How to Terminate Restaurant Employees


As a manager, it is essential to have a section in your restaurant employee manual that defines the types of behavior that will not be tolerated. The manual will lay out the discipline policy, often including warnings leading up to termination. Managers should know that firing an irresponsible or unproductive employee is just as important as hiring great employees. Poor performers will only drag the business down.

bartender working the bar

Before Terminating an Employee

Of course, the termination depends on the specific behavior issue. Before you fire an employee, be certain your decision is one that follows company policy and ensures the good of the restaurant. Be sure that you make the following efforts in your restaurant to avoid termination when possible:

Provide a fair work environment. Do everything you can to provide a fair workplace for all your employees to prevent feelings of victimization.

Follow through on promises. Be sure to fulfill any promises you have made to the employee when you hired him or her. False guarantees may come back to haunt you.

Make employees aware. Educate all employees about the types of behaviors that will result in discipline or termination.

Solve problems. In most cases, you should try all practical means of problem solving before terminating an employee. » Learn More

Know the law. It is important to know your local employment and labor laws to be sure you are not setting foot on illegal ground by dismissing an employee. Check your decisions against Equal Opportunity Employment Laws and any other local employment laws. » Learn More

Follow policies. Make sure your restaurant employee handbook outlines unacceptable behaviors and related discipline policies. If the behavior warrants immediate termination, follow through. If not, admonish appropriately with verbal and written warnings directly to the employee. » Learn More

Communicate Intolerable Behaviors

As a manager, be sure you have communicated your restaurant’s behavior policies to all employees. Make it clear that there are some behaviors that are grounds for immediate termination. The following are several examples you may want to include in the list of behaviors that constitute instant dismissal:

  • Stealing money, restaurant equipment or personal property
  • Altering or falsifying a guest’s credit card charge
  • Using alcohol or illegal substances while on the job
  • Failing to attend a scheduled shift without management approval
  • Threatening another employee or a customer
  • Serving alcohol to a minor or noticeably intoxicated guest
  • Disclosing confidential information to outside parties

It is helpful to include a list of these behaviors in the restaurant employee handbook. » Learn More

Do’s and Don’t’s of Employee Termination

Make sure that you are following proper protocol when firing a restaurant worker. Make sure your reasoning reflects restaurant policy and that it does not infringe upon the worker’s rights. You should know your local laws and be sure your restaurant policies follow those laws. These general do’s and don’t’s will guide you:

 Tell the employee when the termination will take effect Fire employees on their birthdays or just before a holiday
 Justify your decision with past written warnings documenting poor performance, irresponsibility or breaches of policy Give the employee vague reasoning or none at all (check with local laws to see what your state requires)
 Tell the employee what benefits they will receive upon departure, such as severance pay or unused vacation days Refuse the employee’s pay or other benefits enforced by restaurant policy or local or federal law
 Arrange to have security or police on the premises if you believe the individual could turn violent Get into a heated argument or shout at the individual
 Speak honestly but respectfully with the employee and be sure he or she understandsTerminate in public or attempt to embarrass the employee in any way
 Be sure the employee returns any restaurant-owned uniforms, keys or property before leaving Keep an employee on the schedule if you fear malicious behavior, vandalism or other retaliation; instead, terminate immediately with 2-weeks’ pay

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