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From Policies to Protocols: How to Write a Restaurant Employee Handbook

From Policies to Protocols: How to Write a Restaurant Employee Handbook

First-day jitters—we’ve all been there, right? Between meeting new faces, figuring out where everything is, and being bombarded by information, it’s virtually impossible to soak in important details. On top of all this, your new hire will inevitably have to ask their new team members for help, which takes them away from their daily tasks.

Now, if you have a restaurant employee handbook, this first day would look a lot different. Armed with a go-to guide that explains everything from scheduling to tipping (and everything in between), your newbies can proactively answer their own questions and learn the ropes that much quicker.

So, whether you have an existing handbook gathering dust somewhere or are making one from scratch, we’re here to help you make your handbook equal parts useful and entertaining—because it’s only helpful if your team actually reads it.

What is a restaurant employee handbook? 

Think of your restaurant employee handbook as your team’s go-to guide. Uncertain about the correct way to clean the espresso machine? It’s in the handbook. Curious about specific health and safety guidelines? Check the book. Not sure how to request time off for a family vacation? You guessed it—it’s in the handbook.

Though each restaurant’s handbook will vary slightly, they all act as a valuable hub of information, freeing you and your team from constantly being tagged in for commonly asked questions.

Why do restaurants need an employee handbook?

Beyond saving you from those commonly (and easily) answered questions, your restaurant employee handbook is a valuable legal safeguard too. Packed with detailed policies on equal employment opportunity, harassment, and other legal requirements it helps prevent misunderstandings and promotes fair treatment.

But with insights into your restaurant’s culture, values, and how things work behind the scenes, your employee handbook is more than just a rulebook. It’s a communication tool that keeps everyone in the loop about their rights, benefits, and available resources. The result? An open, transparent, and legally compliant environment that fosters collaboration and organizational success.

How the restaurant industry differs from other small businesses 

Your employee handbook takes care of the basics, like any other business. But, being a restaurant adds unique challenges—think food handling, safety standards, and guidelines for alcohol service. Toss in the fast-paced rhythm of the industry, shift-based teams, and maybe even multiple locations, and you’ll grasp the handbook’s vital role in keeping your restaurant running seamlessly.

What to include in a restaurant employee handbook 

Just like crafting a top-notch dish requires a carefully planned recipe, your restaurant employee handbook needs the right ingredients to be successful. Consider these sections as the core of your recipe, and season it as you see fit.

1. Introduction and mission statement

This section welcomes employees and sets the tone for your restaurant’s culture, so do your best to make it engaging and positive. You can include a brief history of the restaurant, mission statement, and the values of your restaurant.

2. Employee policies

This section is all about ensuring a fair work and safe work environment. Be sure to include things like:

3. Code of conduct and ethics

Your code of conduct and ethics section sets behavioral expectations and ethical standards for your restaurant. You may want to include things like:

  • Guidelines for interactions with customers and other team members
  • Cell phone policy
  • Social media policy
  • Uniform and grooming standards
  • Attendance expectations
  • Staff conflict guidelines and disciplinary process

4. Employee compensation and benefits

To answer frequently asked questions about compensation, benefits, and time off, include the following information in this section:

5. Scheduling procedures and processes

This section should answer common questions about scheduling processes like:

6. Restaurant operations

Use this section as a quick resource for questions about restaurant operations like:

  • Opening and closing responsibilities
  • Pre and post-shift tasks
  • POS best practices
  • Procedures for comps and voids

7. Safety protocols

This is the most important section. Make sure it’s easy to find and thorough, including protocols like: 

  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS, and other workplace safety standards
  • Allergy protocol
  • Hygiene standards
  • Alcohol laws and regulations
  • Theft, robbery, and accident reporting

Think of your restaurant employee handbook as a recipe that gets tastier with each tweak. It’s always good to spice things up based on the real experiences of your team. After all, who knows the daily grind better than those living it? So, keep those lines of communication open, gather feedback, and let your handbook evolve into the ultimate guide that truly resonates with your team.

Tips for writing an engaging restaurant employee handbook

After carefully spelling out all the policies, practices, and procedures for your restaurant, you want to make sure this thing actually gets read, right? Here are a few tips to help make your handbook a bit more engaging.

  • Don’t get too corporate. Use straightforward language wherever possible
  • Add in visuals and switch up the text to keep things interesting
  • Break things up as much as possible. Shorter sections are easier to read
  • Use real (or made up, we’re not judging) examples to give life to otherwise boring policies and procedures
  • Go digital. This makes sections easier to navigate (thanks to Command/Control F), is more accessible for your team members, and is basically the only way Gen Z will read it
  • Bonus points if you include screenshots or videos to demonstrate how things work

Use Homebase to distribute your employee handbook

Sick of answering questions or printing out endless documents every time you hire somebody new? We totally get it. Who even has a printer these days? With Homebase, it’s all in the app. Your welcome packet, restaurant employee handbook, and every nugget of info your new teammate needs are right at their fingertips—whenever and wherever they need it. 

So say goodbye to paper cuts (throw out your printer for all we care!). Homebase digitizes the entire process, making onboarding easier, and more accessible than ever. 

Try Homebase today.