Management Tools: Employee Handbook

The employee handbook is a tool often overlooked by small, individually owned venues; usually seen as a tool of larger, multi-venue corporations. The fact of the matter is that an employee handbook is exceptionally useful to everyone involved. Why? It’s an easy reference guide for each employee to have to refer back to. From the beginning it outlines the guidelines for your staff to be following from the very start of their job with you. It also gives you a solid back up to point to when they step out of line. But what sections, or information, should your employee handbook include?

Who You are and Your Core Values

If someone is joining your team then you want them to know what you and your location are all about. The first part of your employee handbook should do just that: this is the style of our location, these are the service standards we’re aiming for and above, and this is our culture here. Make this personal, it’s not a wikipedia entry, and it should not solely tell the new employee the facts about your location but also why you’re in the business and what role they can be expected to play in the family of your restaurant.

Behavior and Appearance

This section covers how an employee should conduct themselves whilst at work; towards guests and towards their fellow coworkers. Much of this is common sense yet it still needs to be spelt out clearly for everyone. Behavior should also cover timelines; arriving to work on time and clocking it ready to work at the correct time. This Behaviors section should have in it your policies related to harassment, what is and isn’t acceptable and what constitutes a fireable offense.

Under the sub heading Appearance fall the employee dress code and uniform, grooming standards, as well as what you except them to bring with them to work everyday: wine key, chit pad, pens, etcetera. Under Appearance can also fall knowledge expectations for your employees i.e. what you expect them to know regarding your food menu, your drink offerings and their general knowledge of the area and food and beverage in general.


In short, how your restaurant operates. What systems and process you have in place to ensure the smooth operation of your venue and that everyone, guests and staff, remains happy. These will cover pre-shift policies, i.e. when it starts and ends and that everyone should be present, scheduling and how to go about swapping shifts and requesting time off. This Section should also cover your illness and allergy protocols, relating to guests as well as to your employees.

Pay and Benefits

The most important part to all of your employees. They want to know when they get paid, how often they get paid, how to set up a direct deposit and so on and so forth; lay this out clearly and simply for them. They’ll also want to know what sort of health insurance benefits they get for working for your company and for how long they have to work for you to obtain them.

Here you can also include other items such as shift meals, discounts, and any other benefits which you offer with the job to make it more appealing for your employees to stay on with you and your company.

Complaints Procedure

It’s unfortunate but it’s true, skirmishes arise in the work place and to stop them getting out of hand management often has to step in and have a quiet word in someones ear. It is of paramount importance that your outline your complaints procedure so that your staff know how to approach you about certain issues and so that they know they will be treated respectfully and, if requested, confidentially too. A complaints procedure is not only great for the employees peace of mind, it’s great for the managers also; knowing that the employees know that you have an open door policy helps to keep that peace of mind for everyone involved.

Signature Page

Last but not least employees need to sign off to say that they have read, understood and agree to all of the above points. This signature page should also be dated by the employee and should be removable from the back of the employee handbook so that you can take it and keep it in a safe place whilst leaving them their copy of the employee handbook to refer back to whenever they need to.

An employee handbook is an indispensable tool for the smooth running of your restaurant as well as for the peace of mind of your employees. It gives people all the information they need about your location, how you operate, what you expect from them, and any formal procedures. If there are common question you get regarding the operation of your business from new employees consider putting this information in the employee handbook. Your employee handbook, just like everything in our business, will be constantly evolving and improving.