Food and Beverage Services - SOPs


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When few tasks in an organization are required to be conducted repetitively, it is a good idea to generate a set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). These make the tasks in hand easy and effective, and save a great deal of time and effort. SOPs also help to train the staff and avoid silly errors.

Let us understand a few important SOPs set in F&B service establishments −

Laying Out a Guest Table

The procedure is as follows −

  • Check the table linen for cleanliness and spread it on the table neatly to remove wrinkles.

  • Replace the table soiled linen if required.

  • Ensure the dining type before the setting table layout: Formal or Informal.

Formal Dining Table Layout

For a formal table setup, place the tableware as follows −

  • Place the dinner plate one inch from the table edge near the chair.

  • Place the salad plate above the dinner plate.

  • Place the forks on left of the dinner plate. Arrange the forks according to their size with the largest fork nearest to the dinner plate.

  • Place the spoons and knives on the right side of the dinner plate according to their size with the largest spoon and knife near the plate.

  • Place the dessert spoon and fork above the plate horizontally.

  • Place the quarter plate on the left side of the dinner plate.

  • Place the water and the wine glasses on the top-right corner of the dinner plate.

  • Shape the clean linen aesthetically and place it on the extreme left.

Formal Dining Table Layout

Informal Dining Table Layout

For an informal table setup, place the tableware as follows −

  • Place the dinner plate one inch inside the table edge near the chair.
  • Place the forks on the left side in descending order of their size with the largest fork to be closest to the dinner plate.
  • Place dinner spoon and knife on the dinner plate’s right side.
  • Place water and the wine glasses on the top-right side of the dinner plate.
  • Shape the clean linen aesthetically and place it on the extreme left on the top of the dinner plate.

Handling the Telephone Calls

The staff members who handle the telephone calls must be thoroughly aware of the work system. The procedure for handling calls is as follows −

  • Always answer the phone call promptly, within three rings. If it takes time to answer, apologize to the customer.

  • Speak with the caller attentively by avoiding any distractions around.

  • Always inform the caller before transferring his call and putting him/her on hold.

  • Always talk politely and respectfully to the customers by addressing women as ‘Madam’ and men as ‘Sir’.

  • Ensure that you solve all the customer queries before terminating the telephonic conversation.

  • Speak clearly with a cooperative tone; do not speak loudly.

  • Avoid domain jargons and informal words such as ‘Yup’, ‘hang-on’ or yeah.’ Instead, use formal words such as ‘absolutely’, ‘please wait’, ‘Yes’, etc.

  • Always end the phone call by saying, ‘Thank you for calling (sir/madam)!’.

Taking the Order

The orders for table reservation or food delivery can be taken on phone. Direct service orders are placed and taken to the guest table.

Taking Orders on Phone

While taking orders on phone, the visual channel of communication is absent. Hence the staff needs to listen to the caller attentively while taking order on the phone.

  • Answer the customer’s call immediately and take the communication further cordially by saying, “Good (morning/afternoon/evening), I am (own name); How can I help you?”

  • Pay a complete ear to the customer’s requirement of food, beverage, table reservation, or any specific requirement.

  • Note down the order details on a notepad.

  • Inform the customer about time estimation of delivery if it is home delivery order. If it is table reservation, confirm the timing of customer’s arrival and the total number of persons to the customer.

  • Repeat the order to the customer and take his confirmation.

  • Ask for the address or confirm the address and contact number if it is already in the database.

  • End the conversation by greeting the customer and assuring him the best service.

  • Hand over the order to the kitchen staff. Inform the delivery staff member in case of home delivery. Inform the service staff members to prepare a table for the given number of persons and the occasion in case of table reservation.

Taking Orders at the Table

This takes place when the guests are already seated.

  • Ensure that the guests are seated comfortably.

  • At the start, offer them welcome drink if any or chilled water.

  • Offer them food and wine menus.

  • Greet the guests and ask them courteously, “What would you like to have, (Sir/Madam)?”

  • Note down the order carefully.

  • Confirm which variant of the food or beverage they wish to have; if there are multiple variants of the same food item. Help the guests by suggesting the beverage or side dish that goes well with the main dish if required.

  • Repeat the items ordered with their respective quantities.

  • Inform the guest about expected time of the order arrival.

  • Leave the guest table and send the order to the kitchen.

Rules for Communicating with the Guests

Conversation with the guests is the backbone of any service-providing business. The guidelines for conversing with the guests are −

  • Keep upright posture and smiling face.
  • Let them know that you are enthusiastic and eager to serve them.
  • Be respectful to elderly guests, friendly with the same-age guests, and jovial with the children.
  • Keep the voice of speech audible and clear.
  • Apologize if some food item or beverage has run out of the stock.
  • While the guests are having their meals, make a brief round at the table to observe if everything is fine.

Dealing with Unexpected Situations

The service staff actually must remain prepared to handle any unforeseen circumstances which include −

  • Handling spill-over of food or drink while serving.
  • Dealing with highly drunk gusts.
  • Dealing with guests who are physically challenged or the ones who show difficulty in communicating.
  • Dealing with hyper-active toddler guests.
  • Dealing with unwelcomed situations such as large fire hazards.

Loading and Carrying Trays

The service staff needs to be careful while carrying the trays in their hands and going around the dining area. They need to follow the given rules −

Loading the Trays

  • Do not overload the tray.
  • Place the items on the tray such that the load is evenly distributed.
  • Alter the position of drinks or food promptly every time something is removed from the tray.
Loading Trays

Carrying the Trays

  • Carry one tray at a time.
  • Carry the tray with a firm support of the palm with fingers wide open.
  • Hold the tray on the left palm slightly above the shoulder.
  • Hold it little away from neck and mouth for hygienic reasons.

Serving Food and Beverage

Following are some meticulous ways while serving food or beverages.

  • Bring food to the guest table if it is not a buffet service.

  • Present the food from guest’s left side in case of formal dining.

  • Prepare the food plates from the kitchen and place them on the guest table in case of casual dining.

  • Ask the guests if they need help to serve the food.

  • Serve one food item at a time.

  • Serve the eldest lady guest of the group first unless the lady herself is a host. After all ladies are served, serve the men guests starting from the oldest.

  • Always present a dish with its respective serving spoon.

  • Tilt the service bowl a little to bring east in serving and take it away after serving.

  • Always present the ordered drink in an appropriate glass by informing its name to the guest.

  • When same wine is offered in consecutive courses, serve it in the same wine glass. If wine is changed then replace the glass with fresh one.

  • Always tilt the glass while pouring drinks or fuzzy drinks so that its head and aroma is held.

  • Do not bend over served plates while serving other plates across the table. Move as near as possible to the plate in which you serve.

Clearing the Tables

It is important to clear the table between two dining sessions by following procedure −

  • Clear the table first when the guests finish their main course.

  • Clear it for the second time just before the guests leave the table.

  • While clearing, first remove all the pieces of flatware and chinaware except table linen and center piece. Let the dessert flatware remain in case of first clearing.

  • Let wine glasses be on the table even after the main course.

  • While clearing, pickup one plate at a time and place on the tray carefully. In case of formal dining, replace the removed plate by a fresh one so that table cover of the guest is never empty.

  • Do not overload the tray with pile of used plates; make extra rounds to the table if required.

Presenting Bills to the Guest and Settling Them

Before presenting bill to the guest, make sure the guests don’t want to order anything more. There are many policies of setting guest bills in the F&B establishments. Some prefer the guests pay cash at the cash collection counter. In such case, the serving staff must accompany the guest to the payment counter to ensure only the right amount is charged to the guest.

Some F&B Services businesses prefer to bring bills (or checks) to the guests’ tables and get them settled. While presenting and settling the bill, follow the given steps −

  • Ask politely, “Should I bring you the bill, Sir/Madam?”

  • Once the guest confirms, ask how he/she would like to pay. It should be either credit card, debit card, or cash.

  • Go to the payment counter to prepare the bill.

  • Cashier prepares the bill according to the table number told by waiter.

  • Present the bill in a small closed folder to the guest from his/her left side.

  • Stand beside the guest till the guest examines the bill.

  • If the guest pays by cash, take it and deposit the amount at the payment counter. If the guest wishes to pay by card, take the guest’s signature on the bill, and take the card and bill to the payment counter. If the establishment has facility of mobile card-payment service, take the transaction device to the guest table.

  • The cashier returns the balance amount if paid by cash. If the payment is by card, he ensures the card’s expiry date and accepts the payment.

  • Bring back the copy of printed bill and any change or the card to the guest.

  • If the guest insists to take the tip, mention your thankfulness with smile.

  • When the guest stands up to leave the table, pull the chair backwards by informing him/her to help to get out of the chair gracefully.

  • Thank the guest for his/her visit and invite him/her to visit again.

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