executives, and publisher and editorial director of CSNews, where she worked for 17 years.

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