How to Create an Effective Restaurant Training Manual
No two restaurants are run the same. That’s why employee training is so important: Even if a new hire has been in the industry for a few years, you’ll still need to train them on the nuances and specifics of your restaurant.
And unfortunately, it’s all too common to resort to the “fail fast” approach for getting restaurant staff up to speed – where employees make mistakes often but are quick to learn, but at the potential expense of the guest experience.
A surefire way to make sure your team is on the same page is to create a stellar restaurant training manual. A training manual provides your staff with the rules, guidelines, and clarity they need during the onboarding process to do their jobs well. And this makes it easier for you to lead and for your staff members to succeed. Heh. See what we did there?
Why Use a Restaurant Training Manual?
When you're caught up in the day-to-day hustle, a training manual acts as a guiding light and can alleviate some of the stresses that accompany training new restaurant employees.
Not only does it make your job easier, but it can also help determine the success or failure of a new employee.
You’ve heard it a million times before: Staffing is a major issue for the restaurant industry. That’s why you should take your time developing your training manual to be as clear and specific as possible. Don’t overlook any processes and systems you have in place at your restaurant. Make sure all new hires follow this program, no matter how much experience they bring to the table. Think of every new employee as if they’re new to the game. It’ll lead to a well-equipped and productive restaurant team.
Whether you're creating a restaurant employee training manual for the first time or looking to revamp 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.
Training Manual Template
Cover Page & Table of Contents
Before you crack open your restaurant training manual, start with the cover page. Basic branding and information are important here.
Add your restaurant’s logo as well as information like your name, phone number, email address, and the restaurant’s address.
Once someone opens up your waitstaff training manual, the first thing they should see is a table of contents. This will help new staff know exactly where to find whatever info they might need as they get ramped up. Using page numbers will be helpful here.
Writing Your Training Manual Intro
The introduction of your restaurant training manual can be broken down into four parts:
Let’s take a look at each one.
Your company overview is your chance to welcome new hires and get them excited about working at your restaurant. 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 open the restaurant? What drives you and gets you excited? Any fun anecdotes you can share?
This will lead nicely into your restaurant mission statement. Your mission statement is the foundation for the positioning of your brand and 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 flavour combinations and food quality usually reserved for fine dining.” Short, specific, and clear.
Leading with your mission statement will help plant the seeds of your restaurant and its brand in new employees’ minds.
In this section of your intro, give employees a quick rundown of who your typical guest is and the experience your restaurant business strives to create.
Paint a picture of what your average guest might look like. Who are they? What do they care about? What kind of service or customer experience might they be seeking by visiting your restaurant? This will help set the stage for your team.
You’ll explain guest service in greater detail in a later section, but use this space to hit some key points about service and the guest experience. Get across two to three main takeaways about guest interactions, behaviour and communication guidelines, and anything else you think is important.
Include the training schedule for the position in this section. Detail what activities and requirements — like food safety training or cross-training — the trainee needs to complete before they’re able to start working the position on their own.
Don’t just list off the requirements either. Speak to why they’re valuable and necessary to the role, and what skills and information your new employee will learn.
Also clearly lay out the repercussions of not meeting restaurant operations expectations, following the training schedule, or achieving their goals. If something comes up and they miss a day of training, will they get an extra day?
Speaking of questions, remind employees they can come to you with questions about the training program and the manual’s content. Encourage them to ask you and other employees for help. No silly questions here.
For the last section of your introduction, you can add a disclaimer. Your training manual isn’t a legal contract. Make that clear and that employment is at-will, which means that either you or the employee are free to end the relationship at any time.
But even if employment is at-will, be sure to set clear expectations. It's not uncommon to have new hires sign off on an expectations agreement, and it can help to get everyone bought in.
Detail Role Function and Responsibilities
Now that you’ve given an overview of your restaurant, detail the function, responsibilities, and additional expectations associated with the role. This section will vary depending on which position you’re writing the manual for. But while role function and responsibilities will vary, make it known that you hold all employees to the same standard, regardless of role.
This section of your restaurant training manual can be broken down into six parts:
General job guidelines and responsibilities
Personal appearance, dress code, and uniform
Role opening procedures
Role closing procedures
Health and safety
Kitchen safety and sanitisation
General Job Guidelines and Responsibilities
Here, give an overview of the guidelines and restaurant policies associated with the position. First, start with more general role guidelines. Let’s use waitstaff 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? Are they required to never handle cutlery with their hands?
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 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 tattoos, hair styles and length, jewelry, grooming, makeup, 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.
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.
Next, organise 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.
Now you’re ready to create your checklist. List out your procedures in an Excel spreadsheet 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.
Closing procedures can cover cleaning, food, safety, organisation, 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.
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 waitstaff 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.
Kitchen Safety and Sanitisation
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. Processes around hand washing, glove-wearing, food cleaning, serving dishes, and dishwashing should all be reviewed.
Kitchen safety should be a top priority — we don’t want anyone getting hurt on the job. A single missed shift could cause your employees stress, but workplace injury also affects the productivity of your kitchen.
Set Standards for Guest Service
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. It’s where you’ll explain all things guest service at your restaurant.
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.
And we keep saying this, but it’s worth repeating: 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
Here’s where your restaurant’s guest services policies should be laid out and explained 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 behaviours based on your restaurant’s concept and core values.
If you run a casual family grill, you’ll probably be alright with your waitstaff 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 of some sort.
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.
Types of Guests
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
In the guest service introduction, you explained some of the behaviours your team should follow when interacting with guests. Here’s where you’ll specify guidelines around these behaviours.
Outline requirements around greeting guests. Are waitstaff 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 Instructional With Specific Skills
Alright, you’ve covered dress code, guest service, role opening and closing procedures, and more. Now it’s time to get more instructional.
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 waitstaff as an example and break down the processes and guidelines you should outline for that skill set.
Setting the Table
Tell your waitstaff how you want them to set tables in your restaurant. Do you have a system in place? Should specific cutlery 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 waitstaff can handily reference.
Greeting and Seating
Explain how your waitstaff 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 waitstaff 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 waitstaff are checking all IDs before serving alcohol. Detail which forms of ID are acceptable.
Once the drink orders are in, your waitstaff 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 waitstaff start with appetizers?
You should also let waitstaff know if they’ll be taking orders through a handheld POS 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 waitstaff 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 waitstaff to explain specials to guests. Should they do this when guests are first seated? Should they do it right before taking down food orders?
Same as drink service, tell your waitstaff how they should serve food at the table once it’s ready. Should any new cutlery or dishware be brought to the table before serving the food? Should they bring out condiments before the food is served?
In this section, tell your waitstaff 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 waitstaff know how often they should be checking back in with their tables to make sure your guests are happy and satisfied.
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 waitstaff 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 waitstaff present a check to the table? What are the procedures for handling cash and credit cards?
Time to say goodbye. Let waitstaff 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 waitstaff help clear the table?
Let them know where dirty dishes should go and where they can find cleaning supplies.
Employee Handbook Template
And that's it.
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 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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