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How to Create an Effective Restaurant Training Manual

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Tyler CumellaAuthor

No two restaurants are run the same. That’s why employee training is so important: Even if a new hire has industry experience, you’ll still need to train them on the specifics of your restaurant.

Unfortunately, many restaurants take the “fail fast” approach for restaurant staff training, where employees make mistakes often but are quick to learn — but this approach can both negatively impact the guest experience and make the new hire feel unsupported.

Instead, take the time to create — and actually implement — a comprehensive restaurant training manual. A training manual provides your staff with the rules and guidelines for working at your restaurant, and clearly outlines their expectations and tasks. It makes for a smoother onboarding process, and helps staff members to succeed from Day 1.

Why Use a Restaurant Training Manual?

A high-quality training manual acts as a guiding light for all employees and can alleviate some of the stresses that accompany training new restaurant employees — both for the trainer and the trainee. New hires can go over their training manuals at home and at the restaurant, reviewing their job description and learning the nuances of their role in this specific restaurant.

Staffing (and employee turnover) continues to be a major issue for the restaurant industry. But improving your onboarding process can contribute to better employee satisfaction and retention — and developing a clear, detailed, and motivating training manual is a crucial piece of the puzzle.

How to Create a Great Restaurant Training Manual

Your training manual should be as clear and specific as possible. Don’t overlook any processes or systems, even if the instructions seem obvious to you.

Make sure all new hires read and use the training manual, no matter how much experience they have — it’ll lead to a more cohesive and productive restaurant team. For more tips on how to staff your restaurant, check out our guide to restaurant staffing here

Everyone from dishwashers to bartenders to cooks and managers should have a copy of the training manual that they can refer back to — whether that’s a digital copy they can access on their phone or a printed booklet.

Whether you're creating a restaurant employee training manual for the first time or looking to update your existing one, we’ve got you covered. In this guide, we break down the key elements of an effective training manual and how you can create one for your restaurant.

Follow along by downloading the restaurant training manual template — though many sections will be able to be copy-pasted once you write them, you should create a different version of the training manual for every role on your team, or at least create one for front of house and one for back of house, including details for all roles on either team.

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Training Manual Template

Use this restaurant training manual template, a customizable Word Doc, to provide your staff with the rules, guidelines, and clarity they need to do their jobs efficiently.

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Cover Page & Table of Contents

Add your restaurant’s logo to the cover page, and include information like your name, phone number, email address, and the restaurant’s address. Then, create a table of contents with page numbers, which will help new staff know exactly where to find whatever info they might need as they get ramped up.

Training Manual Intro

The introduction of your restaurant training manual can be broken down into four parts. This section can be reused across all the training manuals you create, whether it’s a server training manual or BOH training manual focused on food preparation.

  1. Company overview

  2. Guest overview

  3. Training schedule

  4. Legal disclaimer

Let’s take a look at each one.

Company Overview

Get new hires excited about working at your restaurant and welcome to them to the team. For a more personal touch, write the introduction as if you’re speaking to employees first-hand.

Kick things off on a warm, positive note. Tell the story of your restaurant and give a brief overview of its history and work environment. What inspired you to become a restaurant owner and start this business? Any fun anecdotes you can share?

This will lead nicely into your restaurant's mission statement. Your mission statement will let employees know what you’re all about in just a few sentences. For some inspiration, take a look at the mission statement for Butcher & Bee in Charleston, SC: “Butcher & Bee opened on King Street in 2011 with the simple mission of serving honest-to-goodness sandwiches made with flavor combinations and food quality usually reserved for fine dining.” Short, specific, and clear.

Guest Overview

Give employees a quick rundown of who your typical guest is and the experience your restaurant business strives to create. Answer the following questions about your guests:

  1. Who are they?

  2. What do they care about?

  3. What kind of food, service, and customer experience might they be seeking by visiting your restaurant?

For FOH staff, you’ll explain guest service in greater detail in a later section, but use this space to hit some key points about the guest experience that every employee will contribute to. Get across two to three main takeaways about guest interactions, behavior and communication guidelines, and anything else you think is important.

Training Schedule

Include the training schedule for the position in this section. Detail what activities and requirements — like food safety training or cross-training — are involved in your restaurant training program. Briefly outline the “why” behind each step, and what skills a new employee will learn.

Then, clearly lay out the repercussions of not meeting restaurant operations expectations, following the training schedule, or completing their tasks.

Remind employees they can always come to you with questions about the training program and the manual’s content. Encourage them to ask you and other employees for help.

Disclaimer

For the last section of your introduction, you can add a disclaimer that explains your training manual isn’t a legal contract, rather a guide to how to succeed in their new role.

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Detail Role Function and Responsibilities

Now that you’ve given an overview of your restaurant, detail the function, responsibilities, and additional expectations associated with each role. This section will vary depending on which position you’re writing the manual for.

This section of your restaurant training manual can be broken down into six parts:

  1. General job guidelines and responsibilities

  2. Personal appearance, dress code, and uniform

  3. Role opening procedures

  4. Role closing procedures

  5. Health and safety requirements

  6. Kitchen safety and sanitization protocols

General Job Guidelines and Responsibilities 

Here, give an overview of the guidelines and restaurant policies associated with the position. First, start with more general guidelines. Let’s use servers as an example — here are some questions you can ask yourself to get the gears turning.

Should servers be dressed and ready to go in perfect uniform before clocking in? Or will they have time to change before shift? If so, should they arrive a few minutes before their shift starts to change?

Questions like these may seem super specific, but they’re important for setting expectations.

Next, think about smaller areas like handling plates, glasses, and other items. Do you require that servers never handle glasses by the rims?

Some other things to think about: Is there a sidework calendar? A cleaning checklist?

Questions like these are all things to consider when writing this section of your training manual. You can apply this framework to other roles like chef, line cook, dishwasher, and others.

Personal Appearance, Dress Code, and Uniform

In this section, go over the requirements you have (if any) around employees’ personal appearance, dress code, and uniform.

You should cover:

  • Employee grooming and hygiene standards

  • Employee dress code or required uniform — this will vary based on role

  • Whether you’ll be providing this attire or if employees should purchase on their own

  • Whether you have different dress codes or uniforms for dinner versus lunch, private events versus a regular shift, and so on

Here’s where you should also address any policies you have on jewelry, grooming, nails, perfume, and cologne. All safety procedures should be considered here as well when it comes to items such as protective footwear.

Role Opening Procedures

Give your new employee an overview of the opening procedures for their role. Present the opening procedures in whatever format you prefer — could be a list, a checklist, or bullet points.

As an example, let’s look at how to put together a kitchen opening checklist for your back-of-house team.

  1. First, identify the tasks you’ll need to include. Common kitchen opening tasks include handling pre-opening deliveries, prepping kitchen utensils and cooking supplies, and restocking ingredient stations for line cooks.

  2. Next, organize your tasks. Break out your checklist by section and task. Go through the list of tasks, find common threads between line items, and bucket them together by priority, proximity, etc.

  3. Now you’re ready to create your checklist. List out your procedures in an Excel spreadsheet or in an opening procedures template, and print it out for the team.

Once you’ve detailed the opening procedures of the role, don’t forget to provide a quick explanation for why these opening procedures are important. Tell them how it’ll make their and the team’s jobs easier over the course of the shift.

Role Closing Procedures 

Next, give your new employee an overview of the closing procedures for their role. Same as the opening procedures, present them however you choose — you can use a closing procedures template to get started.

Closing procedures can cover cleaning, food, safety, organization, and finances. Detail which tasks need to be completed at the end of the employee’s shift. Should they finish cleaning tasks? If they’re a server, how should they hand off their tables to another server? Do you require that staff check out with a manager before leaving once they’ve finished their shift?

Like you did with role opening procedures, don’t forget to provide a quick explanation for why these procedures matter.

Health Procedures 

Here you should cover how your team – front-of-house and back-of-house — should handle things like guest allergies. Will you provide menu training so servers know which dishes are or aren’t gluten-free? How should your kitchen staff prep dishes for guests with allergies or dietary restrictions?

If you have one, you should also share your policy for medical emergencies in the restaurant, which would cover situations like if a guest was to start choking.

Consider also discussing your sick day policy.

Kitchen Safety and Sanitization

Remind team members to follow all guidelines and regulations that ensure safety in your restaurant’s kitchen. This should cover the steps taken to keep employees safe from harm and customers safe from improperly prepared food and foodborne illness. Processes around hand washing, knife maintenance, glove-wearing, food cleaning, food storage, serving dishes, and dishwashing should all be reviewed.

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Restaurant Opening and Closing Checklist

The beginning and end of a shift can be frantic. Use this free PDF checklist to set your front-of-house staff up for success.

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Set Standards for Guest Service and Experience

We touched on guest service in the introduction to your restaurant training manual. Now it’s time to do a deeper dive. This section of your manual is arguably the most important one for the front of the house, but also can contain important lessons for back of the house employees.

Use this space to reinforce the core values of your restaurant and how every action your employees take — whether they’re front-of-house or back-of-house — has an impact on the guest experience. Everything they do within the walls of your restaurant should reflect those core values. Be detailed and specific and lay out your expectations.

This would be another great place to remind new hires to come to you or another member of the team with any questions they have. Better to answer questions at the start than have a misunderstanding in the future.

Guest Service Introduction

Explain your restaurant’s guest services policies in detail. Ask yourself a few questions: How do you define guest service at your restaurant? How should staff interact with guests to embody this definition? You can provide examples of specific behaviors based on your restaurant’s concept and core values.

If you run a casual family grill, you’ll probably be alright with your servers being a bit more relaxed and off the cuff. That won’t be the case if you operate a fine dining establishment. Chances are you’d want employees like servers to be more formal and maybe even work off of a script.

This introductory section is a great place to underline that your employees are always representing your brand in the restaurant. They should keep that in the back of their minds even when they’re not directly interacting with guests.

Guest Behavior

In this section, explain the types of guests your team is likely to encounter in your restaurant. An understanding of the customer, tied to your core values and brand, will guide your employees’ actions and success.

Who are your customers? What are they like? How do they behave? Look at some of your regulars and reference them to help paint a picture. If you’re opening a new restaurant, imagine your ideal customer and describe them.

Then, think through specific scenarios and types of guests your team might encounter. How should your front-of-house accommodate guests with disabilities? What’s the best way for employees to handle aggressive guests? Clearly answer questions like these to prepare your team for whatever comes their way.

Guest Service Guidelines

Here’s where you’ll give even more specific guidelines around service.

Outline requirements for greeting guests. Are servers required to greet guests within one minute of them being seated at the table? Does your restaurant use a script or specific talking points for greeting guests?

Include conflict resolution tactics in this section, too. What’s your policy for how employees interact with guests when there’s a disagreement or conflict? Should your staff attempt to resolve the issue themselves first and then escalate? Or should they go to their managers with any issues immediately? The best practice here is to empower your employees to resolve guest complaints before deferring to a manager.

Get Deeper into the Details

To help you build your training manual, let’s take a look at how you could structure this instructional section around a specific role. We’ll use servers as an example and break down the processes and guidelines you should outline for that skill set.

Setting the Table

Tell your servers how you want them to set tables in your restaurant. Do you have a system in place? Should specific silverware go on the right or left of the plate? Even if you don’t have a preference, some level of detail or guidance will be helpful.

In this section, it’d be good to include an image or photo of a table setting that servers can handily reference.

Greeting and Seating

Explain how your servers should introduce themselves to a new table. When they first go over to the table, should they have a free basket of bread and glasses of water at the ready?

Taking and Placing Drink Orders

Write down how servers are to take drink orders. Are drink orders taken by seat numbers? If your restaurant serves alcohol, what’s the process look like there? Make sure your servers are checking all IDs before serving alcohol. Detail which forms of ID are acceptable.

Drink Service

Once the drink orders are in, your servers need to bring them to the table. Think through how you’d like servers to bring drinks to the table, if you have a specific process. You can also cover any policies you have on drink refills here.

Taking and Placing Food Orders

After drinks comes the food. Do you want food orders to be taken by seat number? Should your servers start with appetizers?

You should also let servers know if they’ll be taking orders through a handheld POS system or with your traditional pen and paper. If you go the pen-and-paper route, let servers know how to then enter orders into your POS terminal.

Suggestive Selling and Specials

When taking food orders, your servers should be thinking about tactics like suggestive selling, upselling, and other tactics to help boost profitability. They should also cover any specials your restaurant might be running.

Offer upselling tips here. Cover techniques like suggesting upgrades and add-ons and promoting higher-margin menu items. Explain why these tactics are important to the success of your business.

Also, think about when you want servers to explain specials to guests. Should they do this when guests are first seated? Should they do it right before taking down food orders?

Food Service

Same as drink service, tell your servers how they should serve food at the table once it’s ready. Should any new silverware or dishware be brought to the table before serving the food? Should they bring out condiments before the food is served?

Quality Control

In this section, tell your servers if they need to look out for anything before the food leaves the kitchen. Have them check on things like dish modifications before serving the table.

Once the food’s been served, let servers know how often they should be checking back in with their tables to make sure your guests are happy and satisfied.

After-Dinner Service

Once your guests are finished with dinner and the table’s been cleared, it’s time for after-dinner service. Outline any processes around after-dinner dessert and drinks. Should servers suggest anything in particular? Should they ask guests if they’d like to see a dessert menu?

Closing Out a Table

Once dinner and dessert have been served, it’s time to close out the table. How should your servers present a check to the table? What are the procedures for handling cash and credit cards?

The Farewell

Let servers know how they should say goodbye to guests when they’re leaving. If you’d like them to do or say something in particular, be clear about that.

Table Bussing and Cleaning

Once your guests have left, it’s time to clean the table. Who’s responsible for bussing and cleaning? Do you have bussers? Should servers help clear the table?

Let them know where dirty dishes should go and where they can find cleaning supplies.

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Employee Handbook Template

Outline your restaurant’s staff policies in this customizable Word doc to help restaurant management and staff get on the same page.

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Restaurant Employee Manuals Help Employees Feel in Control

We’ve reached the end of your restaurant training manual. At this point, your new employee should be feeling excited and prepared to start training. And if they’re not? Just ask them. Ask for feedback on your training manual from new and existing employees. It’ll only help you continue to improve the training process.

Tie the manual together by reminding your new employee to act professionally, represent your restaurant to the best of their abilities, and get excited about being on the team. And we’ll say it just one more time: Encourage employees to ask questions and refer back to the manual if they’re left wondering or confused about anything at all.

Close out your training manual with a knowledge check to reinforce the information that’s been presented throughout. This could be a simple quiz or even a more formal test. Have new employees sign off to show they’re on the same page and ready to hit the ground running.

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