Ken Burgin

Restaurant Standards

How to Set Clear Restaurant Standards to Avoid Mistakes & Frustration

It’s often easy for staff to misunderstand or ignore instructions.

About the correct way to serve drinks, greet a customer or balance the till – if the standards aren’t crystal clear, someone will take shortcuts. There are five key issues to cover so everyone understands – not hard to write down, but they’re often overlooked. And every time you ignore someone who’s done the job incorrectly, you’ve actually set a new, lower, standard.

Standards are either Measurable, Observable or Prohibition. They have to be backed up with Accountability and Consequences. Sound tough? Maybe – a lot of so-called systems are vague and fluffy, with lots of ways for staff to say ‘I didn’t understand’ or ‘I thought I did it right’.

Let’s look at some examples of each:

Measurable Standards – they can be counted or measured. Length of time, amount of money, temperatures, noise volume, number of hours or days etc. Examples:

  • Meat must be in refrigeration within 10 minutes of delivery.
  • Meat, dairy and seafood must be stored below 5°C.
  • The till must balance to within $5.
  • One person should be able to restock the bar fridges within 30 minutes.
  • The music should be set at volume level #3.

Observable Standards – how something looks. What something looks like, sounds like, smells like or how it tastes. Examples:

  • Staff must have hair tied back as shown in the staff manual on page 10.
  • Caesar Salad should look like the picture on the recipe card.
  • Toilets should be dry and without odours after cleaning.
  • The party room should be ready for inspection and set like this photo when not in use.

Prohibition Standards – something that must not be done, or only done in one way. Examples:

  • Staff bags must be kept in the lockers during time on duty,
  • Staff must not leave work through the back door.
  • Drinks may only be given out as complimentary with the permission of the duty manager.
  • Mobile phones must not be used within sight of customers.
  • Staff must not sign on for another staff member.

Accountability for having these things done correctly will also be according to a standard (usually measurable). Examples:

  • Shift logbook must be completed before the manager leaves work.
  • Staff roster costs must be kept to below 32% of weekly sales.
  • Staff who are late more than two days in a row must be interviewed by the manager before they finish their shift.

Consequences? What’s the ‘pain or gain’ if something is not done correctly, or if the staff member has done an excellent job? We’re usually quicker on the pain than the praise – are they proportional, consistent and understood to be fair? That’s the topic for another article, but inconsistent consequences (or none at all) means staff are usually free to choose what they do properly, or not.

See also: Successful Kitchen Management for Non-Chefs and Restaurant Owners.

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