Creating An Employee Handbook

Make Your Own Handbook

QUESTION From: Tyler in FL

'What issues/situations that lead to increased employee turnover can a restaurant owner prevent by having an employee handbook'?

I'm building a case to convince my partners that we need to create and use employee handbooks. I would appreciate your input and any real-life examples.

Is there a good template we can use? For small concepts, do handbooks also include recipes?”

HH Answer:

Having access to important information is critical if you expect your staff to know it, remember it and incorporate it into the daily operations of your restaurant.

After all...there’s a lot of information new hires are expected to know...much more than anyone can instantly retain... Or memorize over the course of a week. And if there isn’t that much information I bet the shoes I’m wearing right now that you’re generally winging it and relying on luck instead of a plan for success.

Remember: Like ice in a drink...policies and processes are your friends. And so is sharing your philosophy or philosophies with your staff. 

But as important as your company story may be... or how valuable it may be to know the location of the wet floor signs and first aid kit...a brain can only soak up so much. 

You don’t want to overwhelm new hires right out of the gate and you don’t want to fail to deliver the information and tools they need to do their job well. 

Doing either is sure to result in frustrating a team member who actually cares or making those who don’t care complacent.

I create, amend or update FOH, BOH, MGR & FACILITY handbooks for every single concept/client (and recipe cards for the BOH as well).- They’re only important because knowledge is power and planning breeds consistency.

I’ve changed the structure over the years based on the general structure and vibe of each business and because each new generation seems to soak up information a little differently… so I can’t say that I have (or know of) a go-to template.

You could always use someone else’s handbook as a guide or template but
the truth is, handbooks are useless if the reality doesn't match exactly what’s on the on the paper.

The best handbooks are the ones that are custom tailored to your own individual business.

Think of your handbook as the script for your restaurant production.

Like Westerns, the storylines in most restaurants follow the same exact format but different characters, settings and plots are enough to make each script genuinely unique... and there’s a reason why most good scripts take time.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t borrow from someone else’s script- I’m just saying that you should keep in mind that your story is probably a little bit different.

I speak of culture a lot in this column as I believe it is one of the strongest pillars to any operator’s success.

Culture is way more important than any handbook, but the best place to articulate it, record it and have people reference the tenets of your culture is in the actions of management and in the handbook they provide to every new hire.

In order to have a sustainable culture, you must have good communication, clear expectations and hold people equally accountable. I can’t think of a better way to do that than with solid coaching and a rule book - that’s what I’d tell your partners.

An intelligently designed and comprehensive handbook can prevent 1/3 of ALL issues that lead to lackluster service and employee turnover.

Interviewing and Hiring are your first line of defense.

Organized and Effective training is the second.

And a well managed operation with a strong culture is third.

Not having a handbook in a restaurant is like not having a playbook in an NFL franchise.

You can have a team with all the talent and strength in the world - but if they don’t know what to do with it, they’re not gonna win a lot of games.

Hope that helps you make your case.


Josh Sapienza