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How to Write a Restaurant Employee Handbook


Chelsea VerstegenAuthor

For many restaurant owners and operators, hiring, training, and staff retention has been a massive challenge. The labor crisis is real, and restaurant professionals across the country are frustrated by the state of staffing.

Here’s a common scenario in restaurant management: You’ve finally hired a great employee to fill that line cook job. You’re psyched about bringing on the new hire only to find yourself disappointed when they wind up uninspired and unsuccessful a few weeks into the job.

Sometimes this is unavoidable, but there’s a tool that can help stop this from happening. And chances are, it’s already in your restaurant.

Communication between management and staff is such an important part of an employee retention strategy. Noting this, we've built a simple restaurant employee handbook template to help restaurant management and staff get on the same page about workplace expectations and roles and responsibilities. In this guide, we’ll walk through the steps to creating your own and highlight a few key sections to consider including in your restaurant’s employee handbook.


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.


And if you need more support creating an employee handbook tailored to your states’ regulations and your business’s particular needs, check out Toast HR on Demand and the Toast HR Toolkit, powered by Mineral, available as part of Toast Payroll and Team Management.

Whichever way you proceed, restaurants should work with their HR team and professional advisors to draft handbooks that conform to applicable federal, state and local regulations, regularly review and update their handbooks, and have it reviewed by their legal counsel.

Here are some of the sections you can include in your restaurant employee handbook.

The Handbook Introduction

Be honest — if you were given an instruction manual, would you read every single word? Probably not. But your employee handbook’s introduction is your new hire’s first glimpse at your company. The stronger the intro, the more likely employees will know it's worthwhile to read the handbook in its entirety.

Make yours as inviting and interesting as possible. Don’t feel like you need to be overly professional. Consider making the tone of your handbook match the tone of your restaurant: make it charming, make it quirky, whatever — make it sound like your team.

A welcome letter from your founder or owner is a great way to engage your new employee and give them a reason to read on. Include a brief history of your restaurant, and give your staff a taste of what made you want to be in the business. If you can be relatable and find common ground with your new hires, you’ve got a great chance of establishing their respect right off the bat.

What you can include in this section:

  • A welcome note

  • A brief history of the business

  • A handful of key takeaways about the restaurant's brand positioning and operations

  • A brief outline of the following sections included in the handbook

Restaurant Core Values

Your core values — your driving forces, your restaurant’s “why” — are a guiding force for assessing how your restaurant is performing, whether you’re hiring the right people, and every challenge in between. Your core values should highlight your restaurant's passion for food, service, and hospitality. Documenting them keeps you honest.

Your restaurant can be more than just a place of work, and explaining your core values to new hires encourages them to do a gut check that they’re working in the right place. Your employees can evaluate whether your core values align with their own, and the sooner they make that assessment, the better.

What you can include in this section:

  • A list of your restaurant's core values and why they were chosen

  • Your restaurant’s mission statement (if you don’t have one yet, make one!) 

Conduct & Professionalism

Whether you're a dive bar or a fine dining restaurant, a certain level of professionalism is always expected in the workplace. Including a section in your restaurant employee handbook that outlines appropriate workplace behavior and expectations is important for a variety of reasons. An important one is that it gives management the opportunity to hold everyone on staff accountable for their performance to the same standards.

Your workplace behavior section can mirror your core values and cover everything from dress code to how your staff should treat other team members, along with repercussions for failure to follow these guidelines. Include guidelines about cell phone use, how to handle guest or staff conflicts, and conduct that will not be tolerated and/or subject to disciplinary action.

A great work environment is one where staff feel safe, supported, and respected at work. Consider clearly stating that any behavior that detracts from or threatens this supportive working environment will not be tolerated.

What you can include in this section:

  • An overview of expected conduct and behavior

  • Required attire (including grooming requirements)

  • Rewarded behavior and conduct that will not be tolerated 

Systems and Processes

There’s an undeniable overlap among restaurants when it comes to operational processes, but your restaurant likely has its own unique way of doing business.

We refer to these as systems, or SOPs (standard operating procedures), and they’re meant to keep everyone on the same page. Even the most experienced industry professionals need to adjust to the way their new restaurant does business when they join a new staff. Your restaurant employee handbook is the perfect place to outline how you expect everything to be done in your restaurant, from dishwashing to handling a health emergency.

Creating checklists of opening and closing duties is an efficient way of making sure all tasks get done everyday. These are tailored specifically to cooks, servers, bartenders, and managers, and they should be useful in the training process. Instead of spending your time demonstrating processes to every new hire, your staff should be able to do that for each other. Make systems simple while still ensuring they meet your standards so that all employees are capable of handling them.

Include how to use your technology and tools in this section. Give your new employee an overview of any equipment they might need to use. Give them an overview of your restaurant point of sale, your scheduling software, and other technology you might use. Make sure your servers know how to request time off, how to ring in meals and drinks, and how to void checks. This doesn’t have to be a step-by-step guide, because your trainers will fill in any gaps, but make it as clear as possible.

What you can include in this section:


SOPs Template

This template will help you create SOPs for your entire business, so you can create consistency and easily train employees.


Employee Pay and Benefits Overview

Your restaurant's compensation package details how your employees will be paid, your restaurant’s overtime policy, breaks and meals, time off, employee benefits overview and explanation, and any other things that make working for your restaurant rewarding. Be sure to look at your federal, state, and local requirements with respect to these terms and conditions of employment, as they can vary around the country.

As you’re developing your compensation plan and benefits package, think about retention. Though many factors are causing the staffing crisis, payment and benefits are a large part. The average pay for restaurant employees is low — according to ZipRecruiter, the average yearly pay for a restaurant worker is $21,470 — and restaurant jobs that pay employees well are hard to find. And, strong benefits packages are few and far between — according to Toast's 2019 success report, only 31% of restaurants surveyed provide health insurance. 

Restaurant employees deserve consistent livable wages, paid time off, health insurance, and room for growth, and restaurants all over the country are making changes to make room in the budget for these benefits.

Programs like earned wage access can also be highly beneficial to staff, and can boost employee engagement and retention. According to a PwC employee financial wellness survey, 50% of employees reported being distracted at work by personal finance issues in the past year. By providing early wage access, employees can reap the benefits of greater financial flexibility. 

Once you have your model set up, address all frequently asked benefits questions here. Be thorough, because benefits packages can be really confusing, so it’s important that you go in-depth on what you offer your employees and how they can take advantage. 

What you can include in this section:

  • How employees can elect to be paid (pay check, direct deposit, etc.)

  • Overtime policy

  • Breaks and meals

  • Holidays, vacations, and time off

  • Insurance

  • Additional employee benefits

Anti-Harassment Policy and Complaint Procedure

Creating a supportive work environment includes drawing hard lines on behavior that might make your employees feel unsafe at work. 

Consult with legal counsel or an HR professional to assess what policies might be required for your business. These policies may include, but are not limited to:

  • Anti-Harassment and Anti-Discrimination 

  • Sexual Harassment

  • Retaliation

  • Bullying

  • Offensive Comments and Conduct

What you can include in this section:

  • Terminable and/or prohibited conduct

  • How to report harassment or discrimination or other policy violations 

Having an HR manager on your team is a great option here, but not always affordable for every restaurant. If you don’t have an in-house HR manager, products like ToastHR On-Demand gives customers live access to certified HR Advisors who can provide guidance on HR challenges from basic compliance to complex workplace issues.

Conclusion and Signature

Having employees sign the handbook shows their acknowledgement of the policies outlined in it. This gives you a tool to refer to if questions arise or if you find a staff member isn’t adhering to expectations.

What you can include in this section:

  • A final welcoming sentiment

  • A line for their signature and date

You’re Ready to Create an Employee Handbook

As you’re setting up your onboarding and HR practices, this is also a great time to consider upgrading your team management technology. Integrated payroll and team management helps you focus your saved time on your restaurant, and it’ll streamline your systems to make the employee experience easier. You’ll have the ability to manage blended overtime and multi-location setup from one platform. And your data will sync in real-time: on average, customers on Toast Payroll & Team Management process payroll in ~30 minutes or less with 32% processing in less than 10 minutes. 

And Toast Payroll & Team Management includes the Toast HR Toolkit, which can be a huge help in building an employee handbook tailored to your business and your local requirements.  

Integrated team management also saves time and stress for your employees: a good digital onboarding workflow for new hires saves you from manual, time-consuming processes while consolidating the paperwork into one location. This means tech training is easy, and you can get employees hired and onboarded (or re-hired post-COVID-19), as quickly as possible. This makes it easier for employees to access their schedules and get paid.

Strong management and staff communication empowers your employees, shares your philosophy, and makes sure your new hires start working as a team — and fast. 

Related Restaurant Resources


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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