How to Write a Restaurant Employee Handbook with Examples

by Katie Sawyer, 10 minutes read
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A restaurant employee handbook is an essential part of running a successful restaurant. It helps employees understand their rights and responsibilities, and it also protects both parties from legal issues.

But writing a restaurant employee handbook can be tricky.

Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be so hard. Continue reading to learn the best practices for creating an employee handbook that keeps your staff — and customers — happy.

The introduction

In the introduction of your restaurant employee handbook, explain the handbook’s purpose and what's included inside. Here are two examples:

Example 1

“Our Restaurant Employee Handbook was created to help ensure every team member knows where they stand when it comes to employment terms and conditions. As a result, we've included important information regarding wages, hours, vacation time, leave for sick employees, health insurance coverage, etc. Please take a moment to read through the following pages carefully."

Example 2

“This document provides information about our company policies, benefits, and procedures. We hope you find them helpful as you work at XYZ. If there's anything else we need to address before you start working with us, please let us know!”

You may want to add more details into this introductory paragraph depending on your industry or business model. For example, if you have multiple locations, then you might mention each location separately. Or maybe you have different types of positions within your organization, such as managers vs. servers.

Employee benefits & policies

Now that you've written your intro, you can move onto explaining your employee benefits and policies. These sections usually go under the heading of ‘Benefits’ or ‘Policies’. Here are two samples below:

Example 1

"As a valued member of our team, you receive many perks, including free meals, discounts, and health insurance coverage. Our full list of benefits can be found here."

Example 2

"All members of our team enjoy several benefits, including paid time off, medical/dental plans, 401k matching contributions, and much more!"

Make sure to keep things simple when describing your benefits. Don't get too wordy; just stick to the basics. Also, don't forget to highlight any special programs or events going on during your hiring period.


Next up, you'll probably want to talk about your internal processes. Your employee handbook should contain clear instructions on everything from scheduling shifts and overtime policies to dealing with complaints. Below are two examples of how to describe your procedures:

Example 1

"To schedule your shift, simply click 'Schedule' next to your preferred day and time slot. Please note that availability changes daily based on demand. Thank you for choosing to join our team."

Example 2

"Please contact Customer Service if you experience problems while using our app. They will assist you with submitting feedback and resolving any issues."

Again, try not to overcomplicate things by getting overly detailed. Keep it short and sweet. And remember, you only need to outline basic steps. Employees won't read long paragraphs anyway.

Code of conduct

Finally, you'll likely include some sort of code of conduct in your employee manual. Make sure to clearly state what kind of behavior is unacceptable. It doesn't hurt to also remind employees of their legal rights. Check out these two examples for an idea of how to write yours:

Example 1

"We expect all members of our team to treat one another respectfully at all times. We do not tolerate discrimination against anyone because of race, color, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, genetic information, marital status, pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding, military affiliation, citizenship, immigration status or political beliefs."

Example 2

"It's important to us that everyone feels safe and comfortable around us. We encourage anyone experiencing harassment or discrimination to report it immediately so we can take action against those responsible."

Restaurant's mission and core values

Your company mission statement and core values serve as guiding principles for everyone working within your restaurant. It also serves as an effective tool to communicate with customers about what makes your restaurant unique. Your mission statement should be short but powerful. You'll need to write this document yourself, so make sure it reflects who you are as a person and organization.

These values must align with your mission statement, and they're often used to explain why certain policies exist. Here are two examples below:

Example 1

"Our mission is to provide exceptional service through food quality, value, and innovation."

Example 2

"The core values of our business are integrity, respect, accountability, honesty, teamwork, communication, safety, and sustainability."

Dress code policy

Covering the dress codes is essential when onboarding new hires. If possible, stick to a uniform policy. This way, there's no confusion regarding what type of clothing each member of your crew needs to wear during work hours. Some restaurants even require uniforms for managers and supervisors. Here are two example dress codes below:

Example 1

Uniforms required

"All employees shall comply with the following requirements:"

* Shirts/Tops

* Pants/Jeans

* Socks

* Hats

* Jewelry

* Gloves

* Safety Shoes

* Work Boots

Example 2

"Employees shall maintain appropriate personal hygiene while on duty. All employees shall wear clean clothes which cover the body completely, including shoes. Shorts and skirts above the knee are acceptable; however, shirts covering the upper arms are preferred. Ties are optional unless otherwise noted."

Paid or unpaid leave policies

If you offer paid time off, outline what days off people get and under what circumstances. For example, you might allow them to use vacation time instead of taking time off without pay if someone gets sick. Or maybe you only give workers four weeks' worth of paid time off per year. Whatever you decide, make sure you've outlined everything in writing.

Also, if you're covered under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you must include this policy within your employee handbook so employees are informed of their rights. Check with your state labor laws to find out if there are any requirements regarding paid or unpaid leave that you must follow.

Here's are two examples below:

Example 1: Vacation Pay Offset

"In addition to regular holidays, vacations, and other special occasions, employees receive 10% of their monthly salary as compensation for unused annual vacation time. Employees accrue one day of vacation credit for every month worked up until reaching 40 years old. After 40 years of age, employees accrue one week of vacation credit for every six months worked. Vacations are not accrued after five years of continuous employment."

Example 2: Paid Time Off

"We believe that part of being a good employer means offering benefits like health insurance, retirement plans, paid maternity and paternity leaves, and more. Our goal is to create a workplace where employees feel valued and appreciated, and know they’re making a difference in our success."

Safety procedures

This section includes any rules about workplace safety. For example, if your kitchen has knives, ensure employees know where they're located and understand proper knife use. Also, make sure to address any potential hazards such as hot surfaces, sharp objects, etc. Finally, don't forget to mention emergency procedures! Here's an example:

Procedures for handling emergencies

"In the event of a fire or other emergency situations, please follow these steps..."

1) Call 911

2) Leave area immediately

3) Follow directions given over phone

4) Do NOT attempt to enter building until instructed

5) Remain calm and stay out of traffic

6) Stay away from windows

7) Wait for instructions before leaving scene

8) Report incident to management

9) Return to work after receiving clearance

10) Clean up debris

11) Ensure door remains locked

12) Lock doors behind you

13) Turn off lights

14) Close blinds

15) Remove keys from lockers

Safety procedures for COVID-19

Restaurants now have additional safety precautions to use to remain open and compliant with local and federal regulations. These include social distancing measures, sanitizing stations, and masks/gloves.

Make sure all employees are aware of these new guidelines. You can also add some information about cleaning protocols and disinfection methods used at each step of service delivery. Below is an example of how to do this:

COVID-19 Safety Guidelines

The following guidelines will help us keep everyone safe while we continue serving food during the pandemic. Please read through them carefully and be mindful of implementing them into your daily operations.

Social Distancing Measures

• We ask customers to maintain 6 feet between themselves and others when dining inside. This applies even if it is just sitting next to another table. • If possible, dine outside on patios or balconies.

Sanitation Stations & Disinfection Methods

• Sanitizer dispensers should be placed throughout the establishment so patrons may cleanse hands with alcohol gel upon entering and exiting.

• Handwashing sinks should be available near tables and restrooms.

Masks / Gloves

• Masks must be worn by anyone who enters the facility.

• All workers need gloves.

Cleanliness Protocols

• Food contact areas should be cleaned regularly using approved products.

Training & orientation processes

If you've hired new restaurant staff members before, then you probably already know how crucial training and orientations are. They allow new workers to get up to speed quickly and become familiar with everything they need to know. Training and orientation processes vary depending on the size of your restaurant and its location. However, most restaurants offer some form of training and orientation program. Here's an example:

Example 1

Orientation Program

"We will be hosting an Employee Orientation at __________."

Date: ____________________Time: _____________________________Location: ___________________________________

Instructions: Please arrive 15 minutes early so we can begin promptly at 9 am. We look forward to meeting all of you!"

You should also include additional instructions:

"New Employees must attend a mandatory one-hour orientation before their first day of employment. The purpose of the orientation is to introduce them to the company, explain policies and answer questions about working conditions. New employees should bring copies of their resume and identification documents to complete the paperwork."

Scheduling processes and guidelines

Most restaurants have scheduling guidelines in place. These include things like shift hours, days off, breaks, employee meals, etc. Make sure to clearly state when shifts start and end, what time break periods occur and whether there are meal options available during certain times. This way, everyone knows what to expect every single week.

In this section, describe:

  • How employees' schedules are submitted

  • How to request time off

  • How to swap shifts with colleagues

  • How you handle absences and tardies

  • What your policies are regarding those things

Here's an example:

Employee Schedules

All employees are required to submit daily schedule requests via email by 2 pm each Friday afternoon. All requests must contain the following information:

Name of the employee requesting leave

Start date/time

End date/time

Reason for requested absence

The name of the supervisor who approved the request

Any additional notes explaining why the request was made

Policies regarding absence & tardiness

Absenteeism and lateness are common problems among restaurant employees. To avoid any issues (like labor shortage) or potential lawsuits, make sure to outline specific rules regarding absenteeism and tardiness. For example, if you don't want anyone coming into work late, make sure to specify the disciplinary procedures in writing. You may even consider creating a written attendance policy as well.

Here's a template you might use:

Policy Regarding Absentees & Lateness

1) No person shall report to work after ______ without approval from his/her manager. _____________ will be considered an unexcused absence.

2) Any employee who reports to work more than ___ minutes past ___.__ o’clock on a weekday will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination.

3) To maintain a healthy workplace environment, we do not allow smoking inside the building.

Employee benefits

Many businesses offer benefits as part of their compensation package. Whether or not you choose to do so depends entirely on your business model. For example, if you're running a food truck, offering health insurance may make sense. On the other hand, if you're operating a sit-down establishment, providing healthcare coverage might not be worth the cost. In any case, it's always best to consult counsel about legal requirements beforehand.

Some common benefits offered by restaurants include:

Health Insurance

Health insurance plans cover medical expenses such as doctor visits, hospital stays, prescriptions, dental care, vision care, mental health services, maternity leave, sick leave, disability leave, life insurance, long-term care insurance, prescription drug assistance programs, and more!

Dental Care

Dental care is essential because, without proper oral hygiene, teeth decay and infection can develop into serious problems. Many people don't realize just how expensive regular checkups and cleanings can be, but they're absolutely necessary.

Vision Care

Vision care includes eye exams, glasses, contact lenses, and even surgery. Without proper vision care, many jobs become difficult or impossible to perform safely.

Maternity Leave

Maternity leaves vary depending on where you work. However, most states mandate some form of paid parental leave after childbirth. Most employers allow up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave following birth. Contact your local legal experts to find out more about what you’re legally obligated to provide.

Create a restaurant handbook suitable for 2021

A lot has changed in the hospitality industry since the pandemic. So whether you already had a restaurant employee handbook or are creating one for the first time, it's critical to update it to reflect the new changes. You can use the examples above to get started.

Having a well-written restaurant employee handbook that clearly outlines all policies and procedures is crucial to ensuring a safe working environment. It also helps employees understand what to expect when they start working at your restaurant.

It also helps to have tools to make workforce management easier. Deputy is a scheduling platform restaurant owners can use to keep track of capacity. It even enables staff to request time off or date switches.

You can try Deputy for free today to see if it’s right for your restaurant.

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