Having an employee handbook is one of the most efficient ways of training your employees in following the right procedures. It functions both as a manual and as protection in any case of rift between you and your staff.

For those reasons, it should include sections about performance, communication, appearance, health and safety, labor laws and so on – literally everything that concerns you and your employees’ working conditions. We have identified six sections vital to any restaurant’s employee handbook, whether you are writing your first handbook or assessing and updating your current one.

If you want to get started on your own employee handbook, download our employee handbook template here.

1) Appearance standards

First impressions are always important. That’s why you need to set some standards for your employees’ dress code. Now, since you have to take several job functions into account, for example chefs, waiters, busboys, and dish washers, you need to have the corresponding number of appearance standard sections in your handbook. However, some elements are relevant to everyone:

Shoes (What color? Do you provide them? Are they a special kind of shoes?)

Uniform (What color? Do you provide it?)

Hair (Do they need to have it up? Do you approve of facial hair?)

Jewelry, tattoos, painted nails and piercings (Is it OK to show off these accessories?)

Normally, it will be quite clear to you what standards you need in this section, as this has much to do with the brand of your restaurant. If you want more information on how to set your appearance standards, we have found this very helpful article.

2) Customer service

To stay in line with the point made above, your customer service standards need to be taken seriously. The customer is king – without him you are nothing. Depending on your restaurant brand, you may have several different interaction cues to which your employees can resort. A good idea is to set some standards regarding customer complaint handling; what do you do if the customer complains face to face? Or what do you do if he calls to say exactly what he thinks? Also, how do you greet your guests – do you shake their hands, do you seat them, do you inform them of today’s specials right away…?

As you know, there are many different approaches to good customer service, and it’s very important that you make sure your employees understand and accept the ones that you have chosen.

3) Sanitation

If one area of your handbook deserves a lot of attention, it’s this one. As you are operating within an environment in which the transfer of bacteria can cause severe health issues, everyone has to follow and agree on safe food handling procedures. There is no excuse for not washing your hands after using the restroom, smoking or sneezing. There is no excuse for not cleaning the tables after a finished meal. And there is no excuse for not keeping the kitchen (utensils, equipment and floors) clean at all times. Luckily, all of this falls under the category of “common sense”, so these requirements shouldn’t be too difficult to live up to – however, you still need to emphasize how important they are, and set standards to match.

4) Benefits policy

This section might be more important in the restaurant business than in most other areas of business. While it should include sections on requests for time off, overtime, and holiday leave, there should also be a focus on employee meals.

It’s very common for restaurant managers to allow employees to have a certain amount of food and drinks for free or at a discounted price while they are working. Emphasizing this part will make your employees feel appreciated and valued, and they might be even better at pushing certain items on the menu after they have tasted them themselves.

However, the most important aspect of this section is actually that you will avoid theft! Let’s be honest, a banana or a cup of tea once in a while won’t hurt your restaurant. But if your employees choose to consume sandwiches, main courses or expensive wines on a regular basis, then you will lose money! That’s why this small topic is an important piece of the bigger puzzle.

If you want some help setting the standards for this section, take a look at this site suggesting one specific thing that will help you track your employees’ meals.

5) Labor laws

Since it’s very common for restaurants to employ part-time workers, and since you’re covering many job functions, your employee manual needs to cover any applicable state or federal employment law to protect your workers’ rights. It might sound like a matter of course, but there are still some restaurants out there not living up to the legal requirements which will cost them greatly if found out!

A good idea is to hire a lawyer who will make sure you live up to all the legal requirements within payroll, breaks, termination of contract, discrimination etc.

6) Social media employee policy

This is one of the newer additions to your staff handbook but nonetheless very important. We can’t avoid Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tripadvisor etc. neither in our private lives nor in our workplace. Staff commenting, sharing, updating, posting or tweeting about your restaurant can be good marketing but can just as easily be damaging to your business. Set some standards for what is and isn’t acceptable to peddle out into the interconnecting world where your former, current and future customers and suppliers will be watching, and make sure that your employees know and understand the guidelines.

We have found a list of 100 companies who have published their social media employee policy online – perhaps you can find some inspiration from them to set up your own? Find the list here.

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