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11 Tips For Making A Restaurant Employee Handbook

Every restaurant should have an employee handbook. It’s a way to define the working relationship between employer and employee. In essence, a restaurant employee handbook does two things:

  1. Tells employees what you expect of them
  2. Tells employees what they can expect from you

In addition, a restaurant employee handbook can be source of protection against litigation. Should some problem arise, the employee can’t use, “They never told me that,” as a defense because it’s written down in the employee handbook. That said, the handbook shouldn’t be primarily viewed as a legal tool. It should be viewed, and written, as a way to help employees understand how to do their job better.

But how exactly do you go about creating this all-important document? This article will discuss 11 tips for making a restaurant employee handbook.

1. List All Major Employee Responsibilities And Procedures

Barista performing job listed in restaurant employee handbook

Employee responsibilities and procedures is one of the two most important sections in the restaurant employee handbook. The other important section being the major employer responsibilities and procedures (outlined below).

The employee responsibilities and procedures section should describe what the employee should do and how she should do it. Information and procedures about such things as tip reporting, clocking in and out, the dress code, standards of conduct, the drug and alcohol policy should be first and foremost in the handbook. Even such information as how to deal with accidents and emergency situation, absences, tardiness, resignations, and proprietary and confidential information should be addressed in the restaurant employee handbook.

If you’re just beginning to put together your handbook, make a list of topics the employee needs to know about—vacations, evaluations, overtime, age requirements, and safety just to name a few—and then describe the way you want those issues to be handled by the employee.

2. List All Major Employer Responsibilities and Procedures

The employer responsibilities and procedures should make up the other “half” of the restaurant employee handbook. The information here should include things like the non-discrimination policy, training periods, scheduling procedure, harassment policy, and payment procedures. In addition, you should add employer responsibilities and procedures to any and all sections already created under the employee responsibilities and procedures.

So while the employer and employee sections of the handbook may seem like two separate things, they are actually interspersed. You may have certain sections that are strictly employer-related (like payment procedures), but for the most part, both sides of the responsibilities and procedures will be listed together. For example, in regards to vacations, you may write that the employee has a right to one week of vacation every six months. You will also write that management will do its best to honor all vacation requests. So you don’t have to have two separate sections listing responsibilities from the employee’s point of view and the management’s point of view. You just have one section where both parties are mentioned.

3. Make Use Of A Restaurant Employee Handbook Template

Person working on a restaurant employee handbook

There’s no need to recreate the wheel from scratch. Numerous tools and templates are available on the internet to help you create your own restaurant employee handbook. Templates are particularly helpful because they do a lot of the formatting for you.

Restaurant-specific templates are also useful because they may list issues that you overlooked. With a template, all you have to do is add your business-specific information and you’re on your way. Very little muss. Very little fuss. And you’ve created a restaurant employee handbook in a fraction of the time it would take to do it from scratch.

4. Be Sure To Include A Legal Disclaimer

For your own protection, be sure to write a legal disclaimer in your restaurant employee handbook. This disclaimer should inform the employee that the handbook, and the policies it contains, is not considered a contract. In addition, employees should be designated as “at-will employees”. This means that, you as the employer, have the right to dismiss an employee for any reason without having to establish “just cause” for termination.

If you are unsure about these legal issues, consult an attorney who practices employment and labor law.

5. Write A Company Biography

Your company biography is the place where employees can get excited about working for your company. The biography should include your mission statement, history, values, interesting trivia about the company, and anything else that helps show employees what you, as a company, are all about.

Your restaurant employee handbook’s biography section can also include quotes from company leadership to help employees get to know these people better. Getting to know owners and management—people most employees never see—is a great way to foster employee engagement, build a strong team, and make your company feel more like a family than a business.

6. Have Employees Sign For The Handbook

Require that everyone sign a statement acknowledging receipt of the restaurant employee handbook. This statement should also indicate that the employee, upon signing, agrees to the terms set forth therein.

The policy of signing for the restaurant employee handbook should extend to every update that comes out. It shouldn’t be a one-and-done thing. The employee should be given the new handbook and be required to sign for it. This policy protects both you and the employee from confusion and miscommunication.

7. Make It A Point To Review And Revise On An Annual Basis

Manager writing a restaurant employee handbook

Once you’ve got the restaurant employee handbook written, don’t be afraid to change it. Watch for issues that aren’t covered in the handbook and then add them in. It’s also important to note any changes in internal policy. What may have worked when you first opened, may not work a year later. It’s also important to make additions that address current trends and concerns. For example, when you first opened your business, social media may not have even existed. Now, though, it does and you need to have policies in place that address how employees can use social media as it applies to your business.

While keeping an eye out for changes in internal policy, you should make sure your handbook complies with external policies as well. Federal, state, and local statutes, rules, and laws change periodically and your restaurant employee handbook should be up to date in this regard.

Additionally, it’s important to remain flexible when it comes to your restaurant employee handbook. There’s no way you can address every possible situation that can apply to a given policy. Because of that, you need to make your policies as general and flexible as possible. When policies are flexible, they are more easily able to handle the myriad situations that may pop up during a work day.

8. Make It Easy For Employees To Express Concerns

Your employees are on the front lines of your business. As such, they see how your restaurant employee handbook, and the policies it contains, works on a daily basis. Because they are so close to the “action”, they may have concerns about the current policies and procedures. Some may even have great ideas about how the policies and procedures can be revised. You want to make it as easy as possible for the employees to express those concerns and ideas.

9. Make The Handbook Easily Accessible

Making a hard copy of the handbook easily accessible means ensuring that you give one to each employee personally. When you do, make sure that they sign off (see #6) so that you can keep track of who has a copy and who doesn’t. Another great way to make sure that the handbook is easily accessible is to keep a copy in the break room.

You could also consider posting your handbook online in a private business space that only employees can access. Posting your handbook online ensures that employees can access it wherever they are, at any time of the day. Couple that accessibility with electronic signing software and you’ve got a streamlined solution all accessibility concerns.

10. Hire An Attorney To Critique Your Handbook

It may cost a bit, but having an attorney review your restaurant employee handbook can ensure that all your legal bases are covered. When looking for an attorney, make sure she is familiar with all federal, state, and local labor laws that apply to your state and city.

11. Use The Handbook During Orientation

Once you’ve created your restaurant employee handbook, it’s a good idea to walk the new employees through it during their first few days on the job. That way you can make sure they understand it all and answer any questions they may have.

Creating A Restaurant Employee Handbook Isn’t As Daunting As It May Seem

Creating a restaurant employee handbook may seem like an impossibly difficult task, but it’s not. Making use of existing templates and the suggestions in this article can streamline the process considerably. It’s also a good idea to talk to other business owners who have their own handbooks to see if they have any suggestions to offer. Then, finalize the whole thing by getting input from a labor attorney. With these and other suggestions, you can have an effective tool for helping your employees become valued members of the business family.

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