Are you starting a valet parking business? If YES, here is a 5-step guide on how to create a standard operating procedures manual for your valet parking service. In the United States, private events, hotels, sporting events, festivals, movie premiers and resorts all need valets.

Establishments always seek to offer this feature to their guests as a way of adding class and glamour to their company. Starting a valet service company in the United States is one ideal way to start off a micro business.

But to run it successfully, you will have to keep your crew tight and hire the most skilled drivers you possibly can by going to advanced drivers schools. Aside insuring all the cars you work with, marketing your business and creating good relationships with customers, you will have to create an operating manual for your valet service.

Note that having a standard operating manual may not be glamorous, but it helps to avoid disasters caused by human error and bad processes that will ultimately affect your business and even (in extreme circumstances) your finances.

What is an Operations Manual?

A good operation manual is more or less the backbone of your company – the encyclopaedia for your business. Note that your employee handbook may introduce your employees or team to your mission and culture, but the operation manual will show them how to do their job properly.

Note that this manual is either a book or folder of printed documents containing all your standard operating procedures (SOPs), your hierarchy, contact details and emergency procedures. Each time an employee wants to know how to do something or needs to know how to contact someone, they can look it up in the manual.

Just like putting together and extensive employee handbook, the challenge here is to include enough detail in your operation manual to serve as a comprehensive knowledge base for your team, but not so much as to bore them into complacency.

The purpose of good standard operating procedures for your valet services will be to educate your team on how to provide a professional service in the parking of the guest’s vehicle. Any of them responsible for parking the car will learn or know how to perform the task efficiently without damage, thereby ensuring that the guest feels safe.

How to Create a Standard Operating Procedures for Valet Parking Services

When creating standard operating procedures for valet parking, you need to try as much as possible not to go into unnecessary detail, because you will either make your team want to skip the instructions or leave them more confused than when they started, making the entire thing pointless.

Also, note that including enough details will leave your team with less details and information to correctly and consistently perform the task. Nonetheless, here are steps to take…

1. Select a good platform for your manual

The first thing you are expected to do is to choose how you are going to create your operation manual. Note that you could use a word processor to create and print out physical copies and then store them in a file, but there are a few problems with that platform. Have it in mind that printing out a physical operations manual means that any changes you make will need to be added in an appendix or you will have to completely reprint the document.

Typically, making use of an appendix can easily make your manual difficult to use, because rather than being the definitive source for your employees, you are providing a convoluted mess of addendums to an outdated process. Unless you choose to print one copy at a time it will be difficult to recall every existing copy and replace them, leaving plenty of room for human error to sneak back in with an outdated manual.

2. Set a consistent layout

Setting up the layout for your manual will more or less depend on the platform you are using to create it, but the most crucial thing is that it is consistent across the entire document. If you choose to use a word processor, note that the details you need to iron out are simple aspects such as the font, how to separate each section, whether you will include images or screenshots, a page counter, and so on.

However, with a good platform, you can manage your operation manual by creating a folder, and then organizing your processes into subfolders. These processes can then be inter – linked, and checklist run links can be pasted wherever you want to let you easily run checklists no matter what you are doing online.

3. Create your manual

After you must have formalized the layout of the operations manual, you can then focus on creating the manual itself. Take your time to analyse your company’s hierarchy, valet job descriptions, processes, etc. and document each of them in turn. Note that you will want to do this while working with the rest of your team. That way everyone who will use the manual is involved in creating it, and is more likely to promote its regular use.

Also, after you have documented your processes for the first time you will want to do a little process improvement and see if there is anything you can adjust to make them better. Have it in mind there is always something you can do to boost your efficiency and consistency, whether it is by using better software or tackling a problem in a different way.

Important Points to Include in Standard Operating Procedures for Valet Parking

To best identify the crucial points to include in a valet parking standard operating manual, here are few points to consider…

1. Level of Service

Valet parking has its own levels of service that do not approximate those in the rest of the parking industry. Gone are queue times, and instead, the only service level that makes a difference is the time that the patron has to wait. As valet parking is more of a service than it is anything else, service levels should be built on foundations established in the service industry.

2. Staffing Guidelines

Another key factor in maintaining service is staffing. Regardless of whether the operation is at a restaurant or attending to a large banquet at a five star hotel, the set – up is the same. There should always be someone assigned to greet the arriving vehicles, open the vehicle doors, and hand over the claim ticket to the patron.

In addition, there should always be someone assigned to the porte cochere whose duty it is to meet the departing patrons and take their claim tickets. This person is responsible for beginning the vehicle retrieval process and collecting any charges associated with the valet parking.

Some very large valet operations such as those for special events, airports, or sizeable hotels, have additional positions such as checkers, who verify the locations of parked vehicles; key dispatchers, who arrange for the vehicles to be retrieved; and greeters, whose responsibilities include opening passenger doors and assisting with arriving patrons.

Finally there is the position of valet attendant, whose responsibility it is to park and retrieve patrons’ vehicles. This is the position that requires the greatest attention in planning and scheduling. All these roles and duties should be explicitly stated in your operations manual.

3. Training

A valet operation should employ staff that rarely need to move the seats. It is recommended that your operation manual should cover this and be made available to each new hire. Training is an essential component of the operation. The initial phases of the training should contain thorough explanations and examples of the following:

4. Tipping

Indeed something as inconsequential as tips can generate tremendous controversy within a valet operation. Typically, valet attendants earn minimum, or just above minimum, wage. Their income is vastly dependent on tips. Now there are two schools of thought concerning tipping. Some operations require their valets to pool their tips; at shifts’ end, this fund is evenly divided up.

The reasoning behind this is that it is believed that an equal disbursement will foster teamwork and prevent undesirable competition for the “big tippers”. Other operations allow individual valets to retain their own tips, believing that this encourages superior service.

However, note that each practice can cause disputes, ranging from valets avoiding parking incoming vehicles at certain times to be there when their favourite patrons come out, to valets failing to put all of their tips into the pool.

There are no recommendations here, other than that the best practice is probably to allow the members to decide on how they want tips to be handled, and the more reason to inculcate members when  putting together your operation manual.

5. Parking Procedures

Whenever possible, it is imperative you educate your valet to back vehicles into spaces.  This practice allows retrieving valets, who are usually more rushed, to be able to look forward as they leave the parking space, which is much safer than backing out.

As many vehicles are equipped with automatic locking devices, it is advisable to teach valets always to remove keys before closing the doors of the vehicle. Radio volumes should be lowered and then the radio turned off so that the retracting antennas will lower. The purpose of lowering the volume is to avoid startling customers when they turn on the radio after claiming their vehicle.

6. Operation and Claim Check

A claim check is handed to each patron when dropping off his or her vehicle. This claim check should have a unique, pre – printed number that corresponds to the portions of the ticket that goes with the vehicle. The claim check should have an area where the valet can note pre – existing damage.

Whenever possible, each vehicle should be visibly inspected for damage while the patron is dropping it off. Damage should be noted, both verbally to the customer and on the ticket (in reality, this is rarely done). In operations where there is a great amount of activity and operational logistics preclude pre – inspection, valets should still do an inspection after they have parked the vehicle.

7. Safety Procedures

As the valet operation is responsible for the vehicles in its care, hazards need to be evaluated and eliminated to make that responsibility easier, and the operation manual should cover this extensively. Parking facilities should be thoroughly swept daily to get rid of nails, screws, or other sharp objects that could cause a flat tire.

Low pipes and exhaust ducts should be clearly marked and flagged so that valets will not hit them with their vehicles. Columns should be wrapped and ramps kept dry. Employees should also be well advised and supervised with the aim of reducing carelessness. Valets must not use vehicles as writing surfaces. Valets should be reprimanded for excessive speed or reckless driving.

And they should never move a vehicle with a door even partially open, not even for a short distance. Unsafe vehicles should not be brought into the parking facility. If the brakes or clutch seem faulty, it is the best practice to move the vehicle to a safe parking place in the porte cochere.

Pedestrian access ways should be designed to provide minimal opportunities for pedestrians and vehicles to cross paths. And valet paths for running to and from the parking facility should be planned so as not to become a hazard. Disclaimers should be printed on the claim portion of the tickets specifying both the operator’s and the vehicle owner’s responsibilities

Conclusion

There are far more valet operations than ever before and many new applications. Years ago, valet parking was strictly the realm of high – end hotels, country clubs, and select restaurants. Today, one can find valet operations flourishing at airports, hospitals, and even shopping malls.

As the need to provide better service continues to be a goal of most industries, we can expect valet operations to be able to grow right alongside. A well prepared operation manual will help your valets render impeccable service that will grow your brand and set you up for more success.

Solomon. O'Chucks