Creating a Restaurant Employee Handbook

By Silvia Valencia

An employee handbook is the letter of the law for your restaurant. Upon hiring, you give this operating and HR bible to employees. It sets out your restaurant’s mission, management’s expectations, employee conduct, HR policies and procedures, and benefits.

While the restaurant employee handbook is not a contract, it can cover you in the case of HR events that result in legal action. Your employee handbook does not replace formal training, but staff can use it as a point of reference for dealing with issues or refreshing themselves on policies.

In summary, your employee handbook should set out to:

  • Inform employees of policies, procedures, mission and goals
  • Set clear employment standards
  • Reduce misconduct
  • Promote consistent enforcement policies and procedures
  • Demonstrate equality
  • Legally protect your restaurant

Tips Before You Start Writing Your Restaurant Employee Handbook

Understand what’s important to you as the owner: The first step to creating your employee handbook? Sit down and determine what’s important to you. How do you feel about smartphones in the pantry? Would you like to approve shift swaps? Keep in mind, you can add to your employee handbook once you’re up and running. We recommend you revisit your employee handbook annually. However, note that with every set of changes you make, you’ll have to distribute a new copy of the handbook to employees to sign off on.

Be clear and concise: It’s easy to overstuff your employee handbook with legal jargon and fine print. Labor laws are complicated! To avoid confusing employees or creating misunderstandings, use simple language, short sentences and a conversational tone. Write as if you were speaking to the employee in person.

Be positive: While it’s important that you discuss infringements and repercussions, some of the best employee handbooks focus on creating a positive culture. After all, you want your employees to be excited to work for you. Balance discussions of not-so-savoury topics like termination by focusing on the culture you want to create. Despite all the legal requirements, which we’ll get into shortly, try to exude the spirit of your restaurant where you can.

To do this:

  • Use casual language: replace formalities with more colloquial language. E.g. replace “The restaurant” with “we.”
  • Choose a friendly tone: instead of sounding like a director, write like you’re talking to a friend. You want your staff to feel like they’re on a team, not like you’re their opponent.
  • Positive before negative: when you can, sandwich the negative, scary details, with positivity.

Once your restaurant is established, you can include things like employee testimonials or great successes in order to lift the mood of your handbook.

Be ready to enforce your rules: Once you’ve put a policy down on paper, you’ve got to follow it. If you don’t, you legally expose yourself to getting sued. Make sure the rules and policies you outline are feasible to maintain.

Illustrate examples: Use examples to illustrate ethical situations if you believe there could be ambiguity. Paint a picture of the scenario and then define the appropriate action and the inappropriate action the employee could take.

Know the law: Before you begin creating your restaurant employee handbook, it’s important to note that federal, state and provincial law might require you to include certain sections in your employee handbook. Further, legal experts recommend including certain things in order to protect you and your restaurant in the future, even though they’re not required by law. We’ll outline these later.

Be mindful of differences between US or Canadian labor laws:

  • US: The legal requirements of an employee handbook vary on federal, state, and local levels. The policies you’ll have to lay out no matter where you are include: family medical leave, equal employment and non-discrimination, safety and workers’ compensation.
  • Canada: Notable differences in Canadian labor law include different terms for:
    • No at-will employment
    • Employee entitlements on termination
    • Leaves of absence (pregnancy, emergency), vacation
    • Drug and alcohol testing

Consult your lawyer: Canadian and US employment laws differ between countries and on the federal, city, province, county and state levels. Once you’ve completed a first draft, give your employee handbook to a lawyer for review so that you can make sure you’re legally compliant and have covered all you policies from all angles in the event of a legal employee event.

Where to Find Information on Labor Laws:


Federal: United States Department of Labor

New York, New York: New York Department of Labor

Chicago, Illinois: Illinois Department of Labor


Federal: Government of Canada: Federal Labour Standards

Ontario (Toronto): Ontario Ministry of Labour

Other resources:

Employment Law Handbook by The Lunt Group (US only). The Lunt Group has broken down employment law state-by-state and sorts all that information on their easy to navigate website. Workable has policy templates for most company policies. This is a great resource that you can use to build out your policies in detail.

What to Include in Your Restaurant Employee Handbook

While your restaurant employee handbook is not a legal document, in case be used in legal cases. It is a complicated document, as you will soon see. That said, we should state that the information in this section is meant to provide a general guideline and a reference point. This article is not a legal document. It does not take into account all relevant local, state, provincial or federal laws. We recommend that you consult a lawyer before formalizing your employee handbook. Please see our full disclaimer and our release of liability at the end of this article.

Welcome Letter

While a warm welcome letter isn’t “required”, it’s always nice to make your employees feel welcomed and energized by their employment (especially because you’re about to tell them all the possible ways they could get fired.) Construct optimism in this section by including your restaurant’s commitment to employees: what do you promise they’ll get out of their employment at your restaurant?

Mission Statement and Values

Get the ball rolling by inspiring your employees. Outline your mission, vision, values, and history so that they feel they can share in the mission with you. Include your:

  • Mission statement: Declare your restaurant’s purpose for existing.
  • Vision statement: Summarize what your restaurant hopes to create in the future.
  • Core values: Core values are the fundamental beliefs driving your restaurant.
  • Restaurant history: Briefly summarize how the restaurant came to be.


Define the types of employment and attendance

Set out the minimum weekly standard for full-time (30+ hours) and part-time employment (under 30 hours), which employees are covered under the restaurant’s benefits package, and outline your expectations of staff in terms of attendance.

For example:

We expect you to show up on time and be present for the full duration of your schedule working hours. Of course, life happens. If you have an emergency that prevents you from coming into work, contact your manager at the first available opportunity.


Why include it? Just as we did in the beginning and end of this article, your disclaimer covers your restaurant and your person legally. Acknowledge that this handbook is in no way an employee contract. Your employee contract is a separate legal document. Always acknowledge that the policies within the handbook are subject to change at your discretion.

Define the “at will” relationship

Include a statement that reflects the following: “Employment in the US is “at-will”, meaning that you or our restaurant company may terminate our employment relationship at any time and for any reason, so long as it is not discriminatory.”

This means that you or the employee can end the relationship at any time, with reason or without. Because some courts have decided that statements made in employee handbooks can limit your at-will power, you need to make it abundantly clear that the employee handbook is not a contract. That means saving talk of probation periods and employee permanency for the employment contract.

Workplace Professionalism and Code of Conduct

Whether you’re operating a fast casual or a fine dining restaurant, you should expect a certain level of professionalism from your staff. This section should describe how you expect employees to dress and behave while they’re working. In order to protect yourself from unjust termination lawsuits, it’s important that you lay out all fireable offenses. Also be sure to outline the actions an employee should take if they witness an infringement.

Include the following:

An overview of how you expect employees to conduct themselves

In general, explain how staff should behave when interacting with coworkers, management, and guests. To determine this, go back to your core values. Likely, you’ll want employees to be respectful, team players, thoughtful of their actions and aiming to provide a positive dining and work experience for everyone.

Dress code

Set out grooming and clothing requirements and identify who is responsible for acquiring the uniform. If necessary, provide guidance on how to handle piercings, tattoos, nails, hair, and shoes. You might include a policy on securing hair with a hair elastic or using a hair net to avoid food contamination. It’s always a good practice to provide a general note on maintaining good hygiene. Handwashing is a critical piece of that discussion. More on that later.

Define age requirements

In order to cover yourself legally, outline the minimum age employees must be to work at your restaurant.

In the US, the minimum working age is 14 years old, with limits on hours for those under 16 years old. In Canada, provincial governments set the minimum working age. Some provinces allow children as young as 12 to work but under limited hours, with restrictions during school weeks, and with written parental permission. In Ontario, the minimum age is 14 years old for restaurant serving areas and 15 for kitchens.

But wait. There’s more. If you serve alcohol, additional age restrictions apply. In the US, the legal drinking age is 21. In Canada, the legal drinking age is 19 in all provinces except for Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec. That said, the legal age to serve alcohol does not always abide by this standard. For example, in the Canadian province of Ontario and the US’s New York state, you must be 18 years old to serve alcohol. In Chicago, Illinois, you must be 21 years old to serve alcohol.

Protocol for handling conflicts with other staff members or guests

Consider that there are some scenarios where staff might be able to resolve the conflict between one another and others where a manager should step in. In this section, we recommend you illustrate a few scenarios and your preferred course of action for each one.

A few conflicts you may choose to outline could be:

Between staff:

  • Table seating disputes, where one server feels they’re not getting enough tables
  • A server gets over-seated
  • Team members failing to help each other out
  • A team member delivers the wrong order to a table

Between staff and guests:

  • Cold food
  • Kitchen errors
  • Service errors
  • General unhappy guest
  • Guest complaints

Outline violations and infringements to employment, including:

  • Theft
  • Intoxication
  • Neglect of duty
  • Insubordination
  • Endangering the safety of other staff and guests
  • Immoral or indecent conduct
  • Violations of state/provincial or federal law
  • Destruction of property
  • Consuming alcohol or illicit drugs while on duty
  • Abusive/threatening/coercive treatment of another employee or member of the public
  • Harassment and discrimination of fellow employees or the dining public
  • Falsifying documents

Define disciplinary actions

Specify that disciplinary actions are subject to your discretion as the employer and, depending on the infringement could involve:

  • A verbal warning
  • Formal written reprimand
  • Suspension of pay and work
  • Discharge

Set out your equal-employment and non-discrimination policy

As an “Equal Opportunity Employer”, state that you will not discriminate based on race, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, nationality, genetics, or religion. For U.S. restaurants, the U.S. Department of Labor requires that you state that your restaurant follows nondiscrimination and equal employment opportunity laws when hiring and promoting staff.

US: US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Canada: Employment Equity Act

Set out your harassment policy.

To do this, define what constitutes harassment, examples of harassment, consequences and how to report it.

For example:

“Our views on harassment: We want to create a working environment where employees, diners and any visitors can feel safe and at ease. Our anti-harassment policy expresses that we will not tolerate behaviour that intimidates, humiliates, or discriminates against others based on age, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, religion or disability.

Who does this policy apply to: This policy extends to all employees, suppliers, the public, customers and anyone else that comes in contact with employees while at work.

The definition of harassment includes: bullying, intimidation, direct insults, malicious gossip, victimization and unwanted sexual advances.

Punishment: Punishment depends on the severity of the offence and can include verbal warnings, formal written reprimands, suspension or termination. Sexual harassment will not be tolerated and will result in termination.

Incident reporting: If you feel you are being harassed or witness an act of harassment, contact the supervisor on duty or any member of management.”

Determine your technology, phone and social media policy

Technology policies may vary, but in general, you’ll want to outline:

  • Where staff can and cannot use their technology. Consider restricting phone use to the change room or staff area. This is for two reasons: 1. So staff avoid distraction. 2. Optics. When guests see their server on a phone but their order is running late, they could feel their service is being compromised by their server’s inattention.
  • How staff can interact with your restaurant on social media. While it’s ok to allow employees to associate themselves with your restaurant when they post to social media, stipulate that they must clearly brand their online posts as personal. Your restaurant shouldn’t be held liable for employee’s social media content.
  • What is inappropriate posting content. By all means, you’ll want to encourage staff to share events, specials and promotions. It’s an easy way to fill tables. However, it’s wise to place restrictions on posting financial, operational, legal and customer-related content on social media.

Again, state that the punishment of infraction depends on the severity of the offence and can include verbal warnings, formal written reprimands, suspension or termination.

Payroll, Work Hours & Scheduling

Your employee handbook should cover policies pertaining to payroll, work hours and scheduling that apply to every staff member. Keep specific discussions of hourly pay, salary and any negotiated vacation time to individual employee contracts. In this section, we’re referring to hourly pay, not tips. We’ll discuss tips and cash handling in a bit.


Define how you’ll pay employees (cheque, direct deposit) and the frequency of payment (bi-weekly, monthly).


Define what constitutes overtime and how staff should log over time when they reach a threshold. An an employer, you’re obligated to pay overtime (1.5 times their regular rate of pay, also known as “time and a half”) when an employee works over a weekly hourly threshold and during some federal holidays.

U.S.: Overtime begins when an employee works more than 40 hours in a given week.

Canada: Overtime is determined provincially but begins between 40 and 48 hours. In Ontario, overtime begins when an employee works more than 44 hours in a week.

Recording hours worked.

Whether through a POS that clocks hours via a personal employee code or on a sign in sheet, outline how employees should clock in and clock out of their shift so that you have a detailed, formal record of their hours worked.


List the holidays you’ll be open for and the holidays you’ll be closed for.

US Federal Holidays

Canadian Federal Holidays

Switching shifts

In your employee handbook, set out your policy on switching shifts. You don’t have to overcomplicate this policy. Most restaurants choose to ask staff to obtain managerial approval within a minimum time frame. For example, you can switch a shift 48 hours in advance of the shift, pending managerial approval.

Booking days off

An employee may want to book a day off. For restaurants that are open seven days a week, this won’t constitute a vacation day. Rather, the employee is requesting to schedule their required shifts around a certain day. E.g. A staff member will still work the five weekly shifts you require, but they’d like to reserve Tuesday as their day off. In order to manage and accommodate requests, require staff to place their requests before you create the weekly schedule. Outline this process in your handbook to avoid last minute requests that could result in inadequate staffing.

Get Our Employee Time-Off Request Form Template Here

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Minimum hours

Many restaurants don’t specify a shift-end time. Indefinite shift-end times allow you to accommodate staff needs on busy nights because you can keep staff on until the traffic dies down. Conversely, indefinite shift-end times allow you to contain labor costs on slow nights, by cutting staff as soon as customer traffic wanes.

To protect employees, some labor laws require you to compensate scheduled staff members for a minimum amount of time, regardless if they work that minimum time or not.

In your handbook, define the minimum number of hours you’ll compensate staff for if you cut them early. This way, they’re assured they’ll be compensated for their time, regardless of the duration of their shift.

New York

Scheduled employees must be compensated for a minimum of 3 hours.


Illinois law does not require employers to pay employees for showing up to work if no work is performed. Employers are only required to pay employees for hours actually worked.


Scheduled employees must be compensated for a minimum of 3 hours.

Shift breaks

If an employee has worked a certain amount of hours, they are legally entitled to a shift break. While you can make it policy to give staff additional breaks, you must adhere to minimums set by states and provinces.

Role Specific Policies

This section should go through the various rules and responsibilities considered policy for the front of house and back of house. For each policy listed below, you should include opening and closing checklists and protocols for health, safety, sanitation and allergy as well as the response required.

Back of House Policy

Safe food handling and cleanliness standards

Improper food handling is the major cause of food-borne illnesses. To ensure that your kitchen staff is handling food correctly, your policy on safe food handling should include:

  1. Establish hand-washing guidelines (how and when to wash your hands, and situations when you should not be handling food like illness or open wounds).
  2. How to handle, wash and store potentially hazardous food (food that must be temperature controlled, like meats, dairy, vegetables and oils). This means keeping cold hazardous food at under 40°F and at a hot holding temperature of 135°F.
  3. How to prevent cross-contamination through proper washing, storing foods separately, preparing raw meats away from other foods, and thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing surfaces.
  4. Keeping storage areas clean to avoid pests.
  5. Notifying management if there’s an imminent threat to health whereby operations could be discontinued.

pro tip: certain kitchen and restaurant staff may be required to obtain the local equivalent of a food handling certification. this should be included in your handbook. find local training programs here:

New York

Food Protection Certificate


Food Service Sanitation Certificate


Food Handler’s Certification

Kitchen opening and closing procedures

In order to ensure that cleanliness standards are upheld on a day to day basis, you’ll want to include the opening and closing protocols that each kitchen staff is responsible for.

This list is general and you should customize it to fit your restaurant’s kitchen. That said, most opening and closing procedures include:

  • A daily prep list for food services including breakfast, lunch and dinner as they apply to your restaurant’s menu.
  • Turn on all necessary equipment so that it’s warmed up and ready to go in the morning.
  • Turn off and clean equipment at close.
  • Store and cover all food and place it in the right area.
  • Label food with proper dates and attributes.
  • Sweep and mop floors.
  • Sanitize and clean ledges and food prep areas.
  • Re-stock and clean chef stations.
  • Remove garbage bins.

Front of House Policy

Dining room and bar duties.

As with the kitchen opening and closing procedures, dining room and bar duties are unique to your restaurant, operations and layout. They cover everything that front-of-house staff is responsible for above and beyond taking orders, customer service and delivering food. The duties you outline should include a list of all the rules and responsibilities front of house staff have when they:

  1. Open the restaurant
  2. Begin their shift
  3. End their shift
  4. Close the restaurant

Duties can include:

  • Setting tables
  • Preparing cutlery
  • Washing floors and tables
  • Cleaning and clearing tables between seatings
  • Organizing the pantry
  • Replenishing condiments
  • Stocking alcohol
  • Restroom check
  • General cleaning and sanitizing duties (sweeping, mopping)
  • Cleaning and sanitizing beer wells and bar rails
  • Managerial duties:
    • counting registers
    • end of day reports
    • completing deposits
    • putting money in the safe
    • balancing cash
    • preparing tip outs
  • Inventory counts
  • Stacking chairs
  • Cutting lemons, limes and other bar fruit
  • Empty trash
  • Turn off lights and music
  • Security checks
  • Check locks and set alarms

Cash and tip handling

Front of house staff regularly collect cash payments and tips from diners. Outline the ethics of cash handling and tips and the process you’ll use to pay out tips. While US and Canadian law states that tips must be paid out no later than the regular pay day, most restaurants reconcile tips at the end of the night. We recommend you use this section to formalize tip-out procedures (the percentage of sales you’ll require servers to pay to kitchen staff, bar-backs and hosts out of their tips) and tip pooling procedures (when tips are combined and distributed based on the number of hours each employee worked.)

How to safely serve and restrict alcohol to customers

Provide your staff with guidance on protocols on how to safely serve alcohol, recognize when a guest has consumed too much and how to ID customers who could be underage. We recommend that you also provide your staff with steps to take if they need assistance in dealing with an unruly guest or if they spot an intoxicated guest getting in a car.

While only some states and provinces require alcohol servers to get certified, you can choose to provide your staff with training in order to protect yourself, your staff, and your guests from liability and injury.

New York

There is no state required responsible alcohol serving certification. However, you can choose to certify your staff (and protect yourself) as a part of their employment through New York Alcohol Training or the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe program.


The State of Illinois has made it mandatory for anyone serving alcohol to get certified under the Illinois Basset Alcohol Certification.


Anyone serving alcohol in the province of Ontario must have their Smart Serve certification.

General HR Policies

This (un-fun) section should deal with all things HR that are consistent from employee to employee. Your general HR policies should include:

Lateness policy

Determine a course of action that employees should take if they know they are going to be late. Also, outline a course of action for employees who are continually late. This could take shape as a three strike policy that could result in disciplinary action including a verbal or written warning, suspension or dismissal at your discretion.

Accidents and emergencies

In the case of an accident or emergency outside of work, outline the steps an employee should take to notify you and your management team. In the case of an accident or emergency at the workplace, outline how you would like the employee to respond. Various scenarios could include: illness or physical harm of a guest, fire, flood or a hostile person on the premises.

Sick leave

In this section, set the number of sick days entitled to each employee and the process you’d like them to follow when they call in sick. You could ask employees to alert management within a reasonable time before a shift or provide a doctor’s note for the time off.

Laws around sick leave:

US: There are no federal requirements for sick leave.

Canada: The employee is entitled to sick leave protection of up to 17 weeks if they have worked for the same employer for at least three consecutive months. If you request a doctor’s note, the employee must provide one within 15 days of the return to work.

New York

The City of New York requires employers to provide workers with 5 paid sick days (or 40 hours) per year.


The City of Chicago requires employers to provide workers with 5 paid sick days (or 40 hours) per year.

Performance evaluation

In this section, describe how frequently you’ll evaluate your employees’ performance and provides details on how you’ll give them feedback. A formal performance evaluation can take place quarterly, semi-annually, or on an annual basis.

While the scope of this section is up to your discretion, it’s nice to include:

  • When you will review employee’s performance
  • What will be reviewed: customer service, teamwork, skills, attitude
  • Possible results: recognition, reward, constructive feedback, professional development

Voluntary termination policy

If an employee decides to move on from your restaurant, you’ll need to describe how they should hand in their resignation and the steps that occur after they resign.

This should include what constitutes voluntary termination. For your purposes, voluntary termination is when an employee submits their resignation to a manager verbally or through a signed letter or email. The specific terms of termination should be outlined in the employee’s individual contract. There, you can request that they give a specific period of advance notice, like two weeks notice.

In your handbook, outline:

  • How you will accept notice. E.g.
    • Verbally, followed by a written and signed notice of their resignation to a manager within a set period of time.
    • A written and signed notice of their resignation to a manager
  • When they can expect their final paycheck (For example: The employee will receive their last pay cheque within a month of their last day of work.)
  • If there will be an exit interview.
  • How they should return restaurant property. Define what property the employee needs to return and when they should return it by.

Worker’s compensation

Your worker’s compensation policy protects workers in the event of a work-related accident or injury. Worker’s compensation insurance partially covers the employee’s wages. Many states require companies to inform employees of their worker’s compensation policies in writing. US restaurants have to purchase worker’s compensation insurance from an insurance provider. Canadian restaurants have to register with their provincial worker’s compensation board. Once you’ve established the terms of your employees’ coverage, describe the details of your worker’s compensation package to employees here and describe the process they should undertake in order to make a claim. This will vary by provider.

For more details, check your state or provinces worker’s compensation commission.

New York

New York State’s Workers Compensation


Illinois Workers Compensation Commission


Workplace Safety and Compensation Board Ontario (WSIB)

Leaves of absence

In the event of an illness, a family emergency or pregnancy, employees may need to take a leave of absence. Government programs are in place to ensure that employees can take time off without losing their jobs. You, as the employer, are responsible for subscribing to an insurance plan that will replace the wages for leaves of this nature.

The legislated amount of time employees get off varies according to the type of leave:

U.S. Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA):

  • Twelve workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for:
    • the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;
    • the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;
    • to care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;
    • a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job;
    • any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty;” or
  • Twenty-six workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the service member’s spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin (military caregiver leave).

Canada: Leave

  • Maternity leave: 17 weeks of maternity leave if they have completed six consecutive months of continuous employment with the same employer before their leave begins.
  • Parental leave: 37 weeks of parental leave under the same conditions as those for maternity leave
  • Compassionate care leave: 28 weeks of compassionate care leave to look after a family member who is gravely ill.
  • Bereavement leave: The employee to take up to three consecutive working days off starting the day after the loved one’s death.

Employee Benefits

After the previous, rather gloomy section, employee benefits should discuss all the entitlements employees get for working for you. Whether that’s one free meal per shift or vacation, list your promised perks of employment here.

Insurance Coverage and Eligibility

As an employer, you may provide health insurance for your staff. In this section, outline what their medical insurance covers, how staff can make claims and what determines their eligibility. Your insurance company will likely provide you with a package to give to employees separate from the employee handbook.

Vacation and Time-Off

In this section, set out 1. the amount of notice you require and 2. the approval process staff need to go through when requesting vacation time. Define the amount of time staff can take on a yearly basis and if/how they will be paid for that time. While US restaurant’s aren’t required to give vacation time, it’s a tool you can use as an attractive employee benefit.

Note that labor laws around vacation are different between the US and Canada.

US: The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require payment for time not worked, such as vacations.

Toronto, Ontario: Employees are entitled to receive two weeks of paid vacation for each 12 months of employment. Most employees are also entitled to vacation pay equal to at least four per cent of the wages earned during that year. With a few exceptions, the vacation pay must be paid to an employee in a lump sum sometime before the vacation is taken or when the employee’s employment ends.

Meal entitlements

No restaurant employer is required to provide meals to their employees for free. However, as a food provider, it is a benefit (and a kindness) you can use to entice new employees, keep current staff happy and add to your workplace experience. How you offer meals is up to your discretion. You might provide employees with one free meal per shift, create a discounted staff menu, or subsidized a portion of the meal cost.

Concluding Statement

Take advantage of this section to end on a high note. Welcome new staff members to the team and thank existing staff members for their continued contribution to your restaurant. Briefly reinforce your core values, mission statement and vision statement, and conclude with reassuring them that if they have any questions regarding the policies within the handbook, they can feel free to ask a manager.

The final piece of the handbook, is the signed acknowledgement form.

Acknowledgement Form (Also known as a Handbook Receipt):

The purpose of this form is to have in writing that the employee has read the handbook in full.

  • State that this document is not a binding contract
  • Ask them to acknowledge that they understand the rules and what would be considered a violation with a signature.
  • Acknowledged that the employee handbook is not comprehensive and if they have any questions, they should seek out the appropriate manager.

We’ll provide you with a template in the next section.

The acknowledgement form should then be placed in the employee’s file for safekeeping. You’ll have to receive their acknowledgement every time you update the employee handbook. This will help later, in case of a lawsuit.

Once you’ve created your first draft of your employee handbook, consult with your lawyer to ensure that you’ve covered everything you need to cover and are in compliance with local laws and regulations.

Restaurant Employee Handbook Template

Welcome letter:

Tips: Focus on your restaurant’s philosophy, your restaurant’s history and creation story; be inspiring! Include:

  • Mission statement
  • Vision statement
  • Core values
  • Restaurant history


  • Define the types of employment and attendance.
  • Set out the minimum weekly hours for full-time and part-time employment.
  • State which employees are covered under the restaurant’s benefits package, if any.
  • Outline your expectations of staff in terms of attendance.


This is where you state that:

  • This is NOT a legally binding contract.
  • You’re cautioned to avoid the expressions “permanent employee”, “probation” and “introductory period”
  • Rules and policies are subject to change at your discretion

Workplace Professionalism and Code of Conduct

An overview of how you expect employees to conduct themselves.

  • Dress code
  • Define age requirements
  • Protocol for handling conflicts with other staff members or guests
  • Outline violations and infringements to employment
  • Define disciplinary actions
  • Set out your equal-employment and non-discrimination policy
  • Set out your harassment policy
  • Determine your technology, phone and social media policy

Payroll, Work Hours & Scheduling

  • Payroll
  • Overtime
  • Recording hours worked
  • Holidays
  • Switching shifts
  • Booking days off
  • Minimum hours
  • Shift breaks

Role Specific Policies

Back of House Policy:

  • Safe food handling and cleanliness standards
  • Kitchen opening and closing procedures

Front of House Policy

  • Dining room and bar duties
  • Cash and tip handling
  • How to safely serve and restrict alcohol to customers

General HR Policies

  • Lateness policy
  • Accidents and emergencies
  • Sick leave
  • Performance evaluation
  • Voluntary termination policy
  • Worker’s compensation
  • Leaves of absence

Employee Benefits

  • Insurance coverage and eligibility
  • Vacation and time-off
  • Meal entitlements

Concluding Statement

Acknowledgement Form (Also known as a Handbook Receipt)

My signature below indicates that I have received and read a copy of the ‘RESTAURANT X’ Employee Handbook.

I understand that this handbook contains information regarding the Company’s rules, regulations, and benefits which affect me as an employee.

I acknowledge that I have read and understood the Company policies.

I also understand that ‘RESTAURANT X’ may change, revise, supplement or rescind policies, procedures or benefits described in the manual, with or without notice.

Print Name _______________

Signature _______________

Date _______________

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. The article “Creating a Restaurant Employee Handbook” and associated “Employee Handbook Template” are meant to provide general guidelines and should be used as a reference. It may not take into account all relevant local, state or federal laws and is not a legal document. Neither the author nor TouchBistro will assume any legal liability that may arise from the use of this article. For legal advice on how to construct your restaurant employee handbook, consult a lawyer.

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by Silvia Valencia

Silvia is the former Digital Marketing Manager for TouchBistro. During her time with TouchBistro, she managed and coordinated content for the RestoHub blog.

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