Restaurant Employee Handbook: 5 Special Considerations

As a restaurant owner or someone in a managerial position, it is important that you convey your expectations and company values to your employees so they can best represent your establishment. By doing this, you enhance your restaurant’s reputation and workflows. Read further to learn more about a restaurant employee handbook and important considerations.


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What is a restaurant employee handbook?

A restaurant employee handbook is a written collection of documents that restaurants use to communicate a variety of rules, expectations and benefits to employees. This might include employee conduct with one another and customers and certain employees may have different expectations. For example, hygiene practices for kitchen staff.


Benefits of an employee handbook for your restaurant staff

Here are some potential benefits of an employee handbook for your restaurant staff, according to Tandem HR:

  • Communicates employee work standards: Ensure that new employees understand your expectations for them and how to interact with customers.
  • Provides transparency about policies and procedures: Describe details about dress code, calling out sick and other important policies.
  • Protects business owners in legal situations: Ensure that your handbook includes all expectations on your part, should a former employee file a lawsuit for something like wrongful termination.
  • Helps employees identify benefits and other incentives: Include a section that outlines the type of benefits they receive. For example, 10 days of PTO, healthcare or two free meals per every eight-hour shift.

Read more: Employee Handbooks: How to Write One and What to Include 


5 items to include in a restaurant employee handbook

According to, there are several beneficial items to include in a restaurant employee handbook. Here is a list of 5:


1. Food safety and quality

This section is especially important for kitchen staff to learn how to prepare and store food in a hygienic and safe way. States have standards and policies so be sure to consult the proper local and county guidelines.


2. Dress code expectations

Whether working behind the scenes in the kitchen or as a host or waiter, your employees represent your restaurant and your brand. You may have a specific uniform that all employees wear, or ask that they wear certain attire. Here are some examples of acceptable dress code policies:

  • All shirts must be tucked in
  • Hosts should wear all black
  • Waiters with long hair should wear it up or pulled back
  • Tattoos with profane language should be covered, whether by clothing or jewelry. Other tattoos are fine.
  • Kitchen staff should not wear jewelry during work. Waiters and hosts may wear jewelry.


3. Payroll expectations

With a variety of roles and skill levels needed to help you run your restaurant, the way you pay your employees may vary as well. Be sure to outline the different pay grades available and the reasoning for each pay grade amount. For example:

  • Level 1: Hourly pay for part-time positions at state minimum wage for $9.25 per hour
  • Level 2: Hourly pay for full-time positions starting at $14.00 per hour
  • Level 3: Salaried positions starting at $35,000+. These positions include those that require college-level education, certifications/training or leadership roles.


4. Customer communication policies

Hosts, waiters, restaurant management and even kitchen staff should be able to communicate with customers in a professional and positive way. Be sure to include a list of customer service expectations and example scenarios to help them approach odd situations.


5. Emergency protocols

You should have a few different emergency protocols in the handbook so employees can be prepared to respond to events like kitchen fires, violent customers, robberies or crimes on the premises. 


Tips for deciding what to include in your restaurant employee handbook

You don’t need to include every consideration in your restaurant employee handbook. In fact, you may need to include more items that apply to your restaurant, specifically. Review these tips recommended by

  • Ask existing employees to fill out a survey: This allows you to identify the things they wish they knew more about or subjects they feel should have been included in the old handbook.
  • Review competitor handbooks: Some restaurants may put employee handbooks online for prospective employees to look at and members of the public to view. Use this to your advantage to learn more about what they do and don’t include in their handbook.
  • Make a list of past errors or complex situations: This allows you to determine any recurring events that minimize workflow or customer satisfaction. For instance, if you see a continuous pattern of staff coming in late for their shift and other’s having to cover for them, you may consider implementing a three-strike rule into your handbook that promotes punctuality.
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