Standards, Policies and Procedures

The terms “Standards,” “Policies,” and “Procedures” are used in business to describe the what, why, and how’s of a hospitality operation’s organization and work processes.


  •  Something considered by an authority or by general consent as a basis for comparison; an approved model.
  • Anything as a rule or principle that is used as a basis or model for judgment.
  • Morals, ethics, habits, etc., established by authority, custom, or an individual as acceptable.
  • Fulfilling specific requirements as established by an authority, law, rule, custom, etc.

In a manufacturing setting product standards usually include material specifications, manufacturing tolerances, quality measurements, and the functionality of the finished product.  In the hospitality field, however, the establishment of a standard is usually made by management based upon an understanding or expectation of what will satisfy or impress the customer/guest/member.  Often this satisfaction is based upon the manner in which some service or action is performed.  Therefore, the standard is a description of the desired outcome of that service or action and/or the manner in which it is performed, for instance the approved way of presenting and opening a bottle of wine, or the correct way to fill out a form used for documenting personnel actions, the manner in which month-end inventories will be conducted, or the level of professionalism of management and operations.

In the case of hospitality operations, standards are the model for the optimum way of doing things.  They are established by the general manager as the acceptable model of performance by which customers judge proficiency and professionalism.  They apply not only to the daily performance of individual duties, but also to the manner in which you conduct yourself and your business.

Policy (ies)

  • A definite course of action adopted for the sake of expediency, facility, etc.
  • Action or procedure conforming to or considered with reference to prudence or expediency.
  • Prudence, practical wisdom, or expediency.  (expedient:  tending to promote some proposed or desired object; fit or suitable under the circumstances.  Synonyms include advisable, appropriate, desirable.)

Policies and standards are so closely interwoven it is often hard to tell them apart.  Policies most often apply to those areas of the operation where they can be little or no leeway in how you do something, for instance in the area of Human Resources where so much of what you do is dictated by law or by the need for correct action to avoid litigation, or in the area of Accounting where exactness and consistency are necessary to ensure the correctness, accuracy, and transparency of financial reporting and fiduciary responsibilities.

Policies can also apply to operations.  For example you establish policies to ensure the consistent and fair treatment of customers, for instance in how you take tee times or restaurant reservations.  The need for policy here is to ensure that every customer has equal treatment and the same opportunity to enjoy the establishment’s amenities, which as every manager knows is important to keeping customers happy and satisfied.  Nothing will upset a customer faster than believing he or she is not getting a fair shake from the operation.

Procedure (s)

  • An act or a manner of proceeding in any action or process; conduct.
  • A particular course of mode of action.

Procedures are the “how to’s” of the enterprise’s business.  Sometimes they flow from standards and sometimes from policies, but in the end they are the exact instructions of how to do or complete a particular process, act, or event.  Whereas policies are often the big picture of why we do something, procedures are the detail of how it is done.

Standards, Policies, Procedures.  It is essential to develop detailed, written standards, policies, and procedures for every area of operations.  Not only are these the basis for developing training material, but they serve as the foundation for developing a culture that is consistently taught to new hires and reinforced by both management and other employees.  When everyone understands “the way things are done,” there is less opportunity for freelance behavior.  Eliminating freelancing or employee discretion fosters consistency of product and service delivery.  As Harvard Professor Theodore Levitt says in his book, Marketing for Business Growth, “Discretion is the enemy of order, standardization, and quality.”

In fact, employees will be the first to say that they appreciate the time and effort taken to teach them the accepted way of doing things and that management insists upon uniformly high standards.  People naturally take pride in being associated with quality and this is no less true for service employees.

Summary.  Taken together standards, policies, and procedures form the bulk of the material that an employee must master to satisfactorily complete all their job functions, duties, and responsibilities.  Without taking the time to define, explain, and clarify standards, policies, and procedures, how can management realistically know what it is that employees need to learn?  Without well-defined (i.e., written and reviewed) standards, policies, and procedures, any attempt to train will be disorganized and inconsistent.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!


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