Skip to main content

Hotel SOP: Tips, samples & templates for Standard Operating Procedures

  Posted in Resources  Last updated 5/12/2023

What is a hotel SOP?

A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is a set of instructions on how to complete a specific task. It can vary in level of detail from checklists to step-by-step procedures or word-by-word scripts. Ideally, the level of clarity provided strikes a delicate balance between detail and freedom, making it easy for hotel staff to excel in their roles.

Different areas across a hotel’s operations benefit from using SOPs in different ways: there are the customer-facing front-office, sales and marketing and F&B operations, and back-of-house operations including housekeeping, maintenance, food production teams and beyond.

All of them establish certainty in how to deal with a variety of common and uncommon scenarios. Supported by training, the implementation of SOPs leads to consistency and sets expectations and guidance to meet and exceed requirements. In the world of hotels, this extends beyond laws and regulations into the realm of guest expectations and creating unique experiences.

This blog explores how to build and successfully incorporate SOPs in your hotel operations, including best practices.

Table of contents

What is SOP in hotels and why is it crucial for success?

The importance of SOPs becomes clear when you consider the many routine tasks that are performed around a hotel on a day-to-day basis: when all those tasks are performed in unison, they create an experience of ease for everyone involved. Naturally, there also are less common occurrences, such as emergency procedures, steps to take in case of a guest falling ill or natural disasters. 

Since senior decision-makers may not be immediately available, plans have to exist to ensure swift and concise execution by the on-site team in a hotel’s 24-hour operations.

Transform your hotel business with SiteMinder

Master more than just your SOPs with SiteMinder’s suite of tailored hotel solutions, including cdistribution, all-in-one guest communication automation, and competitor pricing insights.

Learn more

3 ways to create hotel Standard Operating Procedures

1. Start with a goal

Create your hotel SOPs with a goal in mind: are you looking for consistency? Do you wish to deliver a key brand message or value in every guest interaction at your hotel? Is your hotel SOP focused on increasing quality or safety? 

It is not only possible but expected that different SOPs will serve different purposes; from health and safety, to the following of local laws and regulations, to maintaining efficiencies and consistency.

When you start with the why, writing the details of a hotel SOP becomes easy: unnecessary or missing steps become obvious when the goal is clear. For example, your goal may be to standardise a response to phone calls into the reservations department, enquiring about discounts. 

While writing the procedure and working with your team you may find that some team members have been very successful in converting the caller by asking them if they are part of the hotel’s loyalty program, eliminating the need to immediately and/or inconsistently drop rates. You might also learn their conversations with customers have resulted in more reservations at higher rates and additional enrolments in your loyalty program, therefore making it reasonable to add in a step or script on presenting the loyalty program, while removing steps on verbal negotiation of rates.

Starting with the Why is also essential when communicating a new or amended SOP to the team. This is something that Disney famously got right when creating their “Be our guest” training that is even available to buy in book form: they start by advising to “always remember, the magic begins with you”.

2. Decide what requires a hotel SOP 

Involving your team in taking stock of your hotel’s existing procedures is invaluable to successful documentation and training. Many small steps may be going unnoticed or have become part of an otherwise unspoken routine since you last were involved in them. A crucial task here is to determine what requires documentation and standardisation. In a hotel, there is a constant turnover of information from day shifts to night shifts and from the reservations team to the staff members greeting and guiding a guest through their stay.

Apply a general rule of feasibility and prioritise by impact: there will be frequent small tasks as well as infrequent or unusual larger sets of instructions, all of which will have a meaningful impact on the successful operation of your hotel. There may be frequent low-impact tasks you would rather guide your team through with the help of values and culture to empower them to shine in the world of hospitality. There may also be tasks you are regularly asked for guidance on; creating an SOP will eliminate the need for repetitive clarifications. 

This is why making a conscious decision on what needs an SOP and what does not is fundamental.

3. Make your SOP usable and accessible

Once an SOP has been written it is time to go back to the floor: where possible, take the opportunity for ‘dry’ runs, especially when you have made changes to existing procedures. This allows for the early identification of potential adjustments and ensures the hotel SOP is relevant, adequate and usable. 

Simple steps such as ticking a checkbox during the check-in process may result in downstream impact. For example, based on the completion of that checkbox, a payment processing team member might have to consistently pick up a new task, resulting in the need to update multiple team members about one change.

Since hotel SOPs tend to be part of staff onboarding procedures or specific training, recalling the information and acting on it at the right times is critical. Luckily, this is a factor you can influence by making the information as accessible as possible. This does not mean that the walls of your reservations office have to be covered in scripts, but picking out the most frequently used workflows to display or rotating them as part of a weekly update can drive the adoption of SOPs.

You may also consider placing procedures dealing with uncommon events, for example, a guest passing away during their stay, in easily accessible manuals. Training staff on their existence and where they can quickly look up information is crucial to successfully maintaining a wide variety of hotel SOPs.

Image detailing hotel SOP

Hotel SOP sample for each department

SOPs are the backbone of any well-functioning hotel. They ensure consistency, efficiency, and the highest level of service across all departments. From the front desk to the kitchen, SOPs give every team member a clear set of guidelines to follow, ensuring guests receive a memorable experience.

Hotel front desk standard operating procedures 

The front desk is the hotel’s first impression. SOPs here include greeting guests warmly, efficient check-in and check-out processes, handling guest queries promptly, and maintaining a tidy and organised desk.

Standard procedure for guest check-in service:

  1. Always greet arriving guests with immediate eye contact and a genuine smile.
  2. Promptly offer to help guests with their luggage, confirming the number of items they have.
  3. Politely ask for the guest’s surname and attach it to the luggage tag for identification.
  4. Before placing luggage on the trolley, inspect for any damages and notify the guest if any are found.
  5. If a guest has multiple pieces of luggage, group them together on the trolley to prevent confusion.
  6. Position the luggage on the trolley and move it to the reception, awaiting the guest’s registration.
  7. If the Guest Relations Officer is unavailable, guide the guest to their room and introduce them to the available amenities.
  8. Always allow the guest to enter the lift first and assist them as needed.
  9. Share the operating hours of various outlets.
  10. Remind the guest of their floor and room number.
  11. Highlight any special promotions at the F&B outlets.
  12. Show the guest the correct way to unlock and open their room door.
  13. Upon entering, allow the guest to step in first and familiarise them with the room’s layout.
  14. Demonstrate how to use the key card to activate the room’s lighting system.

Hotel housekeeping standard operating procedures

Housekeeping is integral to guest satisfaction. SOPs for this department focus on room cleaning protocols, laundry handling, and lost and found procedures. Each room must be inspected for cleanliness and amenities replenished as needed.

Standard procedure for servicing of occupied rooms:

  1. All occupied rooms are serviced twice daily and as and when requested by the guest.
  2. Enter the room according to the procedure of entry to guestrooms.
  3. Clear the garbage according to the procedure of removal of garbage from dustbins.
  4. Collect any dirty linen.
  5. Make the bed, follow the bed making procedure.
  6. Perform dusting of the room.
  7. Vacuum carpet and undertake upholstery maintenance.
  8. Clean bathroom.
  9. Replenish all amenities in the bathroom. (Maintain photograph for standard amenity placement)
  10. After servicing the room, check the function of all features such as the TV, telephone, lights etc.

Hotel kitchen standard operating procedures

The kitchen is the heart of a hotel’s dining experience. SOPs here encompass food preparation, storage, and presentation. All ingredients should be fresh, and food safety standards must be strictly adhered to. Regular equipment maintenance, cleanliness checks, and staff hygiene are paramount to delivering top-notch culinary experiences.

Food handling and sanitation standard procedures:

  1. Ensure the cleanliness of wholesome foods and make sure to only buy from reputable purveyors.
  2. Whenever applicable, buy only government-approved or certified meats, poultry, fish, dairy and egg products.
  3. Handle food directly with as little contact as possible: make use of tongs, spatulas, or other utensils instead of hand whenever possible.
  4. Use clean sanitised cutting equipment and work tables.
  5. Clean and sanitise cutting surfaces & equipment after handling raw, poultry, meats, fish, or eggs before working on another food.
  6. Follow the ‘Clean as you go’ method, i.e do not wait until the end of work day.
  7. Always wash raw fruits and vegetables thoroughly before processing.
  8. When bringing food out of the refrigerator, do not bring out more than you can process in an hour.
  9. Keep food covered whenever possible unless it is used immediately.
  10. Do not let any perishable food remain in the temperature danger zone for more than one hour.
  11. Boil left-over gravies, sauces, soup, and vegetables before serving.
  12. Don’t mix left-overs with freshly prepared food.
  13. Chill all ingredients for protein salads & potato salad before combining.
  14. Chill custard, cream fillings, and other hazardous food as quickly as possible by pouring them into shallow, sanitised pans.
  15. Always cover the food items and put them into a refrigerator without any delay.
  16. Do not stack pans when keeping them in the refrigerator.
  17. Cook all pork products to an internal temperature of at least 150º F (65º C).

Hotel management standard operating procedures

Effective hotel management is about overseeing all operations and ensuring every department runs smoothly. Management SOPs involve regular staff training, handling guest feedback, crisis management, and ensuring compliance with local regulations.

Hotel management SOP guest feedback management:

  • Collection:
    • Provide feedback forms in rooms and at the front desk.
    • Encourage online feedback on the hotel’s website and review platforms.
  • Recording:
    • Compile daily feedback from all sources.
    • Use a system to categorise and store feedback.
  • Analysis:
    • Review feedback weekly to identify common issues.
    • Prioritise based on urgency and impact.
  • Resolution:
    • Assign departments to specific feedback points.
    • Address major issues through cross-departmental meetings.
  • Communication:
    • Respond to online reviews, detailing corrective actions.
    • Address significant in-stay concerns before guest departure.
  • Training:
    • Identify staff training needs from feedback.
    • Organise regular training sessions.
  • Review Meetings:
    • Hold monthly meetings with department heads.
    • Set goals based on feedback trends.
  • Recognition:
    • Reward consistent positive feedback recipients.
    • Promote feedback as a tool for improvement.

Hotel accounting standard operating procedures

Accounting SOPs cover invoice processing, payroll, daily revenue reports, and budgeting. Regular audits ensure that all financial transactions are accurate, and any discrepancies are addressed immediately. This department also ensures compliance with financial regulations and tax obligations.

SOP for guest ledger adjustments:

  1. Ensure all approved adjustments are posted on the day of approval.
  2. Daily, circulate all made adjustments to the Executive Committee. They should review and approve these the next day.
  3. The Controller or General Manager will scrutinise daily credit card batch reports, ensuring all credit card credits are valid.
  4. Accounting personnel can post adjustments and miscellaneous vouchers to the Guest Ledger. After their shift, a shift close report should be generated to confirm transaction accuracy.
  5. Every transaction to the Guest Ledger necessitates either a miscellaneous or adjustment voucher. This form should be filled out, authorised as per policy, and accompanied by relevant documentation.
  6. Both Front Office and Accounting should pass all relevant items to the Night Audit Staff at the end of their shifts.
  7. Night Audit will send all forms and related documentation to Accounting through the Income Journal packet. The Controller or General Manager must review these daily, including the shift closing reports from any Accounting Clerk.
  8. City Ledger Transfers transfers are the responsibility of the Accounting Department and should be executed within the stipulated SOP timeframes.

Hotel room service standard operating procedure

SOPs for room service include prompt order taking, accurate food preparation, and timely delivery. Presentation is key, and staff should be trained to handle food with care, ensuring it reaches the guest hot and appetising. Feedback forms can be provided to guests to continuously improve this service.

Room service order taking SOP:

  • Assignment: Every night, the overnight Supervisor will designate a waiter to gather door knob breakfast menu orders as per the set schedule.
  • Collection Method:
    • Start at the top floor using the service lift.
    • Collect the breakfast menu orders from each floor, progressing downwards.
    • Ensure the room number is noted on each collected menu order.
  • Billing Preparation:
    • The overnight Supervisor is responsible for generating breakfast bills based on the collected door knob menu orders.
    • Organise the bills by service time, starting with the earliest. VIP rooms should be prioritised.
  • Order Timing and Delivery:
    • Upon receiving an order, the order taker should promptly input it into the POS (Point of Sale) system. The time shown on the printed slip will serve as a reference.
    • The order taker should gauge the time needed for food preparation and any associated setup.
    • Use a specialised alarm clock to monitor the preparation duration for each order.
    • If there’s a delay in delivery, the order taker should courteously inform the guest via phone.
  • Communication Script for Delays:
    • “Good [morning/afternoon/evening], Mr./Mrs./Ms. [Guest’s Last Name]. This is IN ROOM DINING. We’d like to inform you of a minor delay in your food delivery, which will take an additional [time specified by the kitchen team] minutes. We deeply regret the inconvenience and appreciate your understanding.”

What are hotel chains using to prepare standard operating procedures

SOPs are all about providing a consistent experience for guests – but that’s not possible without the SOPs being effectively created, stored, distributed and updated. The preparation and implementation of these SOPs have been streamlined with the aid of modern tools:

  • Document management systems (DMS): Platforms like Microsoft SharePoint or Google Workspace allow hotels to create, store, and share SOPs across various departments. They offer collaborative features, version control, and access permissions.
  • Task management platforms: Tools like ClickUp or Trello enable hotels to integrate SOPs into daily tasks, set up recurring tasks for routine maintenance, and attach relevant documents like equipment manuals and safety guidelines.
  • Process mapping software: Software like Lucidchart or Microsoft Visio helps hotels visually map out their processes, making it easier to draft SOPs that are clear and easy to follow.
  • Learning management systems (LMS): Platforms like Moodle or TalentLMS allow hotels to create interactive training modules related to SOPs. These can include videos, quizzes, and simulations to ensure staff understand and can effectively implement SOPs.
  • Feedback platforms: Tools like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms can be used to gather feedback from staff regarding the clarity and effectiveness of SOPs, leading to continuous improvement.
  • Cloud storage solutions: Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive are popular choices for storing and sharing SOP documents, ensuring that they are accessible from any device, anytime.

Best practice tips for implementing and maintaining hotel SOP

As with any process or procedure in a hotel, there are best practice tips for SOPs. Here are the most important ones to keep in mind.

Train with the intention to empower

Hotel SOPs are usually part of new staff onboarding. Consider these to be just as important as retraining or taking the time to share updates to SOPs in person. Training can be an empowering experience when that is the intention: junior staff are empowered to ask, guided to resources and more senior staff relied upon to use as examples.

Finding ambassadors for your SOPs within your hotel can be a simple step to bringing to life what has been documented in a hotel SOP. This is someone who can act as a role model or can be relied upon for quick guidance without turning to a manual.

Some front office SOPs may also be set with the intention to create a deep understanding of the guest, further empowering the team member to have meaningful interactions with them throughout their stay. An SOP requiring such insights to be documented, then reviewed and used by other team members, could be what your hotel is after if meticulously tailored experiences are at the heart of your brand.

Brief but thorough

Make instructions as brief as they can be and as detailed as they need to be. This may involve flow charts or other visuals. And while there may not be room for interpretation in food and safety standards, be aware that the expression of a warm welcome may take a variety of forms, sometimes based on location. 

The same instructions from one hotel may not be applicable in another due to cultural differences, particularly when operating across borders. Paying attention to nuances and getting them right, is what separates SOPs that sit on the shelf from successfully applied SOPs that devise room to tailor unique guest experiences.

Review and refresh regularly

Lastly, few SOPs are set in stone. Systems change, customer preferences adapt and your brand evolves. One of the easiest ways to translate these changes into practice is by making it a habit to regularly review and refresh your hotel SOPs. Whether you pick a different department’s SOPs every few weeks or months to review, bringing a fresh pair of eyes tuned into the ever-changing environment always proves worthwhile.

By Dean Elphick

Dean is the Senior Content Marketing Specialist of SiteMinder, the leading technology provider delivering hoteliers unbeatable revenue results. Dean has made writing and creating content his passion for the entirety of his professional life, which includes more than six years at SiteMinder. Through content, Dean aims to provide education, inspiration, assistance and value for accommodation businesses looking to improve the way they run their operations achieve their goals.

Unlock the full revenue potential of your hotel

Watch demo