So, you’ve finally managed to expand your kitchen and front of house teams – the next step is to get new servers up to speed on their roles. An effective way to do this is to use a restaurant training manual.
A restaurant training manual (also referred to as restaurant employee handbook) lays the foundation for consistent results so that your staff is capable of delivering high-quality dining experiences whether they’re on the floor or in the kitchen. While hiring the right personnel for the job is always ideal, introducing a structured training manual can pay huge dividends for your restaurant.
However, the task of creating such a crucial document can be challenging once it is time to sit down and build the manual. Where do you start? Who do you involve? Just the task of conducting basic research may be enough to make even the most motivated restaurant owner’s eyes droop.
Fortunately, there are a set of pre-existing guidelines that you can follow to create a well-structured handbook.
The 7-Step Process for Creating a Restaurant Training Manual
Whether you’re making a restaurant training manual from scratch or simply trying to improve an existing manual, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Write Down Your Mission Statement
The first page of your restaurant training manual is reserved for the mission statement.
As the owner, this is your opportunity to share the restaurant’s vision with your new staff. A lot of restaurateurs aren’t aware how often servers get questions from guests about the restaurant’s values. This is your chance to ensure your staff is sharing your mission with your customers.
If you don’t have a mission statement, ask yourself:
- What do I want to achieve? Gain recognition for my service? Create an irresistible happy hour menu? It could be both.
- Who is my customer base? Who exactly am I appealing to?
- How am I going to fulfill my mission?
When you’ve identified the answers to these questions, you’ll know what you should communicate in your restaurant training manual.
Introduce Your Concept
In addition to the mission statement, new employees require an introduction to your restaurant concept. For instance, if you own an Italian restaurant with a jazz music theme, you’ll want your servers to have some knowledge of jazz. If your restaurant is popular for offering an expansive wine list to its guests, you’ll want your staff to be educated about various wines, and particularly the brands on your restaurant’s list.
Create Sections to Onboard New Employees
Most restaurant training manuals include standard sections for new recruits, such as:
- Expected behavior: Let new hires know what they can or can’t do when they are at work.
- Dress code: Outline your expectations concerning hair, uniform, shoes, facial piercings, and clothing accessories.
- Payroll: This part should detail everything related to work hours and payments, including PTO (Paid time off) and Worker’s Compensation
- Cash handling: Having guidelines in place for how the staff should handle tips and cash payments will cut down on errors.
- Emergency procedures: In case of a natural disaster or any other emergency, employees should know what procedures to follow.
- Health and Safety: In addition to food safety procedures, this section should convey how to best manage health-related situations (a customer choking on food, a server fainting, etc.).
It can also be useful to create a checklist for:
- Customer service: Along with greeting customers with a smile, the customer service portion of the manual should include protocols for describing the menu and offer personal recommendations to guests.
- Staff policies: What sidework duties (stocking the salad bar, cutting vegetables, etc.) are servers responsible for? Is it okay to pool tips? What are your restaurant’s day-to-day procedures, including those for opening and closing?
- POS Usage: How should servers enter their sales for the shift and tip any food runners or bussers? How to record daily check averages? The checklist should include answers to such questions as well as links to any online resources that can help train employees without the need to use a human resource.
Share a List of Best Practices
By providing a list of best practices to follow, you can teach your staff about the best ways to communicate, seat the guests, take orders, etc. Examples include:
- Staying within arm’s length of the customer as you’re escorting them to their table
- Beginning with the drinks order and suggestively selling an appetizer
- Taking the order from left to right when there are multiple guests on the table
- Checking back after every 20 minutes to ensure everything is okay
- Dropping off the checks, and if the staff is managing their own checks then reminding customers that you will take the payment when they are ready (server banking)
Make sure your restaurant training manual has small goals or benchmarks that each server should attempt to meet throughout the process. For instance, they should be able to memorize the dining room sections, recount the mission statement, or recite the wine list after their first week of training.
Include Resources for Cross-Training
How many times have you experienced the only host call in sick and there’s no one to take his/her place? If it’s becoming a more frequent thing at your restaurant, it can be very helpful to cross-train new employees so you can have them jump in where they’re needed. Detailing the protocols of key positions in your restaurant will give personnel something to refer back to when they’re asked to temporarily work as a busser, host, or back of house employee.
Require Your Staff to Sign a Release
Having new employees read the manual and sign a release stating they understand the training procedures is critical for ensuring they know its contents. With this, you should also include a disclaimer to make personnel know the manual is in no way a contract of employment. Give each new hire a copy of this page to retain as well, before letting them start in the kitchen or in the front of the house.
Tips for taking your restaurants training manual to the next level.
Once you know the process of creating a restaurant training manual, start thinking about the ways you can make it effective. After all, no one would be interested in reading a handbook that’s dry and boring. So, if you’re aiming to have every new hire go through your training manual’s contents, make sure to increase its appeal by taking the following measures:
- Name It Something Else
Show your lighter side by naming the manual something else like, “The Playbook” or “Our Best Secrets.” This will help deliver a comfortable experience to new employees.
- Include Summaries and Previews
Once the primary content of your training manual is ready, include chapter summaries and previews for the convenience of your employees.
- Use Screenshots
If your manual covers a process that is software-based (like how to insert data in your POS), use a tool like CloudApp to capture and list screenshots of the required steps.
- Relate to Real-Life Situations
Where possible, cite real-life scenarios that new recruits can relate to in their day-to-day work. The point is to not make it feel like an outdated textbook.
Restaurant Training Manual Example
Contemporary Italian restaurant Twilight Pizza Bistro created an employee training manual that serves as a reference point for new and existing employees. It includes everything from the mission statement of the eatery to what personnel should do in case of an emergency (Check it out here).
You can refer to it to get an idea of what to include in your restaurant training manual, but make sure to follow the tips from the previous section to increase its appeal.
Creating a restaurant training manual may seem like a daunting task at first, but it’s actually pretty easy to ace once you know what’s needed. By spelling out how your restaurant functions internally and how personnel should conduct themselves at work, you can provide a safe, enjoyable and productive environment for all, as well as secure your business from legal disputes down the road.
Feel free to speak with other restaurant owners who have their own training manuals to see if they have any recommendations to offer.