HR 101: How to Create Your Restaurant Employee Handbook

December 4, 2019


Whether you have recently opened a new restaurant, or you have been in operation for years, staffing is one of the biggest challenges restaurant managers face today, from hiring and onboarding to training and retention. Hence, a restaurant employee handbook is one of the most crucial ways to train your employees in following the right procedures, right from their very first day at work. It is a tool to improve your onboarding and training strategy in order to improve staff retention.

What is a restaurant employee handbook?

Everyone needs structure. It is how your employees know what to do next, whether what they did was successful, and helps them work better with each other. A restaurant employee handbook, also known as an employee manual or staff handbook, is a document that explains who you are as a restaurant, how you function and what you expect from your new hires. It acts as a central reference point for the employee, clarifying your restaurant’s mission and values, culture, rules, regulations, policies, procedures and guidelines. It is an essential communication tool to help day-to-day operations run smoothly.


Why is it important to have an employee handbook in your restaurant?

  • It dictates your employees’ behavior.
  • It provides every employee with the benefits of what your business offers.
  • It ensures employees know how to properly conduct themselves at work.
  • It saves management from answering common questions.
  • It protects the restaurant legally if there is a dispute over restaurant policies.
  • It sets performance expectations for your staff


What sections should your restaurant employee handbook cover?

Introduction/Welcome Letter:

Try to make a strong and engaging introduction to your restaurant employee handbook since employees would scan for the information they think is most important rather than read the employee handbook word for word.

It should include a welcome letter from the restaurant owner and manager. It should also include a brief history of your restaurant and cover the most important takeaways that you want the employee to know. In addition, it shall include a table of contents and a legal disclaimer that clearly states the employee handbook is not a legally binding contract.

Moreover, the introduction is a good place to put your mission statement and important core values and beliefs. Consider writing a short and to the point introduction to draw your employees’ attention.

Your restaurant mission statement needs to be Brief, Transparent, Accurate, Achievable, Unique, and Actionable.


Work Hours / Payroll:

You have to include in this section everything concerning payment and hours. Which might mean any of the following:

  • Payroll
  • Scheduling
  • Break
  • Calling off
  • Worker’s Compensation



This section should cover the following aspects:

  • Employee meals policy: state what food and drinks an employee can nave for free or at a discounted price while they are working.
  • Insurance:  explain what types of insurance (medical, dental, etc.) are available for employees if any.
  • Time off: clarify what vacation, holidays, sick leaves, bereavement, maternity leave, and paid time off are available.


Appearance/ Dress code:

In this section, you have to point out exactly what is and is not an appropriate outfit for work. The dress code needs to align with your restaurant’s brand. You have to clearly communicate your dress code to employees, where they are held accountable for upholding it.

What should your dress code cover?

  • Haircuts, facial hair, and hair color policy
  • Tattoo policy
  • Telephone and cell phone use policy
  • Shoe safety program
  • Jewelry policy
  • Nails
  • Piercings
  • Personal cleanliness and grooming.


Behavior/Code of Conduct:

Here is where your employees know what they can and cannot do and what the consequences are for their actions.

This section should cover:

  • Attendance
  • Shift swapping
  • Communication with customers
  • Interaction with other employees


Health and Safety: 

This section highlights how best to handle health-related situations to keep your staff and customers safe. Consider holding regular food safety meetings and initial training.

Moreover, everyone has to follow and agree on safe food handling procedures based on local health laws and regulations.

Employees need to know that they have to wash their hands after using the restroom, smoking or sneezing. They also should clean the tables after a finished meal. Additionally, they must keep the kitchen (utensils, equipment, and floors) clean the entire shift.


You should always consult an employment attorney before finalizing your restaurant employee handbook to make sure that all legal information is correct for your specific area.

Your restaurant employee handbook works side by side with a proper training program, Key performance indicators, and your operations manual. For more on these topics, check out our blog post for the most important KPIs every restaurant should measure, How to Create A Restaurant Operations Manual, and How to train your restaurant staff.