How to Write Your Restaurant Employee Handbook

By: AJ Beltis

6 Minute Read

Oct 02, 2018

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Blank Brainstorming Business 6357 Min 275990 Edited

According to a new report from Toast, restaurant owners and operators cite hiring, training, and staff retention as their biggest challenges to restaurant success in 2018.

Communication between management and staff is a key element in an effective recruitment and retention strategy. Noting this, we've developed a new Restaurant Employee Handbook Template to help restaurant management and staff get on the same page about acceptable workplace behavior, expectations, roles and responsibilities, and more.

If you already have a restaurant handbook but are interested in ways to improve, check out the video below and follow along with these steps as we help you organize your restaurant handbook.

1. The Introduction

Be honest - if you were given an instruction manual, would you read every single word?

Yeah, me neither.

That's why you have to make the introduction of your restaurant employee handbook stellar. The stronger the introduction, the more likely readers will know it's worthwhile to read the handbook in its entirety.

For example, the intro for one the employee handbooks for Applebee's includes a welcome from the company, an introductory statement, and a statement on the role of teamwork in the business.

In the intro, consider writing a welcome letter from the founder, owner, and/or general manager. Cover the company history and the tl;dr (too long; didn't read) takeaways you want your new hires to know above all else.

restaurant employee handbook

What to Include in This Section

  • A welcome note or sentiment.
  • 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.
  • A legal disclaimer explaining the employee handbook is not a legal contract.

2. Restaurant Core Values

What are the core values you want all employees to embody? What's your restaurant's mission statement?

In today's competitive marketplace, customers and staff want to support brands who stand for something. In fact, a 2015 study by The Nielsen Group found that 66% of of the global millennial population is willing to pay more to support brands "committed to a positive social and environmental impact."

Considering there are more than 80 million millennials in the United States, it's pretty likely you have one or two on staff who share in these values. Your restaurant should exist as more than a place of work where employees show up just to make money. Otherwise, your turnover rate will be much higher than the 73% industry average.

Your core values should highlight your restaurant's passion for food, service, and hospitality.

What to Include in This Section

  • A list of your restaurant's core values and why they were chosen.
  • Your restaurant mission statement.

3. Acceptable Workplace Behavior

Whether you're a dive bar or a fine dining restaurant, a certain level of professionalism should always be expected in the workplace.

Including a section in your restaurant employee handbook that outlines acceptable and unacceptable behavior at work is beneficial for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being it gives management a way to hold everyone on staff accountable for their performance.

This section should cover everything from front of house dress code to how they treat other staff members to how they behave on social media as a representative of the brand.

It's important to convey that your restaurant staff should always feel safe, supported, and respected while at work. Clearly state that any behavior that detracts or threatens this working environment will not be tolerated and will result in dismissal from the restaurant.

restaurant employee handbook

What to Include in This Section

  • An overview of expected conduct and behavior.
  • Required attire (including grooming requirements).
  • Anti-harassment policy and fireable offenses.

4. Systems And Processes

Though there is an undeniable overlap between restaurants with regard to their operational processes, your restaurant likely has it's own unique way of doing business.

In the industry, we know these as systems

"A restaurant system is a process – a way of doing anything and everything in your restaurant – to guide you towards following best practices." describes Chef David Scott Peters. "And what is best practice? It's creating a system or process for everything you do in your restaurant. These systems allow others to run the restaurant how you want without you having to be there. This way, you can work on your business, rather than in it."

Even the most experienced industry professionals have to adjust to the way their new restaurant does business when they join a new restaurant staff. Your restaurant employee handbook is the perfect place to outline how expect everything done in your restaurant, from dishwashing to handling a health emergency.

What to Include in This Section

5. Employee Pay & Benefits Overview

This is the part most of your new restaurant staff members will skip ahead to; your restaurant's benefits package should be an exciting bonus for working at your restaurant.

Since you'll undoubtedly get plenty of questions about health care, time off, and pay stubs during the hiring and on boarding process, it's a smart idea to create an employee pay and benefits section in your restaurant employee handbook and answer the most frequently asked questions here.

In this section, charts and graphs can be a helpful way to visualize the sometimes complicated information accompanied with benefits packages.

For example, in the handbook for Hoss's Family Steak & Sea, there is a clear outline of how time off is accrued and can be used.

employee handbook hoss family steak house

What to Include in This Section

  • How employees will be paid (pay check, direct deposit, etc.).
  • Overtime policy.
  • Breaks and meals.
  • Holidays, vacations, and time off.
  • Insurance.
  • Additional employee benefits.

6. Anti-Harassment Policy and Complaint Procedure

In the age of the #MeToo movement, it's especially important to reinforce that sexual harassment and assault will not be tolerated in your restaurant, and that should an employee feel uncomfortable, offended, or violated, they are encouraged to come forward to a member of your restaurant's management without fear of retribution.

The screenshot below, taken from the handbook of a chain of Subway restaurants, does a great job of explaining their procedure for handling reports of unacceptable behavior by a staff member.

restaurant employee handbook

What to Include in This Section

  • Punishable, fireable, and prohibited offenses.
  • How to report abuse or harassment.
  • Management's response plan for inappropriate behavior claims.

7. Conclusion & Signature

While this is not a legal document, having employees sign the handbook shows their understanding of the rules and is something you refer back to if questions ever arise or if you find they're not following the rules.

Before you get their John Hancock, remind them once again how excited you are for the new hire to join!

What to Include in This Section

  • A final welcoming sentiment.
  • A line for their signature and date.

Creating Your Restaurant Handbook

Writing up a restaurant handbook with little or no help is a pain. That's why we've created this template for you! Simply write in the specifics of your restaurant and you're good to go.

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