How to Write an Employee Handbook for Restaurants and Other Businesses

Many dining establishments encounter difficulty with how to write an employee handbook for restaurants, but, in reality, creating an employee handbook is not all that difficult, nor is a handbook for a restaurant must different conceptually than handbooks for other businesses. The key is to know what to include in it.

Having a handbook with established policies and procedures will eliminate confusion about what you expect from your employees and what they should expect from you. “Whether you are the owner of a small business and write the handbook yourself or hand over the job to a large human resources department, make sure you decide on the policies and procedures beforehand and express them in a simple, direct, and unambiguous manner.” Each employee should receive a copy of the handbook at the beginning of his or her employment.

If you are wondering how to write an employee handbook for restaurants, the following policies, procedures, and explanations are what you should include in it:


  • Welcome the employee.
  • Provide a brief history of the company.
  • Company’s goals, values, beliefs, and philosophy.

Employee Acknowledgment Form

  • Employee should know it is his/her responsibility to read and understand handbook.
  • Acknowledgment should be at beginning of handbook.
  • Awareness of importance of handbook ensures employees read it.
  • Helps avoid future “I didn’t know about it” conversations.
  • Include a disclaimer that the employee handbook is not an employment contract between the employee and the company.

Equal Employment Opportunity Statement

  • Outline of company’s policy regarding equal employment opportunity.
  • No equal employment opportunity statement sends the wrong message.
  • Include reference to affirmative action policy here (if applicable).

General Policies

  • Attendance: a general statement about tardiness and expectations and procedure for requests for time off.
  • Confidentiality: policy regarding protection against disclosure of confidential business information; describe information considered confidential
  • Covenants Not To Compete: make sure the law in your state allows such covenants.
  • Data Privacy: protection of personal information; refer to written comprehensive information security program.
  • Dress Code: description of requirements regarding clothing, uniforms, etc.
  • Employment Categories: outline of varieties of employment categories (full-time vs. part-time) and provide disclaimer (if applicable) that employees are at-will employees and, thus, may be dismissed at any time at the company’s discretion; job descriptions, however, should be set forth in a separate document.
  • Parking: identify any applicable policy or procedure.
  • Performance Reviews: essential if problems ever arise with employee; no need for description of process but should address when reviews occur.
  • Safety & Accidents: refer to relevant documents (safety posters, emergency procedures, etc.) and periodic employee training.
  • Smoking: laws and building rules regarding smoking.
  • Social Media: expectations regarding employee behavior on blogs, message boards, Facebook, Twitter, etc.; all content posted on websites should be subject to company policies
  • Substance Abuse: outline of policy, requirements for testing, and disciplinary process.
  • Use of Employer or Company Property: description of reasonable use of company telephones and computers so long as no interference with business; no unauthorized use of Internet.
  • Work schedules (if applicable): define procedures for and information regarding schedules.
  • Additional Policies: outline other applicable policies, including employment verification requests from outside sources, breaks, job posting program, adverse weather instructions, solicitation guidelines, and whistle blower protection

Compensation & Benefits

  • Payroll: outline of payroll processing options (e.g., direct deposit) and pay periods (weekly, bi-weekly, number of pay periods).
  • Work Hours & Reporting: definition of work day and information regarding overtime.
  • Holidays: list days company recognizes as holidays and define how employees are paid for holidays.
  • Vacation & Personal Days: define who is eligible, the rate at which vacation accrues, carry-over policy (if applicable), requirements for requesting vacation and personal days, and unused vacation if employee leaves company.
  • Health Insurance: overview of coverage and who is eligible; refer to separate documentation.
  • COBRA: refer to continuation of health benefits; keep full explanation in documentation provided to employee upon leaving company.
  • Short-Term Disability: define policy and who is eligible.
  • Military Service: define who is eligible, and outline policy and requirements.
  • Retirement Plans: provide brief description of plan; refer to plan documents.
  • Worker’s Compensation: identify whether company has worker’s compensation insurance; refer to separate documentation.
  • Tuition Assistance: define policy, requirements, and who is eligible.
  • Employee Assistance: provide brief description of program and applicable telephone number.
  • Other Benefits: outline other applicable compensation and/or benefits, including information about credit unions, employee referral programs, idea incentives, service awards, employee purchases of company goods/services, and annual physical exams and blood screening.

Discrimination & Harassment

  • Discrimination and Sexual Harassment: describe policy against discrimination and harassment, and outline procedures for company response to complaints.

Leaves of Absence

  • Family and Medical Leave Act (if applicable): applies to businesses with 50 or more employees; explain and address benefits and requirements under FMLA and state laws.
  • Maternity Leave: identify who is eligible and amount of time allowed and rate of pay during absence.
  • Sick Leave: outline policy but ensure that it is consistent with vacation, FMLA, maternity leave, and short-term disability policies; there are no legal requirements for sick leave, but 3 to 10 days of paid sick leave per year is common.
  • Funeral Leave: identify type of family member (immediate or extended family) for which whose death leave is allowed and amount of time allowed.
  • Jury Duty: a good idea to include; identify relationship between rate of pay and court compensation and requirement of proof of service.

If you end up ultimately creating an employee handbook yourself, make sure you have your attorney review it so that it is consistent with federal, state, and local laws.

Employee handbooks are very helpful because they communicate an employer’s expectations to an employee and help employers run their businesses predictably and consistently. They also remove any worries or confusion regarding policies, procedures, and benefits and, instead, help focus employees on performance and production.

How to write an employee handbook for restaurants and other businesses’ is less complicated than you think, and it will prove rewarding for both the employer and the employee.

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