Topics to Cover in a Restaurant Employee Handbook

Restaurant Management Tips

A well-developed employee handbook is the foundation for streamlined operations at any restaurant. It has the power to steer management to make difficult decisions and empower employees when questions about policies and procedures arise. It can settle disputes and push employees to maximize their job performance. It’s the holy grail of your business. 

A useful employee handbook includes these two sections: 

  1. Basic restaurant standards, like restaurant safety, dress code, and code of conduct. 
  2. Complex restaurant processes, like how to report tips or request vacation days. 

As you develop the restaurant employee handbook, view it as an ongoing training resource instead of just a categorical list of rules, and separate the information into categories:

  • Performance and Appearance Policies 
  • Customer Service Standards
  • Health and Safety Standards
  • Labor Laws
  • Benefits Policies 
  • Confidentiality Policies
  • Social Media Policy
  • Termination of Employment

You may decide that the best way to give information is to create a bundle of documents that include health and safety procedures, industry standards, employee forms, and working conditions. You’re encouraged to print out extra copies and email the document in PDF format so your team always has access to the policies and procedures listed in your restaurant employee handbook. 

Performance and Appearance Policies 

In the restaurant industry, appearance is important because customers are looking for safe foodservice operators. If there are any doubts about an establishment’s sanitation, it’s not going to last long. That’s why dress code standards are a crucial part to a restaurant employee handbook. 

There are several job functions in both the FOH and BOH and all need detailed appearance standards. Include a thorough list of standards for each position, including the following:

  • Shoes—specify special colors or styles that may be worn. 
  • Uniform—specify if a uniform is provided or if there are specific garments and colors employees must wear. 
  • Jewelry—specify the type of jewelry that is allowed. 
  • Hair—specify if hair should be pulled away from the face. 

The codes of appearance should match your brand identity. For example, if you run an elegant winery, then your team’s appearance should reflect the sophisticated experience that customers are expecting. 

Regardless of your restaurant’s service style, clean and tidy appearances are standards across the industry, and they must be reinforced in the handbook. 

Customer Service Standards

With appearance standards, your FOH team is going to make a good first impression. The key to a lasting great impression lies in your customer service standards. It’s very important that your staff takes these seriously—and that management oversees their implementation. 

What service style do customers expect? Ask yourself this question and develop guidelines for the FOH team. These will instruct and guide them in all future interactions with customers. Be detailed, add examples of scenarios, and provide as much information as possible. If your staff is hesitant to react in a certain way, they can turn to the handbook for guidance.  

Include the different types of unique interactions hosts, servers, and bussers have with customers and tailor the specific details of the service style for each department, such as:

  • How should guests be greeted by hosts and servers?
  • When should the specials be given?
  • Are the napkins unfolded for the guests?
  • What is the protocol when a water glass breaks?
  • Who should be called when there is a problem with the food? 

An important part of the customer service standards sections is how to handle customer complaints at your restaurant. To avoid having a terrible issue, provide clear instructions for dealing with disgruntled customers and serious complaints. Additionally, include a section on crisis management, just in case something extraordinary takes place. 

There’s no such thing as having an overly prepared team. Emphasize the customer service standards to all your employees and carve time out for ongoing training sessions each month.

Healthy and Safety Standards

If one area of your handbook deserves a lot of attention, it’s this one. Restaurants are businesses operating in the transferal of food and beverages, and in cases of poor sanitation, the transferal of bacteria. Serious health issues may arise when safe food-handling procedures aren’t followed. 

Although the following rules should be governed by common sense, it’s still necessary to include them in the handbook:

  • Wash hands after sneezing, smoking, using the restroom, or blowing the nose. 
  • Wipe down the tables after a meal is finished. 
  • Clean the kitchen counters and cooking tools regularly. 
  • Clean the bathroom and floors often.

Naturally, your team might roll their eyes when you go over these rules, but it’s your duty as a restaurant owner or manager to emphasize their importance and set high standards for their execution. 

Labor Laws

This portion of the employee handbook is straightforward. List out all applicable state and federal employment laws that protect employees regarding:

  • Payroll
  • Break times
  • Termination of contract
  • Discrimination 
  • Tipping policy (particularly when tip pooling is enforced)  

The law requires restaurants to clearly state what rights employees have. To cover all your bases, hire an attorney to double-check that all legal requirements are being met. 

Benefits Policy 

This is a section your employees are going to be especially interested in, so not only should the handbook list out the expected areas of business, but you also want to include perks for employees such as meals or retirement plans. There’s a reason for this addition: It’s common practice to give employees a special discount or a certain amount of food for free to build loyalty and trust. 

Include the policies and procedures for how to request the following:

  • Time off
  • Overtime
  • Holiday leave
  • Sick days

If there are specific forms you require, include blank copies in each handbook. 

Confidentiality Policy

It’s become recently acceptable to ask employees to sign a confidentiality contract. This allows you to protect your trade secrets, including special recipes, product suppliers, and business plans. It’s very easy to copy a restaurant concept in this age, and as a restaurant owner, you have every right to keep the qualities that make your business special a secret. 

By law, the following is considered intellectual property and is protected with a confidentiality clause:

  1. Recipes, including cooking processes, techniques, and ingredients. 
  2. Customer information. 
  3. Supplier information.
  4. Technological or design details about your restaurant’s interior design. 
  5. Internal processes and procedures 
  6. Marketing or strategic business development plans. 

Use nondisclosure, nonsolicit, and noncompete employee contracts when appropriate, and consult with a lawyer when you’re not sure how to proceed. 

Social Media Employee Policy 

This is a new category to the employee handbook categories, yet with the pervasiveness of social media, it’s become necessary to establish boundaries that separate private lives from the workplace. 

Interacting with your restaurant on social media (with comments, posts, or share) can be great marketing, but there is some risk to it as well. Suppliers, current customers, and future guests are also active on social media, and a comment or post made in poor taste could damage your reputation. Set clear guidelines for how employees may interact with the restaurant social media pages.  

Termination of Employment 

Lastly, a restaurant employee handbook must detail the termination of employment policies. Detail the procedures for voluntary or involuntary employee termination and include the necessary forms.

Voluntary termination is generally an unemotional process, however, if applicable, COBRA and disability benefits must be presented. Be sure to state how much time must be given in advance when an employee decides to quit.

In the case of an involuntary termination, you must follow a specific course of action. The right protocol must be followed to avoid discrimination lawsuits. In general, the standard is to give employees three “tries” to improve their work performance and include a one-on-one job performance review. Review your state laws to make sure that you are complying with the correct termination policies. 

Lavu Pro Tip: If the employee is willing, conduct a termination meeting to find out why the person is leaving and what he or she believes could be improved in the workplace. While it may not always be pleasant to hear, the feedback can be tremendously useful and spotlight an unknown issue that needs resolving.  

With a well-thought-out employee handbook, your team has more than a manual and list of rules, they have a helpful resource that guides them in difficult scenarios. 

A restaurant employee handbook is full of useful information; include the right ways to respond when your restaurant gets a bad review

Facebook: 40-160 characters/ occasional 240

  1. An employee handbook is more than a list of rules, it’s also a useful training tool.
  2. It’s high time that restaurants focus more on their employee handbooks. Instead of listing rules and policies only, make a thoughtful, ongoing training tool that includes examples of customer service scenarios.
  3. The restaurant employee handbook sets the standards you have for staff.
  4. If you have high expectations for your team, use the employee handbook to define those standards and give helpful tips.
  5. When all policies and standards are stated clearly in an employee handbook, your team can optimize their job performances.
  6. Streamline restaurant operations and have an ongoing training tool with a thoughtfully made restaurant employee handbook.

Twitter: 70-100 characters

  1. There are many reasons to make a detailed employee handbook: optimized job performance is one.
  2. Success begins with a well-developed employee restaurant handbook.
  3. Do you know the effect a well-developed employee handbook has on your restaurant?
  4. With your restaurant handbook, you can streamline operations and have an ongoing training tool.
  5. State your expectations in the restaurant employee handbook for a tightly run team.

LinkedIn: Fewer than 140 characters/ 25 words

  1. In your restaurant employee handbook, define your expectations and give useful advice on how to navigate customer interactions.
  2. The restaurant employee handbook is more than a list of policies and procedures, it’s also a useful training resource.
  3. Prepare your restaurant staff with helpful examples, advice, and policy standards in a well-developed employee handbook.
  4. Make a restaurant employee handbook that streamlines operations and helps your FOH team optimize their job performance.
  5. It’s not just a list of rules, your restaurant’s employee handbook can define your team’s service style and motivate management.
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