How to Create a Restaurant Employee Handbook

Management 12 minute read 16 February 2021

It’s the handbook to creating a restaurant employee handbook!

In the US, the average cost of replacing a restaurant employee is $5,684, and in an industry which typically experiences higher levels of staff turnover than many others, that’s pretty worrying.

There are plenty of ways to incentive your restaurant team, but it’s important to find methods which don’t result in you reaching further into the bank account.

Money is a big motivator for most people, but so too is feeling part of something. Do you want your team to feel like they belong? Or do you just want them to turn up, do their bit and collect their pay packet?

Every successful restaurateur has a passionate, bought-in team behind them that believes in the business. It all starts from the moment each team member is employed, and that’s why the restaurant employee handbook is so important.

Get it right, and it’ll align your management, service and kitchen staff perfectly. It’ll also foster a brilliant, positive working environment which will help lower your employee turnover rate. It may seem trivial, but having things formally outlined in a document can really help to instil values in your staff, and lets everybody know exactly where they stand.

Related guide: 10 Ways to Incentivise Your Restaurant Team - Today

What is a restaurant employee handbook?


You’d be forgiven for assuming that an employee handbook is yet another piece of red tape or meaningless documentation which people simply sign and forget.

But it’s far more than that. Yes, it’s a reference for your regulations, policies and procedures, but it should also tell the story of the restaurant’s mission, its values and the part everyone can play in its success.

Your employee handbook will reveal what you expect from employees but also what they can expect from the business in return. In that sense, it’s a shared document, and one which will play a big role in helping you build the best restaurant team.

The best employee handbook will:

Most importantly, your employee handbook should clearly illustrate that help is always available - and explain where to turn when it’s needed. Remember - the restaurant industry has a huge 70% staff turnover rate, therefore you need to do all you can to keep your best staff.

How to build your restaurant employee handbook

There are eight sections required in a restaurant employee handbook:

There will be some exceptions in certain regions and within specific types of business, but the above sections should be common to most employee handbooks in this industry (even if the terminology might be a little different).

1. Introduction

Out of all the sections in your employee handbook, this is the one which will probably get the most attention (bar number 4). This is because, while it’s highly unlikely that your employees will read the handbook from cover to cover, they will at least check out the intro.

It’s your chance to hook them in and, hopefully, keep them reading.

Include the following:

2. Business mission and values

This is the elevator pitch for your business to employees, and you’ll write it perfectly if you think about it that way.

You have just 60 seconds in a lift with an employee. What would you tell them about the restaurant’s mission and core values during that time?

Tips for a great mission statement:

3. The code of conduct

This is, of course, very personal to your restaurant, but it should confirm everything from the dress code to your safety procedures. It doesn’t need to be school-like, either; if you can inject a bit of humour to lighten the mood, go for it.

Include the following:

hospitality workers email

4. Employee pay and benefits

As noted earlier, lots of employees will probably skip quickly to this section when they spot it in the contents.

That’s pretty handy from your point of view, because it gives you the opportunity to confirm the most important aspects of pay and employee benefits.

Include the following:

5. Scheduling/rota process

You can save an awful lot of arguments and debates over the staff rota by making the policies ultra-clear in your employee handbook.

This is another section to which most employees will skip when they spot it in the handbook. For you, it’s the opportunity to confirm how scheduling works and set in stone the processes for requesting time off and, crucially, what happens if there are any no-shows.

Include the following:

6. POS and booking system FAQ

Whether it’s your POS or online table booking system, tech will play a huge role in the smooth running of your restaurant. It’s therefore vital that employees get to know these tools like the backs of their hands. Training is of course vital, but so too is a quick reference guide and video tuition, which can be ideally placed in your employee handbook.

Include the following:

7. Anti-harassment and complaints procedure

This is undoubtedly one of the most unpalatable additions to any employee handbook, but an essential one, unfortunately.

Hopefully, it’ll never be called upon, but the mere presence of an anti-harassment and complaints procedure will show that you have each employee’s best interests at heart.

Include the following:

8. Wrap up and signature

All that’s left to do now is thank the employee for taking the time to read the handbook. Explain that it’s intended as a living, breathing document to which they should return whenever needed.

Then, ask for their signature. Finish with another “welcome onboard” message and they’re good to go.

Your employee handbook won’t solve every staff challenge overnight, but the fact you have one at all will prove that you care about their wellbeing. Just remember that this is a living, breathing document for you, too, therefore it should be updated as and when needed.

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