Working in a restaurant is often seen as a happy-go-lucky job but as anyone in the industry knows, that’s not exactly true.
Every restaurant operator needs to have rules and regulations in place, and a firm grasp on what he or she expects of staff members.
Employees should be aware of all expectations and what’s important to the restaurant, and the most effective way to pass on this information is through an employee manual.
A manual does many things but perhaps most importantly, says Jeff Flancer, owner of Flancer’s restaurants in Gilbert and Mesa, Arizona, it provides structure.
“You’ve got to have structure. The customer needs to have the same experience every time they come in. With the amount of turnover we have in our industry, it’s impossible to keep everyone up to speed.”
But an employee manual is also a reference manual, he explains. “Should [an employee] do something wrong, we can refer them back to the manual. It’s a helpful tool and people can’t say they were never told something.”
A manual is also useful to everyone working in the restaurant, says Bob Barry, COO of The Greene Turtle, a chain of 32 restaurants based in Edgewater, Maryland. It helps everyone understand exactly what the brand stands for. “It keeps people honest to the brand,” he says. “It’s so we have a clear understanding of what we’re doing on a daily basis.”
These two seasoned restaurant operators—Flancer has run restaurants for more than 30 years, written employee manuals for them for at least 12, and is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America; and Barry has been COO of The Greene Turtle for six years and in the restaurant industry for almost 30—provide the following advice on employee manuals:
- Have new hires read and sign off on the manual before they even start training.
- Flancer calls his manual Employee Rules and Regulations to make it a little more serious sounding.
- Flancer says his manual is not a training manual but gives the basics of the company. “Our motto and mission statement are laid out from the very beginning. We explain a bit about our history and what differentiates us from our competition.” Secondly, he details expectations. “You will learn what we expect from you in cleanliness, attitude, phone usage and texting (or lack of), what to do when you are sick or how to request time off. Transversely, you need to know when you are getting paid, so we let you know.”
- The employee manual at the two Flancer’s restaurants includes: a welcome; the motto, business statement and goals; who to contact and how; policies including cellphone usage, sick days, giving notice; details on uniform, attitude; etiquette; cleaning and sidework; how to deal with secret shoppers and what a secret shopper report looks like.
- Flancer recommends providing an electronic copy of the manual to each employee and advises keeping the manual short. His is just six pages. “If it were really long they’d be tempted to skip stuff,” he says. "It’s not training; it’s just about expectations, how to handle basic situations, and a welcome.”
- The Greene Turtle’s employee handbook is 53 pages long and is available electronically or in paper format, though 80 percent of employees read it online, says Barry. There’s also a manual available in every store for reference.
- The chain’s manual goes much deeper than Flancer’s. “It’s about making sure people are aware of the fundamentals of your business, to basically understand what our focus is, to have a clear direction and making sure we try to express our passion of why we’re in business,” Barry says. “We talk a little bit about the execution and how we expect our employees to act and what kind of company we are. And about our culture. It’s about being committed to a clear vision.”
- And there’s more, he says. The manual details employment policies, recruitment and hiring policies, how to handle problems, sick pay, jury duty, benefits, notice, safety and security, discrimination, and harassment, among many other topics. It also has examples of why an employee could be terminated. Barry says he tried to spell out everything. “We tried to answer the questions so [employees] didn’t have to ask.”
- Always be open to making changes to your employee manual. Flancer points to a time when a hostess handed in two weeks’ notice yet failed to show up to work during that time. However, nothing in the handbook stated that she could be fired for not showing up for her shift, so it was updated. In fact, a section called Five Reasons You Could Get Fired was added.
- Review your employee manual yearly and have every employee sign off on it annually to keep it fresh in everyone’s mind.
- If The Greene Turtle makes a change to its manual it’s done electronically and all staff members are informed. “If it’s a major change we have everyone resubmit their signature,” Barry says.
By Amanda Baltazar