What is an SOP anyway?


The Hospitality Industry is not a simple one. At its essence, hospitality is about creating a consistent yet flexible experience that feels personal to your guests. All while being efficient.

Now how do you maintain that consistency and efficiency in an industry that, according to the ONS (link to raw data), has the highest staff turnover of all industries?

The answer, structure. And that is documented in a set of Standard Operating Procedures – the SOP.

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So what is an SOP and why do you need one?

Simply put, an SOP is a set of guidelines and rules that standardise all the core operations of a business. If done well, would allow someone to run your entire business, with no prior experience, just by following the SOP.

It details not just the entire guest experience and preparation steps for your product but the hiring, training, marketing, accounting – every facet of your business. It makes your business efficient, consistent and robust – so why do so few businesses give it the time it deserves? Because it’s a lot of work!

It does not get done in one go. Even when you have written everything down and our first SOP is complete it’s not done. It’s a living, breathing document.

So where do you start?

Putting an SOP together

Their are 4 tiers to an SOP:

Division -> Functions -> Processes -> Procedures.


First, divide your business into the core elements that are needed to run your business. They are true for any type of business. In our Coffee Shops we like to call these the 6Ps:



Next, ask what are the business functions for each Division? Business functions are the building blocks that make up each Division.

If we take Product as an example within a coffee shop, this covers the product and how it is delivered. It may include the following Functions:



Once you have your core functions you need to build out all of the processes that are involved in them.

If we take the FoH Operations Function as an example, it may include the following processes:



Each process within a function has a procedure – these procedures are what makes up the SOP.


List out and detail the steps involved in the process

Only consider the best-case scenario here to avoid complicating things, questions you may want to ask include:

    • What is the trigger and what materials or information do we need to start?
    • What does the final product delivery look like?
    • What are the timings for each step?
    • Who is responsible for each step?
    • What records or reporting needs to be completed?
    • When is it complete, what does complete look like?

How to handle problems and edge cases

It would be nice if things always went smoothly, the truth is they don’t. Now you need to look at what could go wrong in your process, step-by-step. For each step think about the following:

    • What could delay or stop this step from being completed?
    • For each scenario, what is the alternative process?


Putting it all together

So we have the basic structure of an SOP and in case you were wondering, Yes! It is going to be a huge undertaking and one a lot of folders to hold that information in.

My advice is to plan out all of your Divisions and Functions first. For us that includes:

6 Divisions
24 Functions
200+ Processes

When we first opened we only had 36 Processes – and most of these were quickly typed up on a single sheet of A4 paper. So don’t try to do it all. Go through your core Functions and list out the fundamental and key Processes that are involved in each.

This is not something that is done overnight. As I said at the beginning, this is a living breathing document and as your business grows and you become more consistent and efficient, so will your SOP.

We will be doing a running blog series going through our SOP in detail. Hopefully, it will save you some time in doing yours. Believe it or not, writing it is easy, the difficult part – actually doing it all consistently.

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