Developing an operations manual for your business

Developing an operations manual for your business is a good idea as it can prove to be a very powerful performance delivery and management mechanic. A carefully designed, populated and well implemented manual will:

  • help you to operate your business with consistency, compliance and profitability
  • inform your training delivery ensuring that it is highly effective
  • help you to manage your people, creating a happier and more productive workplace
  • bring discipline and potency to your marketing activity
  • ensure that you keep on top of your financial model, giving you the best chance of long- term sustainability and profitability

A good operations manual covers all of the key areas and functions of the business including before you open to customers until after you are closed.

Writing the manual

The key to the successful development of your manual comes from allowing the time and people resource at the outset to produce the manual. You need to put a small team together of people who know the operation of your business intricately. They then need to be given the time to compile the manual.

For each section of your business operations you need to:

  • outline the main functional areas of your operation
  • dissect each of these areas into easy to understand sub-sections
  • record, in simple but detailed terms, for each part of the operation the: how to, do’s and don’ts, what ‘best’ is, and how to monitor and correct

Taking the time to ensure that you have not left any area of the business out is important. Once the manual is compiled you will have the comprehensive ‘go to’ resource that will detail every aspect of how to operate and monitor your business. Linked to effective training this will become an invaluable asset for you.


The contents are always dictated by the type, nature and size of your business, but the operations manual should cover all aspects of the operation.

By way of example, some of the sections covered in the operations manual for a coffee shop could include:

  • the business (introduction, the concept, the owners, brief history)
  • the premises (opening, set up, layout, closing, securing)
  • the menu (content, purchasing, processing & preparation, presentation, storage)
  • the service system (layout, customer flow, merchandising, process of engagement,)
  • customer service (customer programme, order taking, upselling, complaint handling)
  • cleaning & maintenance (schedules, tasks, safety, compliance)
  • finances (pricing, portions, stock control, daily/weekly financial monitoring)

Success in your business will come from being consistently great. This consistence in your operations, will come if your team are all trained to the same standard of delivery, across all areas and function of your operation. A well compiled operations manual can be the backbone of a consistently great business.

What it might look like?

Your business will obviously have more than a few areas and sub sections to detail in your manual. The section below provides an example of how the functional area of cleaning might be detailed in the operations manual of a restaurant:

Section 1 - Cleaning

1.1 Introduction

Why our cleaning procedures and practices at <business name> are vitally important

  • Here you would introduce the importance of cleaning, how it is trained thoroughly, and how adherence to the procedures and practices is expected from all employees

1.2 Health & Safety

  • This would detail the do’s and don’ts around warning signs, protective wear, how to move and handle equipment and furniture carefully and safely, information on recording, and how to hygienically wash cleaning equipment after use

1.3 Daily cleaning schedule

  • The schedule outlines every individual item or area that needs to be cleaned, when (and number of times) in the day it must be cleaned. This shows the staff member how to complete the schedule when the task is complete by signing off task completion.

1.4 How to clean

  1.4.1 The customer area - In detail, explain how to clean each area, piece of equipment or furniture in the customer      area, highlighting the technique required, materials and cleaning equipment used, how the item should look, feel, smell  after the task and how to record that the task is complete. A photograph of what 'best' looks like is a great insertion at this  point.

  1.4.2 The kitchen area - do the same for the kitchen area, the stores area, the toilet area, the outside area and so on

1.5 Cleaning and compliance checks

  • The detail in this section links the cleaning practices and procedures to environmental health regulations and health and safety regulations. It will outline the monitoring and checking procedures that are in place, regularity of checks and how a check is carried out.
  • It would include detail on how ‘best practice’ is recorded and monitored throughout each day, usually on check sheets, or more commonly these days on an electronic mobile device.

1.6 Maintenance and procurement of cleaning equipment and materials

  • Here the detail will cover how cleaning equipment is maintained, cleaned and serviced. What needs to be done daily, weekly, monthly etc. throughout the life of the equipment.
  • How to store, check levels and re-order materials such as cloths, detergents etc. would be detailed here.


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