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14-Step Guide: How To Create A Restaurant Employee Handbook

14-Step Guide: How To Create A Restaurant Employee Handbook

Finding and hiring the best people for your restaurant can be challenging, and holding onto all-star employees can be even harder. For restaurant owners, it can be difficult to dedicate enough time to the recruitment and training process, but these steps are vital when finding the right people and holding on to them.

One of the best ways to ensure your staff retention remains high is to set all new employees up for success from the get-go, and creating an employee handbook is an excellent way to do this. 

A restaurant employee handbook is a great resource that introduces new employees to your venue, outlines expectations, and answers any questions they may have. It also aligns your service, kitchen, and management staff on the same goals and sets the tone for a positive work culture that fosters better employee relations and lower turnover.

What is a restaurant employee handbook?

A restaurant employee handbook is an excellent tool for onboarding employees and can be used as a resource for employee management. It serves as a centralised reference point for your restaurant’s mission, values, rules, regulations, policies, procedures, and guidelines.

Your handbook should be given to new employees on their first day so they know the ins and outs of your restaurant and what’s expected of them. Staff can then keep this at home and refer to it when necessary. 

Aside from being a valuable asset for new staff, a restaurant employee handbook is also an excellent tool for building a positive workplace culture. It provides staff and managers with a clear set of guidelines for procedures and behavior, so everyone is on the same page. 

Why should your restaurant have an employee handbook?

The first few days in a new job can be overwhelming, and it can be challenging for new staff to remember everything they’ve been taught. To combat this, an employee handbook provides new employees with a reference point for all key information about your restaurant, so they can run through the important training elements and learn more about your business. 

Providing staff with an employee handbook maintains a level of consistency when it comes to staff training and management. It also provides existing staff (and managers) with a reference point for procedures and behavior, so everyone knows the ins and outs of the business and what’s expected of them.


A handbook serves as a comprehensive guide that outlines a company’s policies, procedures, and expectations. It provides new employees with a clear understanding of values, codes of conduct and workplace rules, fostering a positive and respectful work environment. By having this centralized resource, restaurants can ensure that all team members are on the same page, reducing misunderstandings and promoting a sense of unity among our staff.


Promoting consistency in restaurant operations is essential to ensure the best possible customer service. It ensures that all employees are treated fairly and equitably, as the policies and guidelines apply uniformly to everyone. This consistency extends to areas such as employee benefits, leave policies, and performance evaluations, helping to build trust and loyalty among the staff. When employees feel they are treated fairly, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated, which positively impacts productivity and customer service.

Legal safety

Employee handbooks also play a vital role in mitigating potential legal issues. It outlines essential employment information such as wages, benefits and disciplinary procedures, ensuring compliance with labor laws and regulations. Additionally, the handbook can act as a defense in case of disputes or grievances, as it demonstrates that all employees were made aware of the policies and procedures in place. By having an employee handbook, a restaurant not only establishes a strong foundation for a cohesive workforce but also safeguards itself against legal risks, ultimately contributing to the long-term success of the establishment.


14 things to include in your restaurant employee handbook

  1. Introduction
  2. Mission statement & core values
  3. Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Policy
  4. Restaurant structure
  5. Employee benefits
  6. Code of conduct
  7. Social media policy
  8. Dress code policy
  9. Leave policy & procedures
  10. Safety protocols
  11. Front-of-house and Back-of-house operations
  12. Scheduling process
  13. Tech how-to guide
  14. Complaints procedure

Build your restaurant employee handbook in minutes

Standardize your restaurant's policies, guidelines and processes with this free and fully customizable restaurant employee handbook template.

1. Introduction

The introduction to your restaurant employee handbook must be strong and engaging. The better your introduction, the more likely staff are to read the handbook in its entirety.

What to include in your introduction:

  • A short welcome note from the founder, owner, and/or general manager
  • A brief history of the business
  • An overview of the restaurant, how it’s run and any business goals
  • Key takeaways on your restaurant’s brand positioning and operations
  • An outline of each of the upcoming chapters in the handbook


2. Mission statement and core values

Use this chapter to briefly describe your mission statement, which should outline what your restaurant stands for, the type of service you aim to provide, and your business’s core values.

Your mission statement is the why behind your restaurant’s existence. It informs everything from the food you serve and your style of service to how you want employees to interact with guests. 

Sharing the company mission in your employee handbook is valuable for your service and kitchen staff—but it also aligns your management team and helps them make thoughtful business decisions that correspond with your mission.

Once you’ve outlined your mission statement, you should list your restaurant’s core values that you expect staff to embody and adhere to while at work.

Your core values should represent your ideals and how you want your businesses to impact your customer staff and the local community.

  • Supporting the local economy
  • Providing quality service
  • Consistency
  • Sustainability
  • Authenticity
  • Creativity
  • Passion

Whatever your establishment’s mission and core values are, you ultimately want your staff to align with them and foster an inclusive work culture that’s about more than just clocking in for a shift and making some money.


3. Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Policy

Emphasize the restaurant’s commitment to providing equal opportunities to all employees and applicants, regardless of race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, or disability. Explain the procedures for reporting any incidents of discrimination or harassment.


4. Restaurant structure

In this section, you should outline all the different roles and responsibilities within your restaurant so each staff member knows what they’re accountable for and where they can go for help.

To keep things clear and concise, group roles and responsibilities into three categories; front-of-house, back-of-house and management. This will make it easy for new employees to pinpoint their team and understand where other employee roles sit within the business.

To help make this section more visual, you could also include an organizational chart to clearly emphasize how the hierarchy is laid out and who is responsible for what.


5. Employee benefits

This chapter should outline employee compensation, benefits, and payroll.

For restaurants in the US, pay and compensation can be challenging due to the many federal, state, and provincial laws governing employees that earn income through tips. It’s crucial to ensure the information in this section is correct, to ensure you’re always compliant with local laws and regulations, and to keep up to date on a regular basis. 

What to include in your pay and benefits section (+ resource links for the US and Canada):

  • Your policy on declaring tips in the US and Canada
  • Whether or not your establishment practices tip pooling
  • How much you pay your employees in the US and Canada
  • How employees will be paid (e.g., by cash, check, direct deposit)
  • Your policy on overtime for US employees and Canadian employees
  • Insurance and health plans for US employees

If you want help with your employee compensation and benefits section, we suggest consulting a restaurant consultant or attorney with experience in the restaurant industry. If you aren’t sure about anything, it’s safer to hire an experienced professional than to risk being non-compliant with your federal, state or provincial laws and regulations.


6. Code of conduct

Everyone’s definition of professionalism and good service is different, so it’s essential to ensure all of your new staff are on the same page when it comes to behavioral expectations while at work. 

Use this section to outline your code of conduct which should communicate everything from your establishment’s dress code to your safety procedures and other policies.

What to include in your code of conduct?

  • Tobacco policy – smoking is prohibited indoors, and any employees who smoke must do so outside in designated smoking areas. This also includes e-cigarettes and vapes.
  • Cell phone policy – when and where staff can use their cell phones and provide a secure location where they can store their phones on shift.
  • Behavior policy – outline what behaviors are unacceptable and the disciplinary process; this could include repeated lateness, tardiness, aggressive behavior, theft etc.
  • Food and drinks policy – when and where can staff eat on their breaks, and what is the policy for ordering food while on shift?


7. Social media policy

Let’s face it, everyone has a phone nowadays. This means that additional measures need to be put in place to make sure employees know what your policy is regarding phone and social media use. 

Can employees post photos while at work? Or is this completely forbidden? Outlining each specific policy within your handbook will make sure everyone knows what they can and can’t do. 

 Address the use of social media by employees, both during and outside of work hours. Set guidelines for appropriate content and the potential impact on the restaurant’s reputation.


8. Dress code policy

This chapter should include guidelines on how your staff dress while at work. It’s not only a matter of workplace safety but also ensures that what your staff wears aligns with your restaurant’s brand.

Naturally, this is going to vary from one restaurant to another. A fast-casual joint likely won’t expect the same level of dress or finer details that a high-end establishment does.

This section will likely be short and sweet if you require a uniform. Even if your restaurant doesn’t have a uniform, you should use this section to address how you expect staff to dress on shift and what’s not acceptable.

What should your dress code include?

  • Haircuts, facial hair, and hair color policy
  • Tattoo policy
  • Shoe safety program
  • Jewelry policy
  • Clothing policy, e.g. no ripped jeans
  • Shoe policy, e.g. must have slip-resistant traction

It’s important that your staff understand that what they wear serves as part of your restaurant’s visual identity. What you want your staff to wear is entirely up to you; just make sure that the dress code aligns with your establishment’s brand, that your dress code is communicated to employees, and that they’re held accountable for upholding it.

Motivated staff members


9. Leave policy and procedures

In this section, you should detail your restaurant’s leave policies, how staff can request leave, and what process they should follow if they’re sick.

Ensure your restaurant abides by the minimum legal guidelines set out by your state, territory or federal government.

Outline your restaurant’s policies and procedures for each of the following (and ensure you’re abiding by any state or federal minimum requirements):

  • Holidays
  • Sick leave
  • Vacation 
  • Break and meal policy


10. Safety protocols

Use this section to define how each of your staff contributes to creating a safe work environment and the procedures and general guidelines you have in place to keep your workplace safe (like what to do in case of a fire).

Also, mention that an employee’s failure to comply with safety procedures will result in disciplinary action. Show your staff that you take their safety seriously.

In addition to workplace safety, all staff members should be educated on food safety procedures. To keep the highest standards possible, ensure everyone (not just the kitchen staff) has obtained a food handler’s license. A food safety program, like the one offered through ServSafe, will also provide information for staff on keeping themselves safe and healthy in the workplace.


11. Front-of-house and back-of-house operations

In this chapter, give a brief outline of your front-of-house (FOH) and back-of-house operations and what’s expected of staff. This will allow new employees to understand the different functions of each department. 

Front-of-house operations

This section should cover how the FOH team operates and how they should conduct themselves. Include everything from table management procedures to order taking, greeting customers, accepting payment, and dealing with complaints.

This section is also a great time to talk about customer experience and the service your servers provide.

Address the following points to outline the ideal guest experience in your restaurant:

  • How to greet guests. Do you want servers to follow a script or go off the cuff and be themselves?
  • Go above and beyond. Whether it’s a new guest with a challenging special request or a VIP with high expectations, train everyone to think beyond the customer’s basic expectations.
  • Be genuinely personable. Beyond just being friendly and polite, FOH staff should be aware of opportunities to make genuine connections with guests—even a small gesture like remembering a guest’s name can go a long way.
  • Surprise and delight. Highlight to staff what’s acceptable when going above and beyond for a customer, e.g. is there a free drink policy for birthdays or engagements, for example? 

Back-of-house operations

Like your FOH operations, this section should include information about how your BOH operates. It can include kitchen safety guidelines, cleaning procedures, how to check inventory, food health and safety guidelines, how to record wastage and how to place purchase orders.

Chef praising cook


12. Scheduling process

Use this chapter to clearly define your scheduling process and how much notice is expected of your employees when they request time off. Mention that if their requests are not submitted on time, it becomes their responsibility to find a colleague to replace them.

If you use any scheduling platforms, this section should give a brief overview of how staff can access the tool and how it’s used. 

What to include in your scheduling processes and guidelines:

  • How often the rota is released
  • How far in advance the rota is planned
  • Procedures for submitting work schedule preferences
  • How to request time off
  • How to swap shifts with a colleague
  • Your policy for absences and tardiness
  • A list of your scheduling tools


13. Tech how-to guide

Every restaurant employee handbook should include a how-to guide for your various restaurant tech solutions. 

Outline each scenario where your service and kitchen staff will routinely have to use tech – from making reservations to using your point of sale (POS), how to use a kitchen display system (KDS) and how to take payments.

Along with a how-to section, you should also include a list of resources (like how to contact your system’s customer support department) for your staff to refer to if they have any questions or need help.

Part of building a high-performing team is empowering them with versatile, easy-to-use tools and showing them where to go and who to talk to if they have questions or technical problems that require immediate action. 


14. Complaints procedure

When it comes to harassment, it’s on you as a restaurant owner to take a clear stand. Use this section to first define what constitutes harassment—whether verbal, physical, or otherwise—explain that harassment of any kind won’t be tolerated, and make the consequences for such behavior crystal clear.

It’s important to reinforce that sexual, verbal, and physical harassment will not be tolerated. You want to foster a safe and healthy environment for your staff and guests. And if any of your guests or staff ever feel threatened or uncomfortable while on the job, it’s on you to make it right and to have a plan of action.

What to include in your anti-harassment and complaint procedure:

  • Punishable, fireable, and prohibited offenses
  • How to report abuse or harassment
  • Your management team’s action plan for dealing with violations


Empower your staff with a restaurant employee handbook

Minimizing employee turnover and maximizing their happiness and productivity starts by hiring the right people for the right job, fostering a safe, positive work environment, and giving them the tools, information, and training they need to feel professionally validated and happy.

While attracting great candidates is one end of the spectrum, having a consistent, professional, organized onboarding process will set a good impression between employee and employer from day one. A restaurant employee handbook can help make that happen.

By creating an employee handbook and using it as a tool to train and onboard new staff, you’ll ensure that you make a professional first impression on new hires while also aligning them with your establishment’s mission, values, policies, and procedures. 

Build your restaurant employee handbook in minutes

Standardize your restaurant's policies, guidelines and processes with this free and fully customizable restaurant employee handbook template.

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