A restaurant employee handbook can support communication between management and staff. It helps in maintaining clarity about acceptable workplace behavior, expectations, and roles and responsibilities.
There is no legal requirement for writing an employee handbook. There are no legal precedents to support it. However, for your peace of mind, it would be wise to put one together now.
A change in your mindset about how to write an employee handbook will help you. Develop a culture that builds value for employees and seeks to make the workplace a positive and productive environment.
In this article, a template is presented to help restaurants define acceptable workplace behavior, expectations, and roles and responsibilities.
What Is An Employee Handbook?
Having an employee manual is vital to the smooth operation of a restaurant. It helps managers make difficult decisions, as well as gives employees authority regarding policies and procedures. They provide consistent guidance and can help resolve conflicts.
These two sections should be present in any employee handbook:
- Standard restaurant safety, dress codes, conduct, and the like.
- Restaurant processes, such as reporting tips or requesting vacation days.
Instead of just a categorical list of rules, think of the restaurant employee handbook as an ongoing training resource. Sort the information into categories.
- Equal Employment Opportunity
- Disability Accommodation
- Prohibited Harassment and Non-Discrimination
- Communication and Technology Use
- Search and Inspection Policy
- Drug and Alcohol Policy
- Safe Alcohol Service
- Conflict of Interest
- Types of Leaves (Unpaid personal leave, medical leave, emergency leave, etc.)
- Work Hours and Payday
- Classification of Employment
- Tips and Gratuity Distribution
- Break Periods
- End of Contract
- Termination of Contract
Importance of an Employee Handbook in Restaurant Operations
Offers a smoother onboarding process for new employees
Having an employee handbook can eliminate confusion for new hires and increase trust on both sides. This will help the employee feel more comfortable with their new role. When new employees start their first few days at a company, it is easy for them to feel overwhelmed.
If you’ve been in the restaurant business for a while, you may take for granted things that seem basic to someone who is just starting, or from a completely different environment.
Providing new employees with a comprehensive handbook and new employee checklist can help them become more familiar with their roles, restaurant rules, and expectations.
Enhances cooperation in the workplace
Employees are better equipped to cooperate when management expectations are clearly outlined and responsibilities are shared. Simply put, they know where their task ends and their colleagues begin.
A very large part of workplace worry relates to unpredictability. Employees tend to overestimate the consequences of mistakes and infractions than the actual ones.
It will ease minds and create a happier, less stressful atmosphere if everything is laid out, from pay dates and leave dates to disciplinary actions and social media policies.
Provides equal opportunities in the workplace
It makes it more likely for employees to be treated equally by outlining their rights and responsibilities alongside those of the employer. This still leaves managers and staff responsible for enforcing those policies, but they are at least accessible and consistent in the handbook.
In a restaurant with an employee guidebook, the code of conduct is laid out for employees and employers. When everyone is on the same page, managers and staff are more likely to deal fairly with one another.
Boosts efficiency by saving time
When the company’s employee handbook is properly laid out, both management and employees save time and prevent asking the same questions over and over again. It should include answers to frequently asked questions.
When you have all the information in one place, your team will no longer have to repeat the same questions over and over. They’ll be free to concentrate on the actual work instead of trying to figure out how things work here.
Ensures better legal protection
The employee handbook for your restaurant doesn’t have to be legally mandated, but it can help to mitigate legal risk. By clarifying your company’s policies, it’s easier to solve potential problems later on.
It serves as insurance for your staff. A restaurant handbook gives restaurant owners a legal basis for making claims if problems come up down the line.
Having a restaurant employee handbook gives restaurant owners a strong foundation of legal protection when disputes arise. It also helps workers feel legally guarded, which is also important for restaurant employees.
Restaurant Handbook – Legal Policies
Make sure your restaurant employee handbook contains these policies to prevent legal headaches. You may find that some are more common than others, but these are the most requested by employees in general.
Under the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993, employers must give eligible employees unpaid, job-protected leave in any given year due to illness, childbirth, or caregiving responsibilities. Make sure you include the FMLA in your employee handbook.
A “zero-tolerance” policy towards sexual harassment, verbal abuse, and harassment through electronic means are fundamental to modern society. Harassment is against the law under the Equality Act 2010. All new employees must read and understand the policy.
You must include certain information in your employee handbooks regarding workers’ compensation. If you do so, you signal to your employees that you are dedicated to preventing work-related injuries.
Compensation for work-related injuries and occupational diseases. Workers’ compensation benefits may include some or all of the following.
- Wages lost
- Expenses for medical care
- Compensation for disability
- Payments for the permanent consequences of an injury.
- Rehabilitative employment
- Death benefits
An equal opportunities policy is a formal declaration of an institution’s commitment to fairness. It also offers guidelines on how it will deal with issues that contradict these principles.
Employers can incorporate it into an employee handbook or use it as a stand-alone policy document. It prohibits discrimination and retaliation and sets out a process for reporting complaints.
The equal opportunity policy of your restaurant does not have to belong and complicated. A straightforward, concise policy is sufficient if the words are carefully chosen so that the policy is tailored to your particular company’s needs.
Who Can Help To Create A Restaurant Employee Manual?
You can get valuable insight into appropriate workplace behavior and procedures by consulting your senior team when creating your restaurant handbook. As the people most familiar with your employees, they are the best people to consult.
Keep in mind that the restaurant employee handbook is not about you, but about your team. Thus, the handbook should depict information your team contributed to.
Having an attorney review your employee handbook is also recommended – preferably one with experience dealing with restaurants. Even though your handbook is not an employment contract, an attorney can make sure the policies and guidelines are in line with the legal systems.
It’s vital because labor laws can vary greatly across the country. For example, some regions do not require paid sick leave, while others do. If your policies don’t comply, you could end up in legal trouble.
What You Need To Include In Your Employee Handbook
Restaurant handbooks often consist of the same general information, however, the categories within the handbook differ depending on the location, size, and working culture of your restaurant.
Here are eight essential categories to consider when writing your restaurant employee handbook. Important sections, such as wages and harassment policies, must be reviewed by a lawyer to ensure your restaurant complies with legal requirements.
Introductory Statement, Disclaimer, and Confidentiality
This section should include a brief background of your company and some memorable moments from its history. If you want, you could even put a personal touch on it by including a welcome note from the restaurant manager or you, the owner.
A disclaimer that your restaurant employee handbook is not a legally binding document should also appear in its introduction.
You should consult with an attorney when writing the disclaimer as well as reviewing the entire document if you do not provide one. Otherwise, the employee may sue you for breach of contract.
Additionally, you can address confidentiality at the end of your introduction, making it clear that your employee handbook and other inside information must be kept confidential.
Core Values and Mission Statement
Creating a mission statement for your restaurant can help convey why your business does more than just serve great food. People want to work for companies that share their values, so here is an opportunity to convince your employees of your lofty goals.
Additionally, you should include your core values in your restaurant’s mission statement. Establish which values mean the most to you and how they influence your work environment.
It is the goal of these values to make the staff feel motivated and associated with the organization’s overarching objectives.
Ethics and Workplace Behavior
Even though it may not be the most exciting part of your employee handbook, the code of conduct section is important, as it outlines your expectations of employee behavior and the rules to follow.
Your restaurant may have additional sections you’d like to include based on its unique characteristics. The following items could be included if you wish:
- Cell Phones
- Social Media
- Workplace Meals
- Customer Service
- Alcohol and Drugs
- Arms Control Policy
- Conduct Procedures
- Dress Code
Processes and Emergencies
In this section, you should include information about staff scheduling, safety, and sanitation, as well as what to do when an interruption occurs, for example, in an emergency.
When writing this section, it is best to consult an attorney to ensure it follows all legalities. You may include the following:
- Timekeeping procedures
- Opening and closing
- Requesting a leave of absence
- Missed shifts
- Serving alcohol
- Side work
- Hygiene and safety
- Reporting of work-related injuries
- Burglary and theft
- Scheduling process
- Requirements for attendance
- Medical procedures and allergy protocol
Benefits and Compensation Overview
It is probably this section employee pay attention to the most, so it is a good idea to spend extra time with this. Employment laws may affect compensation, benefits, and payroll across the board depending on the state, and local laws.
Included in it should be all aspects of restaurant payroll and benefits, including:
- Leaves of absence
- Vacations and holidays
- Indemnities and benefits
- Occupational health and safety
- Discounts and meals for employees
- Calculating payroll deductions
Policies on Employment
This isn’t the type of part of the employee handbook that you should be creative with. Most of these employment policies are going to differ depending on where the restaurant is located.
Thus, it is crucial to have an attorney review this section to ensure compliance.
Important policies relevant to employment are outlined in this section. It may include the following:
- Accessibility for persons with disabilities
- Leaves of absences
- Family and medical leave
- Statement on equal employment opportunities
- An at-will employment contract
- Personnel records
Compliance with Anti-Harassment and Complaint Procedure
A section on harassment and discrimination should be included in any employee handbook for employees to feel safe and comfortable at work.
Here, the restaurant should explicitly declare its zero-tolerance policy in the case of harassment or discrimination. Define how harassment or discrimination is defined, and describe your official reporting procedure for complaints.
Be sure your employees know you take this issue very seriously by making sure that any complaints they may have will be taken into consideration.
This topic can have significant legal implications and an attorney should review this section to guarantee compliance.
Restaurant Systems FAQs
If you have a POS system in use in your restaurant, consider this section a how-to guide. As well as answering FAQs, you should also redirect staff to additional support resources.
There can be everything from tutorial videos to support lines. While this is not a substitute for job training, it can serve as a valuable reference point during employee orientation. Make sure staff is aware of all the main platforms they will encounter, which may include:
- Reservations management platforms
- Payment processing
- Scheduling software
- POS systems
- Kitchen Display Systems (KDS)
- Online ordering apps
Final Statement and Signature
Although there is no law requiring employees to sign a restaurant employee handbook, signing it shows they have read and understood all of your rules and policies.
Additionally, this section can also serve as a reminder of the value you place on your employees’ efforts and the overall importance of their contribution to your restaurant.
How To Maximize Your Restaurant Employee Handbook?
Make it part of the on-boarding process
It’s possible to go through the book on the employee’s first day of work or send it when your offer has been accepted. Employee handbooks can satisfy new employees’ curiosity about their new workplace and introduce them to your company culture as well.
Make it fun and interesting
If you want your handbook to be read by your employees, don’t just give it out without including a page for an acknowledgment and a blank checkbox. Leave instructions on how to return the signed page to you on the page and make it simple for the employee to tear it out.
That doesn’t guarantee they’ll read the book, however. Consider a short quiz, either on paper or on an electronic device, asking basic questions about the book. Make it fun and award prizes for perfect scores. You’ll be glad you did it when everyone is on the same page.
Choose the format your staff can interpret conveniently
Make sure your restaurant employee handbook is easy to read. Part of that comes from using clean, simple language and avoiding the use of large spreads with small font sizes.
The format also needs to be considered if your staff has a lot of technical skills. Sending the handbook in a format easy to read on a smartphone or tablet might ensure that it gets read more easily.
You may want to provide printed copies to your employees if they prefer to read printed material. Having printed copies is flexible, and can be helpful for people with learning disabilities as well as those who simply prefer a book to hold when reading.
The Final Steps To Take With Your Employee Handbook
Your restaurant’s employee handbook has been hard-won, and now you want to know how you can use it to keep your employees engaged. Below are three steps that will help you get ready for the team.
Provide the versions of the handbook that have been published before. It is also good practice to keep track of any policy changes over time in case of litigation.
Make sure it is reviewed by an attorney. Make sure the document’s language is in compliance with legal requirements and covers all the bases. Work with an employment law attorney.
Staff members should receive a refresher. Get your current staff to review the new handbook. Even if they aren’t new to the team, the handbook has changed and everyone needs a reminder from time to time. Make sure that any new hires are trained as well in between updates.
The following tips will help you create a restaurant employee handbook that stands out with a well-designed website, app, or standalone paper document with checklists.