5 Simple steps to create great hotel Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) +5 ready-to-go templates

Last updated on May 6, 2024

When it comes to hotel management, consistency is your key to success. Guests expect a cohesive experience from start to finish. One of the best ways to do this is by using standard operating procedures (SOPs).

When you’re short on time - or staff - it can be hard to set aside time to create SOPs. That’s why we’ve put together this guide. Read on to find out how to create an effective SOP and use them to get the most out of every staff member.

What are hotel Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)?

Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are step-by-step instructions for an activity or process.

SOPs are used throughout the hospitality industry to ensure that various tasks achieve the desired outcome. For example, a housekeeping SOP might define a procedure for flipping rooms after checkout for optimal cleanliness.

SOPs are used in various areas or departments of a hotel, including:

Why are standard operating procedures important?

Standard operating procedures enable staff to carry out responsibilities safely and consistently.

The benefits of having a hotel SOP for each task or department are wide-reaching:

  • Improved quality of service: SOPs help hotels maintain a high level of customer service.
  • Increased efficiency: By having a clear set of steps and responsibilities, SOPs give you a way to streamline processes, increase productivity, and reduce confusion.
  • Compliance with regulations: Food safety or customer data, for example, are important. As is meeting national and local regulation. SOPs help create a safer environment for your workforce and guests and avoid fraud.
  • Better training and development: Want to improve staff performance? SOPs are used by hotels to enhance onboarding and training.
  • Improved risk management: SOPs reduce the risk of non-compliance issues and accidents.

How to create a hotel SOP

Creating standard operating procedures might seem daunting - especially if you’ve never done it before. Once you get going, however, you’ll see it’s not as scary or complicated as you thought.

And once done, you might just see your hotel staff’s performance skyrocket.

Step 1: Determine the goals of your SOP

Identify which task or process the SOP will cover. Some will be more important than others, like fire or food safety. Some, in addition, might be more complicated, confusing, or high-risk.

Once you’ve decided which task the SOP is for, you need to determine your goals and objectives for the procedure. It could be consistency, better customer service, or improved safety.

Define your audience. Are there any language barriers? Is this a new way of working or a small update?

Step 2: Research the procedure

Before you outline your SOP, do your research. First, look at what your hotel is already doing. What are the areas for improvement? What are staff members doing well? Work with your department heads to understand their perspective.

Then, gather as much information as you can about what other hotels are doing. You could look for this online, or do some competitor research.

Look into industry standards and how you can match or exceed them. This research will ensure your SOPs are as good as they can be.

Step 3: Outline the SOP

Laying out each step of your SOP, including timeframes, tools, and materials will make your job easier later on.

Decide on what format you’ll use. Some SOPs, depending on the complexity of the task, work better as visual aides, while others will require more detail.

Outlining reduces the risk of having to rewrite or spend too much time reworking the SOP. If you need approval, it may be worthwhile getting it at this stage instead of stage 6.

Step 4: Write the SOP

Keep in mind that SOPs, no matter the format you use, require accuracy and clarity. Make it easy for your staff members to follow and use concise language.

Find ways to incorporate images and consider the design of the document. Believe it or not, using a few graphic design principles makes a big difference. You might not be creating this document for guests or clients, but the care you put into your SOPs will resonate with your workforce.

  • KISS (keep it simple, stupid) is a popular term among graphic designers. Basically, less is more.
  • Embrace white space: Avoid clutter by keeping paragraphs short and placing images appropriately.
  • Establish a visual hierarchy: Use size and color to draw the reader’s eye down the page.
  • Be consistent across your SOP documents: Stick to your brand colors and fonts, and use the same design for each.
  • Finally, be careful with grammar, punctuation, and spelling: A lax approach to this may translate as a lack of respect, or responsibility.

Step 5: Review your SOP and refine

Send the SOP to the relevant stakeholders and have them provide honest feedback. Act on their suggestions and refine the document.

Get the SOP approved by a senior manager and then implement. It’s a great feeling but don’t stop now! You’re not quite finished.

Now you need to monitor and evaluate its effectiveness. Put it to the test by using it to train or onboard, or survey your staff to find out their thoughts.

Finally, the best SOPs are those that are regularly updated. As terms and conditions and technologies change, your SOPs must change too.

How technology can help you create SOPs

The right technology and software can help you create high-quality, accurate, and effective SOPs. Some Hotel property management systems (PMS), such as Planet PMS, allow you to set mandatory fields to ensure users follow procedure.

In addition, some PMS systems offer reporting and analytics, allowing you to analyze existing procedures and identify areas of improvement.

Different kinds of SOPs for your hotel

Depending on the size of your hotel, you may have multiple day-to-day, repetitive tasks per department.

If you’re starting from scratch or about to improve your existing SOPs, it can help to rank all hotel departments and tasks in order of priority and urgency.

- Front office SOPs

Producing SOPs for your front-of-house will help improve the level of customer service your employees provide. You also need solid, legally compliant procedures where transactions and credit cards are concerned.

Front office procedures include:

  • Front desk and check-in procedures
  • Concierge services
  • Room allocation and key management
  • Guest request and complaint handling
  • Cash handling and credit card processing
  • Checkout
  • Reservations

- Housekeeping SOPs

The cleanliness of a hotel is a critical aspect of the hotel guest experience. A stained bed sheet or a dirty shower can overshadow an otherwise great stay and result in negative reviews.

Thorough housekeeping SOPs will help you achieve high cleanliness standards and increase the longevity of your supplies. For example, stating how much bathroom-cleaner to use per room could reduce waste and save you money.

Housekeeping procedures include:

  • Room cleaning and maintenance
  • Laundry and linen management
  • Guest supplies management
  • Lost and found

- Food and beverage SOPs 

Kitchens are full of risks. Knives, raw meat, and various appliances must be handled with care. Without the appropriate SOPs, you could find yourself liable should an injury, allergic reaction, or food poisoning occur.

On a less serious note, SOPs can also help you bring more consistency to the quality of your food, thus improving your guest experience.

Procedures include:

- Sales and marketing SOPs

Building and retaining a recognizable brand image for your hotel is a cornerstone of good hotel marketing and sales. Every single one of your customer touchpoints, whether it be an online travel agency or social media, must exude your personality and message.

Sales and marketing SOPs can help you ensure team members follow brand guidelines.

Procedures include:

  • Strategy development
  • Sales calls and lead generation
  • MICE/group sales and event management procedures
  • Promotional activities

- Accounting and financial SOPs

Similar to your front office, your accounting and financial departments risk of fraud and mismanagement without high standards.

Having good financial SOPs can help you maintain your hotel’s stability and profitability. They can also help you make more informed decisions such as setting room rates, knowing when and what to spend on property renovations, or expanding your services.

Procedures include:

  • Accounts receivable and payable
  • Payroll management
  • Budget preparation and tracking
  • Financial reporting

- Maintenance SOPs

Improve the safety and efficiency of your hotel operations by creating clear, detailed maintenance procedures. They can also help you reduce the risk of liability and health and safety issues.

Preventative maintenance guidelines, in addition, will help minimize equipment breakdowns or malfunctions and maintain the appearance of your common areas.

Procedures include:

  • Preventative maintenance
  • Repairs and renovations
  • Energy management
  • Health and Safety
  • Fire safety

- Human resources SOPs

Good human resource (HR) procedures will help your hotel attract and retain new employees and reduce the risk of legal disputes.

Provide your workforce with clear guidelines, expectations, and instructions should they need support. When employees feel looked after, businesses see an uptick in satisfaction, performance, and loyalty.

Procedures include:

  • Recruitment and selection
  • Employee orientation
  • Performance management and appraisal
  • Employee relations
  • Disciplinary

Learn more: How to do a SWOT analysis

Four SOP mistakes hotels make

1- Writing in corporate speak

This can happen when above-property teams write the standard operating procedures. Big words, long sentences, and jargon make it harder for staff to read and digest information.

A phrase like: “Persons must not...” is impersonal, cold, and makes the employee feel as if your goal is to protect the company. You’re speaking to human beings, so try to connect with them as such.

2- Neglecting readability and Format

Your SOP doesn’t need to be a work of art. But the way you write it matters. Your hotel staff likely have a lot on their plate. The last thing they need is a SOP packed with text. Not only will it frustrate your staff members, but you’ll also find that your SOPs are less effective.

Instead, prioritize readability by shortening sentences, using simple language, and being as visual as possible.

A great way to test the readability of your SOPs is to use a formula called the Flesch reading-ease test. Using a tool like Hemingway Editor, you can easily grade your writing on a scale of 0 - 100. The higher your score, the easier it is to read and understand.

3- Not explaining the "why"

Hotels do their staff members - and themselves - a disservice by only telling them how to do something. By also explaining the why, you empower your employees to understand processes, why they’re important, and best of all, give them the ability to know when processes need scrapping or changing.

When you write your hotel SOPs, find ways to incorporate explanations for certain processes or tasks.

4- Using an unfriendly writing style

When we speak to a person, we consider our tone of voice, language, and body language to make a good impression. The same should be applied to writing.

A common mistake hoteliers make with their SOPs is using a negative tone of voice. This can come across as if they are speaking down to staff members.

Even the words you choose can have an impact on how your reader interprets the SOP. Instead of saying “Refrain from” try “It is best to”.

Closing takeaways

Standard operating procedures are important, there are no two ways about it. The quality of your SOPs could make a big impact on your hotel’s performance so it’s important to understand what makes a great SOP.

  • Make SOPs a priority to avoid costly or dangerous incidents.
  • Be clear, concise, and intentional with your wording. Remember hotel staff may not share your first language. Avoid negative language and always tell them “why”.
  • Review, test, and update your SOPs regularly to keep standards high.
  • Don’t go it alone: Use the power of hospitality technology to help manage your SOPs.

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