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    Restaurant employee handbook: How to write one in 2022

    Your restaurant employee handbook can be a powerful tool. It can be used to speed up the onboarding process for new hires, make confusing company policies easy to understand and serve as a reference manual for common tasks.   

    Of course, it can only do any of those things if it’s written and formatted in a way that makes sense to employees. And that’s not always an easy task—especially if you’ve never written one before!   

    That’s why we’re going to show you: 

    • How to effectively structure and write an employee handbook
    • What makes a good restaurant employee handbook 
    • Why, even if you already have an employee handbook, you probably need to update it in 2022 

    But, before we get into those topics, let’s take a moment to make sure we all understand what a restaurant employee handbook is and its importance to your business. 

    What is a restaurant employee handbook?

    A restaurant employee handbook is a document that contains all of the major rules, policies and guidelines for your employees. It can also include information on things like your restaurant’s mission and values.

    We know that it can be hard to imagine how to structure and include all of that information in one place. So, let’s now look at what you should include in your handbook. 

    What should be in a restaurant employee handbook?

    A good restaurant employee handbook includes the following sections. 


    Introduce your employees to your handbook by writing a welcome note and brief history of your restaurant. 

    Mission and core values

    Next, you’ll give employees an overview of your restaurant’s mission and core business values. This information helps ensure your employees know how to do things, like:

    • Embody and contribute to your restaurant’s brand while at work
    • Feel a sense of purpose and community 
    • Communicate what makes your restaurant different from competitors when talking to customers

    Code of conduct

    Sometimes, your employees will need a place to reference what is and isn’t acceptable behavior. So, in this section, make your expectations clear. Outline standards for conduct on things like: 

    • Dress code 
    • Schedule changes 
    • Cell phone usage 
    • Conflicts with coworkers and customers 
    • Customer service 
    • Anti-harassment 
    • Procedures for making complaints

    Be friendly in your tone to not seem patronizing. But, in this section, you may also choose to include information about the consequences for ignoring or breaking the code of conduct. 

    Compensation and benefits

    This section will likely be the one your employees refer to the most. So, it’s important it accurately reflects your restaurant’s policies as well as federal, state and local laws. 

    To do that, you’ll include information on: 

    • Pay structure for part-time and full-time staff 
    • Tips declaration and structure 
    • Overtime compensation 
    • Sick, medical and family leave 
    • Vacation leave 
    • Health and insurance plans 
    • Any additional employee benefits (e.g. education assistance programs) 

    Scheduling processes and guidelines

    In this section, outline how employees can view and request changes to their schedule. Be sure to also state clearly how much notice is needed for changes to be processed. 

    In addition to those things, you may also include information on: 

    • How to use your restaurant’s scheduling tools 
    • Who to contact for last-minute emergency schedule changes
    • Consequences for tardiness or unapproved absences 
    • Which holidays your restaurant will be open or closed 

    Standard restaurant operations and procedures

    You may already have a section on your restaurant operations and procedures in your restaurant operations manual. But you can also include it in your employee handbook for easy reference. 

    What type of things should you include? How-to information for all of your restaurant’s important systems (e.g. your Point of Sales software), routine tasks (e.g. opening and closing guidelines) and who on your team to reach out to for any situations not covered in the handbook. 

    COVID-19 information

    The COVID-19 pandemic has had profound effects on the restaurant industry. And it’s important that your employee handbook reflects that. That way, you’re prepared for the questions existing employees and new hires will likely have about how to navigate the ongoing changes.  

    What to include:

    • Government hygiene standards and best practices
    • Information on social distancing policies
    • Employee health and safety guidelines
    • Information on what to do if your employee or someone close to them tests positive for COVID-19


    You can conclude your employee handbook by stating how the rules and guidelines of the previous sections support the restaurant's mission and values. You can also include a note to recognize and thank your employees for being part of your team. 

    What makes a good employee handbook?

    Simply including the information we just outlined isn’t enough to make a good handbook your employees will actually use and refer back to. We recommend making sure your employee handbook also has the following characteristics.

    Clearly communicated core values and company culture 

    You and your employees may not fully be aware of it, but the long-term success of your restaurant depends on your company culture

    So, make sure your handbook clearly communicates your restaurant’s core values, long-term goals, your ideal customers, why you serve those customers and how you hope those customers describe your restaurant. 

    Straightforward explanation of policies 

    Don’t make your employees guess or assume anything when reading about the company policies. This isn’t a legal document. So, aim for clarity. Explain your policies in layman terms, avoiding unnecessary corporate jargon. 

    Engaging design, format and language

    Your employee handbook is part of your brand. And how you design, format and write the content should reflect that. Here are some examples of things you can do: 

    • Use the same typography and colors that you use in your other marketing materials
    • Share old and recent photos of your restaurant when discussing the history of the restaurant
    • Tell stories to demonstrate key points and explain complex policies whenever possible

    Flexible policies 

    No matter how good it is, your employee handbook can’t cover every possible situation. And you may have to review some issues on a case-by-case basis. A good employee manual makes that clear by demonstrating that certain policies can be modified if the circumstances call for it.

    Why your employee handbook may need to be updated in 2022 

    Since the start of the pandemic, the way you run your restaurant has likely changed a lot. And, unfortunately, it doesn’t look like things are going to fully return to pre-pandemic conditions any time soon. 

    So, make sure your employee handbook reflects how you and your employees work now. This is especially true if you’ve done things like: 

    • Adopted new digital tools and technologies
    • Started or expanded your restaurant’s delivery and takeaway options
    • Introduced flexible work schedules for employees 
    • Implemented new policies to follow federal health regulations 

    Including this information in your handbook is especially important if you're also in the process of hiring new employees and rehiring former ones. Why? Because you don’t want them referring to outdated information.

    Final thoughts

    Your restaurant employee handbook can become the go-to reference source for new and existing employees. But, first, you have to write one that covers all of the necessary information. Use this outline to write or update your employee handbook this year! 

    And, if you’re looking for more tips on how to operate your restaurant in 2022, check out our e-book on how to reopen and stay open during COVID-19.

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