How to Develop a Restaurant Employee Handbook


So, you have to create a restaurant employee handbook. It may seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be! With a little organization, you’ll be on your way to creating a manual for success in your restaurant. Take this opportunity to clearly write out the policies, procedures and anything else that your staff will find helpful when addressing a variety of requests and issues.

Ready to get started? We’ll take you through all the tidbits of information to consider when drafting your employee guidelines for the first time. It’s also important to note that you should always consult with an employment lawyer or restaurant human resource professional before finalizing and distributing the handbook to your employees.

Components of a Restaurant Employee Handbook

Below is a list of the most common components of a restaurant employee handbook. You can follow this format to get started with your own outline. If you want to jump ahead to a specific topic, skip right to it by clicking any of the links in the list below.

Why Your Restaurant Needs an Employee Handbook

Your employee manual is the hub for your specific restaurant policies, local and federal laws, employment standards and working procedures. With the right information in place, this document can make your life easier.

With a restaurant employee handbook, you can:

Enhance Professionalism

Show your staff that you are serious about your restaurant, and more importantly, their performance. With the handbook, you can outline what the employee uniform includes, codes of conduct and how to handle workplace disputes.

Address Frequently Asked Questions

Good employees want to know what they need to do and how to do it. Your restaurant’s handbook will cover this. Jot down all the frequently asked questions you’ve heard over the years and answer each one clearly. It’s also a good idea to include any quirky traits of the business, building or target clientele. Address these issues upfront and save a lot of headaches down the road.

Improve Employee Confidence

Restaurant employees do better work when they are confident of their job requirements and the specific procedures they are expected to perform. This translates to better customer service as well.

Elevate Consistency

When you have the policies written out, you can consistently train every employee. Conversely, if you need to take disciplinary action with someone, the employee handbook gives you written documentation of procedures in case of any messy legal action.

Writing the Employee Handbook

Here are a few tips for crafting a useful handbook:

Write Multilingual Handbooks

If you hire employees with fluency in varied languages, create versions of the handbook in different languages to accommodate any communicate barriers.

Write So Employees Can Understand

No need to write the employee handbook in unfamiliar jargon or legal terms. Write simply and clearly so all of your employees can understand it. After all, they are your main audience.

Produce Specialized Handbooks

Depending on your restaurant, you may find that handbooks for every type of employee make the most sense. In full-service restaurants, job descriptions can be very different and may require separate policies and procedures. Limited or quick service restaurants often function just fine with one universal employee handbook.

Add Information As Needed

New situations come up, and you may need to write additional documentation to cover new procedures. To avoid publishing new handbooks every time this happens, print off the new procedures and hand out copies with the next round of employee paychecks. Be sure to update your main file for the handbook so all future employees receive the most updated version.

Essential Components of an Employee Handbook

Employee handbooks will vary based on the restaurant concept, layout, service type,  location, hours and specific policies enforced by the owner or manager. Despite differences in content, the following components are important in any restaurant employee handbook:

1. Disclaimer and Acknowledgement

The disclaimer and acknowledgement section of your restaurant’s employee handbook establishes that employees have read and understand the policies, procedures, expectations and benefits outlined in the handbook. It also asserts that the handbook does not act as an employment contract. This is especially important for states with “at-will” employment laws, which are laws delineating that an employment relationship can be terminated at any time, by the employer or employee, without cause or liability.

2. Employment Policies

Include policies on dismissing employees from the restaurant. Be sure to cover both voluntary and involuntary termination and what behaviors will lead directly to termination.

How to Terminate Restaurant and Bar Employees »

Hiring Policies
A hiring policies section will help to outline any state laws that apply to interviewing, hiring and otherwise bringing people to work in the restaurant. Your handbook should cover any applicable state or federal employment law, including the commitment to Equal Opportunity Employment. Handbooks may also include information on recruiting, interviewing, applications and background checking.

Find and hire the right people »

3. Work Hours and Payroll

In this section, discuss any labor laws that were not covered in the previous section, and to outline the expectations and procedures for employees while on the job. Include the following concepts, tailored to your restaurant:

Labor Laws

Labor laws differ from state to state. Include information about age requirements, work permits, overtime pay procedures or information about what work employees can safely perform while on the job.

Restaurant Employment and Labor Laws »


Employees will want to know when and how they will be paid. Let employees know when paydays occur, how they will receive their wages and if direct deposit is available.

How to Choose a Payroll Provider »


Discuss how the schedule will be created and how often. Include procedures for asking for time off, missing a shift and otherwise changing the schedule. You may want to cover what happens when an employee misses a shift without notice. This information will often require extra enforcement and communication in person.

How to Make a Restaurant Schedule »


Most state labor laws also include directives for employee breaks and meal periods. Employees must be aware of their rights according to area labor laws. They should also be aware of how to clock out for a break, where break areas are and how many breaks they are allowed in a given shift.

Tip Reporting

This applies mainly to servers and bartenders. Make sure the tip-reporting policy in your restaurant is clearly communicated and enforced. Include instructions on how to fill out a tip reporting sheet and potential consequences for inaccurate reporting.

Tip Distribution and Tip Reporting »

Workers’ Compensation

This section should have information on employee injuries or illness as a result of working at the restaurant. Make employees aware of their rights and educate them about how to stay safe on the job.

4. Benefits

Insurance and 401K

If your business offers health insurance or 401K options, outline the tenure or job role level required to receive the benefits. Since insurance carriers and levels of coverage can change over time, it may be best to keep all insurance phone numbers and website info updated in the handbook.

Employee Wages and Benefits »

Employee Meals

Employee meals are a common benefit in many restaurants. Clearly state how employee meals work so everyone is clear on what is considered acceptable and what is considered theft.

Managing Employee Meals »

Time Off

Businesses are typically required to provide time off to their employees when they are sick and during holidays. Restaurants, however, may employ unique policies regarding time off. Be sure to clarify your restaurant’s policies, including the following circumstances if applicable: Holidays, Sick Days, Vacation Time, Overtime, Bereavement, Maternity Leave, and Jury Duty.

5. Appearance Standards

Be sure to identify the proper uniform and appearance standards for every job position in your restaurant. This can include shoes, full uniform dress, hair, facial hair, nails jewelry, tattoos and piercings.

6. Behavior Expectations and Policies

Be sure to clearly state what is considered acceptable and inappropriate behaviors in your business. This can be used as a very effective training tool for new employees and can also be used for reference should you have to take disciplinary action.

Employee Discipline and Reward Systems »


How do you expect your team to work together? Describe your expectations for teamwork and the overall business culture.

Customer Service

Most restaurant jobs are customer facing. Define your expectations for customer service in your employee handbook by providing samples of customer interactions and what to do if a customer is not happy. If you have particular pillars of service that you wish each employee to provide, outline them here.


Let employees know that their performance will be periodically evaluated. These evaluations can even lead to increases in wages, if your restaurant is in a position to offer this.

Rewards and Discipline

Identify unacceptable behaviors, as well as those that result in immediate termination, such as harassment. In addition, clarify those behaviors that will make the employees stand out as leaders.

Conflict Resolution

When employees show their superiors or their coworkers disrespect, the whole atmosphere of the workplace can turn sour. Have behavior standards and resolution practices in place for conflicts that do arise.

Employee Conflict Resolution »

7. Cash Handling Policies and Procedures

Many restaurant employees will be handling cash while at work, either as a server, bartender or cashier. Having cash handling policies in place will help instruct employees on the proper way to handle money to minimize loss and maximize security and accuracy.

Cash Handling Practices for Restaurants »

8. Operating Procedures

This section of the employee handbook includes any operational procedures that employees are expected to carry out. This can include opening and closing procedures, proper ways of operating equipment, special safety procedures and service guidelines. Generally, the more details you provide in this section, the better.

9. Harassment Policy

Have a stringent policy on workplace harassment. Provide information about sexual harassment and other forms of workplace harassment, as well as instruction for how to avoid it, how to identify it and how to report it. You may even want to include a statement of acknowledgement for every employee to sign, stating that they have read and understand the no-harassment policy. These can be kept in employee files.

10. Drug and Alcohol Policy

Drug and alcohol abuse can occur in any restaurant. Not only is it harmful to the employee, but it can be dangerous to those around him or her. Be sure your policies are clearly defined. This especially applies to restaurants that serve alcohol and allow employees to drink after their shifts have ended.

11. Health and Safety

Be sure to provide consistent and thorough training to all employees through regular staff safety meetings and on-the-job training. Have proper labels and posters in place to remind employees of hazardous chemicals or potentially dangerous procedures.

12. Emergency Procedures

In the event of an extreme weather emergency, power outage or burglary, your restaurant staff needs to be prepared with the proper precautions and procedures. Educate your staff about the importance of awareness and security when it comes to crisis situations.

Restaurant Emergency Procedures »

13. Company Property and Equipment

Some restaurant employees have access to computers, vehicles or other equipment belonging to the restaurant. Make sure employees are aware that they need to respect restaurant property of all types.


About Author

Maggie Henderson

Maggie once gained five pounds in pursuit of the perfect Indian dal recipe. When she isn't cooking, she spends her days as a marketer and her nights and weekends blogging, taking pictures and chasing after her son and dog.

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