Are you starting a hotel business? If YES, here is a 6-step guide on how to create a standard operating procedures manual for your hotel. The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) of a hotel is a set of written instructions that document a routine or repetitive activity that is followed by a particular hotel establishment.

SOP helps in maintaining quality, consistency of service and standard in your hotel. A hotel standard operating procedure (SOP) protects your staff, your guests, and your business by structuring your operations for efficiency, accuracy, safety and consistency.

In an industry with high employee turnover, these procedures keep staff aligned with your property’s ideal service and safety standards. SOPs also make training staff much easier because they serve as a fixed set of rules and steps to follow that you can consistently refer back to.

The standard operating procedure of your hotel also ensures that your hotel maintains a competitive guest experience. When guests stay at your property, they want a consistent experience. Especially for return guests, any inconsistencies in service or procedures can have a negative influence on their perception of your property.

The development and use of SOPs are an integral part of a successful quality system as it provides individuals with the information to perform a job properly, and facilitates consistency in the quality and integrity of the product. It is a must that all newly recruited hotel staff should be given proper training on your hotel standard operating procedure.

Additionally, a standard operating procedure (SOP) is a shared set of instructions that describe how to complete a specific task at a hotel. Think of it like a recipe: each step must be followed to obtain the end result, and when each step is followed consistently, it comes out the same way – regardless of who makes it. It’s also about safety: when each step in the recipe is followed, the dish should be edible and safe to eat.

In other words, your hotel standard operating procedure are the recipes that keep your operations running smoothly, safely, and efficiently –  regardless of which employees are working during a particular shift.

SOPs are also more than just checklists. They document workflows that may reach across departments and often involve high-visibility, high-risk, or otherwise high-impact routines. And, just like a recipe, they detail each step so that it’s clear how to get the desired outcome.

How to Write a Hotel Standard Operating Procedure Manual in 6 Steps

Quite unfortunately, many hotels neglect to prioritize their standard operating procedure until it’s too late. In many cases, it only becomes apparent that a standard operating procedure is needed after a dangerous, embarrassing, or costly incident has already occurred. So don’t wait to get started on writing your hotel standard operating procedure. It’s worth the investment.

For independent hoteliers and hosts just getting started, it can be intimidating to begin building standard operating procedures, but don’t let that in anyway stop you from getting started. You are advised to start small, build momentum, and enjoy the process.

You’ll be surprised at how much you learn about your operation, and how effective these procedures can be at improving operational excellence and overall profitability. Here is a standard process of how you can write your standard operating procedure (SOP).

1. Identify areas that will benefit from the standard operating procedure

The very first step to building a standard operating procedure is to identify specific areas that could benefit from your standardized procedure. In smaller independent hotels, there may be less distinction between departments, so this process could be broken down by either role or function.

It could also simply be divided by front-of-house and back-of-house. But if you run a bigger hotel establishment, then you ought to create your standard operating procedure by department. For each department, follow these steps to identify areas, roles, or tasks that could benefit from standard operating procedures:

  • Ask staff for their input. Your employees will know better than anyone which processes could benefit from more clarity and consistency.
  • Make a list of common routines. Look for repetitive tasks that require precision and safety/legal processes that should follow a set step-by-step procedure.
  • Prioritize by impact. You want to start with the areas that are of high visibility and high-impact. These are usually the areas that directly impact the guest experience (like the front desk), as well as staff safety, crisis communications and disaster preparedness.

You should end up with a list of at least 2-3 key processes for each department that reflects the most often-repeated and highest-visibility tasks.

2. Find out the recipient of your SOP

When writing your hotel standard operating procedure, you need to put the end-user first so that the procedure is accurate, relevant, and easy-to-use. This is especially important when it comes to safety-related SOPs that may be used under difficult circumstances, for example, an injury or natural disaster.

3. Determine of you will have a language barrier

Are there any language barriers? If so, consider using images alongside the text, for example, use a map with arrows pointing to exits for fire escape routes. SOPs are useless if the end-user can’t understand them.

4. Put it to writing

It is now time to document the procedure. The easiest way to begin is to talk to staff and observe how a task is currently being done. Then, write down the specific steps and modify them if necessary, before finalizing the steps into a shareable SOP. The observation process encourages staff involvement and offers a direct view of how employees do their work. A collaborative process makes it more likely that staff will find the SOPs useful.

5. Use standard formatting processes

As far as formatting your hotel standard operating procedures, some may be simple checklists, while others are numbered steps or bulleted lists, or even made up of multiple components and paragraphs of instructions. As a general rule, try to make the SOPs visual and not too word heavy, so that they’re easy to read and use. In the case of more intricate SOPs, you may consider using a flowchart to help staff quickly assess the right path to take.

The SOP format really depends on the complexity of the procedure, as well as how staff will be accessing it (e.g. paper versus tablet or mobile). And, even though having digital copies of SOPs is useful and helps with widespread accessibility, it’s also recommended that you have several laminated SOP printouts around the property in case the power goes out.

6. Test for functionality

When you are done with writing your hotels standard operating procedure, it is advisable to test it out. This is especially done if you doubt the workablility of some factors your penned down. Put your SOP in the hands of a new staff member to see if it’s written in a way that can be easily understood and implemented.

Important Points to Include in your Hotel’s Standard Operating Procedure Manual

While hotels vary in style and service, their general policies are usually similar. Standard operating procedures keep the establishment running smoothly and increase the odds that guests will have a positive experience and would want to come back for another stay.

These are the points you need to include in your hotel’s standard operating procedure to make sure it is effective.

1. Check-In Procedures

The front desk is the hub of activity for any hotel, and yours too. Guests enter the lobby and approach the front desk to secure a room. The front desk clerk should ask for identification to confirm the patron’s identity, assign him a room and presents him with a room key. Hotels have set check-in times when rooms will be ready for guests.

You can request an earlier check-in time when you make your reservations, but these are granted solely at the hotel’s discretion. Patrons who arrive too late, without notifying the hotel, might find that their room has been given to another guest. All these need to be stated out in your SOP.

2. Check-Out Procedures

Each hotel has its policies that govern guest check-out procedures. The check-out time is posted on the back of the hotel room door and must be obeyed unless guests want to risk being charged for another day’s residency.

Patrons may request a later check-out time, which is granted at the discretion of management and may incur an extra fee. When guests are ready to check out they just approach the front desk, request their itemized bill and pay their balance.

Some hotel chains use mobile apps to help speed frequent guests through the check in and check out process. Joining the hotel’s loyalty program is a good way to breeze through check-ins too. Often, big chains will have a separate, prioritized line reserved solely for members of their loyalty program.

3. Housekeeping Services

Housekeeping service during a guest’s stay is very essential in almost all hotels. Guests want – and expect – clean rooms. Housekeeping employees should visit all rooms unless a “Do Not Disturb” sign is displayed. They should make the beds, empty the trash, vacuum the carpets, replace the towels and washcloths, and replenish used hotel soaps, shampoos and toilet paper.

4. Hotel Amenities

Hotels often offer little extras that make their guests’ stay more enjoyable. Swimming pools, business centers and exercise rooms are standard amenities. While some suggest these amenities on a 24-hour basis, others prefer guests use the facilities only between posted hours.

In-room entertainment is common. While some hotels provide free movies and high-speed internet to customers, others offer specific features on a pay-per-view or usage basis. Hotels that charge for movies or video games typically post the prices, so guests know the applicable charges ahead of time.

5. Guest Services and Assistance

Guest services, or bell personnel, typically include valet service, luggage assistance and maintaining availability for general guest assistance. Procedures might be written in a defined format using brief directives, such as, “Bell staff members will immediately and in a friendly manner greet guests arriving by vehicle, opening first the driver’s and then the passenger’s car door.”

Other procedures might direct, “A bell staff member will provide luggage assistance and personally escort guests to their assigned rooms,” and “Guest services staff members will safely park guests’ vehicles in designated areas, securing keys with alphabetized identification tags and storing within a key cabinet.

6. Concierge’s Extra Services

A hotel’s concierge provides guests with assistance outside the scope of services offered by other hotel personnel. Concierge duties include personal attention in booking and confirming airline reservations, arranging for babysitting services or setting up off-site activities such as golf.

When incorporated with standard operating procedures, concierge services might be relayed as, “Concierge personnel will consistently provide efficient, friendly and accommodating assistance to guests with special requests, such as making off-site restaurant reservations, chartering limousine transportation, resolving business center needs and addressing security concerns.”

Format for Writing Your Standard Operating Procedure

  1. Title Page – contains the complete SOP title, SOP number, date of approval or version number, the name and signature of the author, the name and signature of the person authorizing the SOP, and their dates of signing respectively.
  2. Table of Contents – indicate page numbers and the total number of pages of the SOP
  3. Purpose – establishes the objectives and scope of the standard operating procedure
  4. Procedures – provides unambiguous and imperative descriptions of each process step
  5. Quality Assurance – states the criteria for the control of the described product/service, system or process
  6. References – any related SOPs of operations used in the present SOP

The Importance of Hotel Standard Operating Procedures

Hotel operations are varied, they can be complex, and how they’re done provides identity and reputation. Needless to say, it is crucial to the success of your hotel to implement standard operating procedures. All businesses benefit and operate at a higher efficiency when they have SOP’s in place.

Due to the competitive and quick-paced nature of the hospitality industry, hotels cannot afford to not utilize tried and true SOP’s. Everything from how a credit card is run, to how the sheets are arranged needs to have its own procedure, and if it doesn’t, implement some immediately. These are some of the benefits of having a standard operating procedure in your hotel;

1. It improves efficiency and quality

Variations in work processes can compromise quality and work efficiency. Implementing SOPs help prevent this scenario by helping to standardizing all critical processes and reduce work variations. SOPs also assist with improving the Quality Management System (QMS) and can prepare the organization to pass relevant ISO certification and comply with regulatory requirements.

2. Facilitates employee training

When a new employee comes, the SOP gives a shorter learning curve.  A well-designed template gives both visual and written information making it easier and faster for the employee to learn. It will then be easier to review it until the employee has mastered the task. Thus, your well-written SOP can be a lifeline for them to be able to know how things work.

SOPs complement training materials to educate workers and serve as a guide for onboarding new hires. Senior staff with relevant job experience should also be involved in drafting the SOP procedures and steps. SOPs are an effective tool to supplement classroom and supervised training as workers can follow steps at their own pace when performing their duties.

3. Increases profitability

Following SOPs can help ensure consistent and high-quality delivery or products and services. It helps improve and maintain brand standards and customer satisfaction. This is important to ensure smooth business operations and overall profitability.

4. Ensures a healthy and safe environment

SOPs describe in detail how to safely perform work involving hazardous processes, materials, equipment, and conditions. These procedures help reinforce strict compliance in safety protocols to prevent unforeseen accidents and fatalities.

5. Lower cost with better teamwork

The SOP makes it easy to find out what policies and procedures are in place to handle repetitive situations/tasks. It allows everyone in the team to work in a synchronized manner.

6. Get more results per employee with an easier delegation

A good SOP will include the structure of the operation, as well as have a short job requirements/statements and updated information for an employee to execute the specified task. If you need to delegate a certain task, you can see at a glance who you will be reporting this to, who will be able to help you or advise you.

7. Increase profit with happier customers

Because there is a standard way of dealing with client queries, refunds, promotions, follow-up etc., you can make sure that each client is treated fairly and equally, enhancing their interactions with you. You then provide the best possible client service.

8. It builds a consistent and high-quality culture

Uniformity of behavior, products, and services brings a defined characteristic and perception of your company.

9. High commitment to use processes because of participation

Building your SOP must be done with collective collaboration. Involving your team will not only give you a clearer picture of what would be the flow of the process but will also give your team a sense of belonging and ownership of the process.  A buy-in is extremely important when executing a new process.

Ejike Cynthia