9 Steps to Create Your Restaurant Employee Handbook
Posted on February 07, 2018 by Danny Leffel
Think of your restaurant employee handbook as a contract between you and your employees. In it, you’re telling them what they can expect from you, and in return, asking them to follow the guidelines you’ve listed; however, it’s usefulness doesn’t stop there. If an employee were to ever file a lawsuit against your restaurant, the employee handbook could protect you, so what you include is important. To help you get started, we’ve provided nine steps to create your restaurant employee handbook.
This guide isn’t a substitute for legal advice. Please consult an attorney as needed.
1. Begin With a Welcome Letter and Introduction
This is where you’ll get new employees excited to start working for you. Since it’s the first thing they’ll be reading, strive to engage them and make them fall in love with your brand. Give them a quick history of your restaurant, introduce them to the owners, and state the values that are important to your restaurant. You can also include a mission statement if you have one.
2. Add Disclaimers
Disclaimers help protect your company and detail how the employee manual will be interpreted. In this section, you’ll want to state that your business is an equal opportunity employer and will follow applicable business laws. You’ll want to add in language about employment being “at-will,” which is a safeguard for the company if an employee is terminated. If your restaurant has any rules about nepotism, they should go here. More information about disclaimers can be found online.
3. Detail Appropriate Workplace Behavior
If you have a dress code that employees are required to follow, discuss it here. Are there any other grooming habits you want employees to perform (for example, having clean nails when handling the food)? Do you have policies regarding cellphone use during work hours? Include designated breaks, attendance policies, and shift-swapping in this section. Communication expectations should also be mentioned. Honesty is important in the workplace, so be sure to emphasize that here.
When discussing your policies, make sure that everything is clear cut. For example, your time-off policy should include a method for employees to request their time off. If you don’t have one in place, consider using the Crew app. It makes team communication simple because messages can be sent from your employees’ smartphones, and management can easily look back at previous messages when making schedules for the week.
4. Include Benefits
There are several types of benefits you can talk about in this section. Health insurance options should be covered briefly. Since insurance can change from year to year, you may not want to go too in-depth about your offerings, but you should mention the types of insurance that are available and list who the employee can talk to to get more information. Retirement planning can also go here. Will your restaurant give employees a meal plan? If so, that’s a benefit that you should include in the handbook.
5. Establish a Method for Reporting Concerns
If your restaurant doesn’t have a harassment policy yet, you’ll need to come up with one. Employees need to feel that they can trust their employers to protect them from abuse. Think of handling concerns and complaints as a way of dealing with a small problem before it becomes a larger one.
If you have a policy for disciplining employees, it can go in this section. Many businesses don’t like to think about a disciplinary policy until it’s too late, but it’s much easier to come up with one before you run into problems than it is to implement a brand new one when it’s necessary. You may want to try using a points system for an employee’s bad behavior. It’s best to list out the transgressions with the assigned points so employees will know where they stand for any negative behavior.
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6. Establish Emergency Procedures
In the event of various emergencies, you should have plans put together. Fire exits and designated meeting places after fires should be listed here. Depending on your geographical location, you may have other natural disasters to contend with. It may not be feasible to list out the plans for each emergency, especially if you’re still hammering out the details; however, you should plan yearly or semi-yearly training sessions for how to handle these emergencies.
7. Make It Accessible
Your employees won’t want to read something that’s stuffy and wordy. Try to engage them by being approachable. You could use restaurant concepts to organize your sections or, if you’re feeling creative, include comic strips to help drive home your points. Regardless of what you choose, make sure the content is helpful, easy to find, and concise.
8. Hire an Attorney
It never hurts to have a lawyer look at your handbook, just to make sure you’ve covered all of the necessities. Try to find one who is well-versed in federal, state, and local labor laws, as those can vary by jurisdiction.
9. Revise as Needed
Your employee handbook shouldn’t be set in stone once you’ve completed it. Treat it as a living, breathing document that outlines your restaurant’s philosophies and regulations, which are subject to evolve and change as the business grows. Solicit feedback from your employees to help improve the handbook. Clarify any policies that they have trouble understanding and ask them for input when adding new information. The handbook is for them, so they should have a say in the revision process. As each revision is given to employees, ask them to sign a document stating that they’ve received the new copy.
If you need some extra help putting together your employee handbook, there are handbook templates available online. Remember that communication between you and your staff is key to a healthy working relationship. By listing out acceptable behaviors, roles, and regulations, you’ll be showing your employees that transparency and honesty are important to your restaurant. Those values will carry over into how your staff interacts with each other and customers.