A bar operations manual is a collection of documents, checklists, guidelines, recipes (like moonshine recipes or summer cocktail recipes), and any other important information about your bar. Together it reflects your bar's standard operating procedures or bar SOP. Your bar operations manual will help you manage a bar and set the right standards for your business. Keeping it up to date and relevant is one of the many important bartender duties. It'll also help you get a handle on your processes, communicate what your bar’s vision is, and a good bar manager will use it to train newly hired staff (wait staff and everyone else).
A typical bar operations manual should include standard operating procedures and training resources.
Standard Operating Procedures for Bars (Bar SOP)
Start your manual with tasks like bar opening and closing procedures, bartender duties checklist, bar cleaning checklist, and a bar inventory guide. Prepare this document as if it is intended for newly hired staff and use it to train them.
Opening and Closing Procedures
In this section, document how to open and set your bar up for the day and close it at night. We recommend including checklists of all required tasks that your staff must complete when they are going through the process. You can start by downloading our free bar opening and closing checklist template.
Daily, Weekly, and Deep Cleaning Tasks
It is extremely important to keep your bar clean and well-organized for your guests throughout the day. In your bar sop manual, document the cleaning supplies and procedures and schedules for your bar, then train your staff on them. Create a bar cleaning checklist of all cleaning activities and include it in your bar operations manual. That way you can easily review them at the end of the day to make sure all tasks are properly addressed. From verifying things were cleaned up after happy hour, to a general tidy after a main course is served, it should all be in there.
Pro tip: one way to keep your bar or restaurant as clean as possible is to embrace QR codes in restaurants. Especially for digital menus.
Understanding par level inventory is an important aspect of bar management. Par levels change very frequently based on your bar or restaurant operations and needs. Therefore, we recommend keeping the form that you use for ordering your full bar liquor list. Have the par levels on the left and the number of items you need to order on the right. By doing this, you can easily review the amount of stock you ordered in previous weeks when needed. You can also show your staff how to order inventory in your absence.
Order of Service
It is very important that you take your time to detail the order of service at your bar. This will help create consistency among all of your staff when they provide service to your guests. Be very specific and descriptive. Start with when the customer first enters your bar and how your staff should greet and seat them. Then list out every mandatory action that must be taken after.
Inventory Schedule and Method
Whether you do the inventory yourself or have your staff do it for you from time to time, your bar sop manual should list the schedule and process for how to take liquor inventory. This will help ensure that you are taking inventory correctly every time. And make it easier to train your staff when you want them to take on this responsibility. You can download our liquor inventory sheet to make your life easier.
Staff Training Resources
Assemble the job description for each position and sort them according to job function. For example, you can list them by hierarchy, starting with the bar owners and bar managers. Create guidelines for bar manager duties and a standard bar manager salary. Then down to shift leads and bartenders, cocktail servers, and barbacks. Highlight the primary tasks and describe the processes used to perform each task, including all of the resources necessary. You can also include the employee directory with everyone’s contact information.
In this section, document the on-boarding process for your new bar staff. You can start with the most basic of needs and end with the most nuanced ones, but make sure to address the following:
This is the most basic aspect of every job. The compliance section should include essential workplace rules, policies, and legal procedures. List the standard dress code and clock-in procedures, as well as any regulations that your staff need to be aware of.
Take the time to break down the job’s description and requirements for your newly hired staff. List out general expectations that you have for them, and what they can expect from their job. You can include a summary of your bar’s structure here as well: who is in charge and who they will be reporting to during their shifts.
Company culture is really important because employees are more productive when they enjoy their time in the workplace. Share a bit about your bar’s culture and what the official norms are. How is work ethic valued? How are your staff appreciated? What kind of leadership can your staff expect from you and their supervisors?
Training Materials and Resources
It is vital to have a clear bar training manual for new staff. Include any materials and resources that you want your staff to go through when they start and as they continue working at your bar. They can be written materials for your staff to read and refer back to or hands-on procedures that you need to demonstrate. They can even be workshops that you want them to attend to hone their skills. These materials should not be limited to your new staff only but should be available for your current staff as well. We recommend adding more to the list and always thinking of any chance to upskill your staff. That will ultimately help your business in the long run.
List every compulsory item that your staff must have with them before they start their shift. Like the correct attire and necessary supplies (pens, notepads, etc.).
Last but not least, include the protocol for your staff to follow in case of an emergency. It is extremely important to make sure your staff is familiar with your bar layout. Like where the fire extinguisher is, where the exits are located, and emergency protocols. Record emergency and supplier phone numbers here as well.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of growing and scaling your business, creating an operations manual is the perfect place to start. Having your bar sop documented creates a standard for your business. It makes it easier to train your staff and hold them accountable for their work. You will also find it less difficult to delegate work and create consistency among all of your staff. Ensuring every team member is on the same page can also help bring revenue into your bar business.