Common Errors Restaurant Owners Make When Writing Up Employee Training Manuals

While employee training manuals are crucial in any field, they are especially important in a high-turnover industry like the restaurant business.  In addition to helping your establishment run smoothly, a properly written employee training manual can protect you should legal issues arise.  Given its importance, consider having an attorney review it, before handing it out to employees.  A well-trained, well-informed staff makes or breaks your business.

Safety Precautions

Your manual likely includes all the standard safety and hygiene precautions, such as the classic “Employees must wash hands before leaving the bathroom.”  The manual also may include information about food-borne illnesses, cross-contamination and proper food storage.  But what about information on preventing falls or how to lift heavy items correctly?  More emphasis on safety education in the restaurant workplace can reduce accidents, and that means fewer potential workers’ compensation headaches for your business.

Cell Phone Policy

When practically everyone is obsessed with their smartphones, you can’t expect restaurant staff to behave differently.  However, when staff sneak peeks at their cellphones or texts, they are stealing time from work and not focusing on customers and the job at hand.  You can address this with a well-defined cell phone policy.  Points to consider: Create a secure cell phone depository; designate a specified area for phone use in the back of the house; only allow employees to access phones during breaks and so forth.

Appearance Standard

Wait staff, bartenders and any employee coming into contact with the public should reflect the standards of the restaurant.  Here’s where it gets tricky.  What is your policy on facial or other piercings and facial hair?   What if your busboy has a Braves tattoo, then the new server has a religious symbol as his tattoo?  Do you have to allow one or both?  Does your policy infringe on a staff member’s rights?  You want a uniform policy upholding the image of your restaurant.  But you don’t want a lawsuit because an employee perceived the restrictions as discriminatory.  This is another example of why you can benefit from having an attorney review the policy, to make sure it doesn’t run afoul of the law.

Employee Meals

When you’re introducing a new twist on fried green tomatoes or some other house specialty, you may want to encourage employees to try it and recommend it to customers.  You’re likely fine with staff having a meal during work.  But you don’t want to cross that fine line between keeping your staff well-fed and having them emptying your pantry.  A manual can address this, by specifying how much and what types of meals employees can consume.  Institute a list of acceptable menu items for employee meals, or have a manager approve all meals.

Social Media Policy

Today, restaurants live and die by social media.  You want your staff to send out positive messages about your restaurant on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, but you don’t want them sharing negative information that could harm your business.  An employee manual should set out expectations and standards regarding social media.  And it isn’t just the stories about management and gossip about other employees that you should be concerned with; the manual should also include policies for the front-of-the-house, too (i.e., when is it all right to post images of customers, pictures of the food, etc.).


Is your handbook a list of suggestions and protocol?  Or is it establishing workplace requirements of behavior (for both your employees and you)?  If so, your drafting of the handbook may effectively become a contract between you and your employees.  This is yet another reason to have an attorney look it over: You want to make sure that you are aware of any liabilities you may be creating in the policy, for good or for bad.

As you can see, some of the common omissions in employee training manuals deal with issues or technology that didn’t exist just a decade ago. As laws and technology change, your employee training manual needs to stay current.  An attorney can let you know if there are any immediate changes necessary due to new legislation or regulations.  Otherwise, review your manual at least annually to see where changes or additions are needed.

You can contact InPrime Legal at 770-282-8967 or at for any specific questions about your current or next Employee and Training Handbooks.

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