Employee Handbooks for Restaurants

Fairness in employment.  An employee handbook sets your employee policies and procedures in writing for your restaurant, grill, or cafe.   With a well designed restaurant employee manual you will gain many benefits: 1) your HR policies will be clear and consistent, 2) you will lower the chance of misunderstanding or frustration among staff, 3) you will offer protection to the business, and 4) you will equip your supervisors with a good HR resource.  No matter what type of business you have, an employee handbook is an essential for getting your employee policies in writing.

Some policies are necessary for any employee handbook:  at-will employment, non-discrimination, non-harassment, professional ethics, benefits, and a confirmation-of-receipt page.  Consider some of the other policies that can be included:

Employee Policies listEmployee Policies List

What typical policies are specific for restaurants?  Laws differ by state (and sometimes by city). There usually aren’t any that are specific to the industry beyond requirements on hygiene and food handling. Restaurant managers and owners do often choose to add custom policies that are unique to their particular organization, covering topics such as delivery driving safety, money handling, dress code, employee parking, customer respect, or security.

What is not included in a typical handbook?  A typical handbook (30-40 pages) does not cover job procedures which are too intricate and industry-specific.  Those topics not covered include things like job descriptions, day-to-day work procedures, and so forth.  Also, most handbooks are only in English, since good translation services are rather expensive to maintain legally compliant terminology.

How do I get a restaurant employee handbook?  Many wonder how to go about getting an employee manual that covers everything they need it to. Well, there are three paths you can choose to from:

  • Do-it-yourself (template)
  • Consulting Company (custom designed)
  • Lawyer (legally strong but not customized)

1. Do-it-Yourself Path: Many consider buying an employee handbook template online, which can cost from $50 to $350 or more.  A decent one will cost you at least $200.  The features such a template must have are:

  • Does the template include state-specific sections?  Many regulations differ by state, such as overtime, discrimination laws, jury duty, vacation pay, etc.
  • Does the template include size-specific sections?  Some regulations differ also by size, including FMLA, Pregnancy Leave, Sick Leave, etc.

Even if the employee handbook template you purchase is a decent one, expect to invest 100-140 work hours into research, editing, and customizing.  You will need to become familiar with your state’s labor laws to make sure the final handbook complies to state laws.  Most templates are purchased online.

Cost to you: about $250, plus 100+ work hours.

2. Consulting Company path:  This is the best value for most organizations.  Hire a consulting company to create your restaurant Employee Handbook.  The consulting company will conduct an interview to determine your current employee policies and survey what will be required considering your industry, location, and size.  Pricing starts at $1,500, so it initially costs more than the DIY path, but in reality it will save you both time and money.  See the links below for more information.

Cost to you: About $1,500 to $3,000, plus a few hours reading through the various drafts.

Learn more: Employee Handbook for Businesses

In addition, a consulting company can add custom policies that are unique to your organization, which a template would not offer.

3. Attorney-approved Path:  This route is by far the most expensive for an organization.  Hiring a Labor Lawyer to design an employee handbook can cost $5,000 to $9,000 or even more.  Is it worth the price?  Yes, if you run a highly regulated business or one considered to be at  high-risk for lawsuits.   Be sure to find a lawyer who focuses on employer needs, since many labor lawyers make their money representing employees suing their employers.

Cost to you: Average about $7,000, plus a few hours to review what was created.

(This article was originally published at HR Quick Answers. Republished with permission.)

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