restaurant employee handbook

While it’s true that great food delights customers, diners crave more than palate pleasers. The reality is, diners are looking for an experience; your staff is responsible for creating an enjoyable one. To empower employees to excel in their roles, ensure they’re well informed of restaurant policies.

A restaurant employee handbook allows you to provide essential HR information in a digestible format. You can establish clear expectations, arm employees with crucial information and avoid confusion down the road by including the right policies in your restaurant employee handbook.   

Ahead, we’re walking through six essential restaurant policies to implement for polished staff and efficient operations. To learn the must-add information, read on.

6 Employee Rules and HR Policies for a Restaurant Employee Handbook 

1. Workplace Policies

First, ensure that your restaurant policies include the details required by federal law.

The Fair Labor Standards Act regulates how tipped and non-tipped employees are paid. Ensure that your guidebook outlines timecard tracking, hourly overtime wages and payment frequency. 

Hungry for more? Read our guide to paying tipped employees to learn how restaurants find kitchen staff and get a tax break on reported tips.  

In addition to payroll information, ensure your restaurant employee manual includes an anti-harassment policy. Unfortunately, more claims of harassment are filed in the restaurant industry than in any other industry. By putting forth a clear and strict policy, you can discourage harassment and set a standard. 

In the restaurant employee handbook, make it clear that you are an equal opportunity employer. A solid EEO policy creates a culture of inclusion at your restaurant. Discrimination can affect morale and lead to high turnover rates. In certain cases, it can open your restaurant up to lawsuits. Protect your business and empower employees by taking a strong stance against discrimination.

Laws and regulations change regularly, so seek legal counsel and periodically update your restaurant employee handbook to provide your employees with the most accurate and up-to-date information.   

2. Restaurant-Specific Policies 

Next up are policies unique to your establishment. Every restaurant runs a little differently. Take the time to set clear expectations for your employees’ everyday activities, including breaks, shift scheduling and timekeeping. 

Your restaurant employee rules should cover when, where and how long employees have for breaks. That way, each employee has a clear reference and is not left confused about their options. 

Scheduling is another important section that should be addressed. A common cause of friction between employees comes from scheduling conflicts. Fend off these issues by creating a step by step guide to scheduling. Anticipate employee questions and provide answers in the handbook. 

Consider reaching out to current employees to ask about recurring scheduling roadblocks. Use this input to inform your crafting of HR policy surrounding shifts and scheduling. 

There are many areas to consider when crafting restaurant-specific policies. For instance, what is your policy on employee smoking? How do employees track their time at work? Brainstorm other ideas to compile information and help employees function well each day. 

3. Dress and Grooming Code 

Food presentation is not the only aesthetically pleasing aspect of the dining experience. The way your employees present themselves influences guest perception of the establishment. 

Include an employee dress code that aligns with the atmosphere and mission of your restaurant. Whether you have a casual dress code or require formal attire, lay out what is expected in detail, including:

On top of employee dress, include grooming requirements in your restaurant employee rules. These vary by the restaurant but generally revolve around cleanliness and approachability. Rules can include: 

When crafting employee appearance guidelines, be mindful of inclusivity. Leave flexibility in the dress code for religious head coverings and alternative garments for disabled employees.   

4. Social Media Policy

Before diners walk in the door, they’re heading online to learn about your restaurant. In fact, 45% of U.S. diners report trying a restaurant for the first time after seeing a social media post by the establishment. As online presence carries a lot of weight, yours must be aligned with your brand. 

Keep your social pages pristine with restaurant policies regarding social media. Let your employees know what they are allowed to post and what is off-limits. Designing a straightforward social media policy can save you from PR nightmares down the road. 

Restaurant employee rules regarding online behavior should aim to protect the reputation of the restaurant. Your policy can include: 

Employees do have freedom of expression outside of work and this extends into personal social media profiles. It’s wise to consult with a legal professional to ensure that your restaurant employee rules do not infringe on personal freedoms.

5. Health and Safety Regulations 

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers are hyper-conscious of health and sanitization practices. That’s why your restaurant policies for employees should include thorough health and safety guidelines. 

A study of 1,000 diners found that one in four wrote an online review after dining in a restaurant with subpar cleanliness standards. Avoid negative reviews and make diners feel safe by making health standards known to employees. Stringent food handling and hygienic rules throughout the restaurant will also help employees feel safe. 

Utilize resources from the CDC and local government ordinances to inform and update restaurant policies. In addition to writing the restaurant employee manual rules, you can hang signs with important reminders around your establishment. 

Revamping your health guidelines? Here are four ways to encourage wellness in your restaurant.

6. Employee Benefits

Next on the list of restaurant policies for employees is employee benefits. One of the most challenging aspects of HR in the restaurant industry is employee retention. Providing employees with an array of benefits is one way to mitigate high turnover rates. 

In the restaurant employee handbook, list all employee benefits, and explain eligibility requirements. Also, make sure that the handbook is clear on which benefits are available to part-time employees and open to full-time employees.

Employee benefits to detail in your restaurant employee handbook include:

When employees know about the benefits they have access to, they feel valued and cared for. 

An Important HR Tip For Restaurant Managers 

These days, more restaurants are looking for flexible ways to hire restaurant staff. Many are experiencing success by adding 1099 workers, also known as independent contractors, to the team. Restaurants that need staff but can’t afford to bring on full-time employees are able to supplement staff using these independent contractors. 

While 1099 workers allow restaurants to avoid paying employee benefits and other costs, there are specific rules that employers must keep in mind. 

First, you can’t give 1099 workers employee handbooks.This is because they are not technically employees. If you give 1099 workers the same handbooks as employees, it blurs the line between the two groups which could hurt you when tax season rolls around. Consider developing a separate handbook for independent contractors and consult with an attorney to ensure you’re in compliance with regulations. 

Additionally, requiring 1099 workers to attend training is not allowed. The IRS examines how much control an employer has over staff. If you force contractors to attend training, they can be classified as employees. Instead, work with a hiring service that onboards and trains contractors before they enter your establishment.  

Last but not least, don’t refer to 1099 workers as employees. In paperwork, company files and other relevant communications, keep the distinction between employees and independent contractors clear. 

Get Top-Tier Restaurant Professionals Without the HR Headache

The fast-paced environment of a restaurant deserves a modern solution that can keep up.  With an on-demand staffing platform like Qwick, you have flexible staffing options at your fingertips. 

We verify experience, vet candidates individually and walk them through an in-depth orientation so they’re ready to succeed. You post open shifts on our platform and watch as qualified candidates fill them in no time. By putting the control in your hands, on-demand staffing can help your restaurant thrive.  

To learn more about Qwick and how it can change the way you fill shifts, explore the process here

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