How To Write a Restaurant Employee Handbook

A restaurant employee handbook is a document that outlines a restaurant’s policies, procedures, and expectations for your team. It’s an essential guide for owners, managers, and employees that clearly communicates information necessary for a restaurant to operate safely and efficiently. 

In this article, we’ll review the steps required to create a practical and effective employee handbook for a safe, profitable restaurant.

What Is a Restaurant Employee Handbook?

A restaurant employee handbook is a comprehensive document that outlines the policies, procedures, and expectations for employees and managers in a restaurant business. It serves as a valuable resource for both new and seasoned staff members, offering a clear description of their roles, responsibilities, and the standards they’re expected to meet.

The purpose of an employee handbook is to establish clear safety practices and sound procedures for operating various aspects of a restaurant business. It is the go-to guide for the restaurant’s mission, values, and culture. Items covered in a handbook typically include dress code policies, guidelines for customer service, health and safety procedures, tips and gratuity policies, and procedures for reporting grievances or issues in the workplace. 

Why Restaurants Need an Employee Handbook

Like any other business, restaurants use employee handbooks as a critical tool for managing employees and communicating expectations. A well-written handbook is an ideal way to articulate the company’s objectives, culture, and values. Furthermore, it provides clear guidelines on how to conduct oneself in various situations, minimizing misunderstandings and helping to ensure all of a restaurant’s employees and managers are on the same page and working towards common goals.

Additionally, an employee handbook serves as a reference for legal issues and disputes such as fair treatment, equal opportunity employment, and harassment policies. This protects the employer and the employees by outlining their rights and responsibilities. Such a guide helps ensure smooth operation, improves employee morale, boosts productivity, and contributes to the restaurant’s overall success.

Sections to Include in a Restaurant Employee Handbook

A restaurant employee handbook is an essential communication tool for restaurant owners and employees. A well-written and comprehensive employee handbook can be an effective tool for onboarding and maintaining a satisfied and informed staff. These are some of the main sections to include in a restaurant employee handbook:

Welcome and Restaurant History

Most employee handbooks start with an introduction to the business and an overview of the restaurant’s journey. These items serve as a welcome to new team members and convey appreciation for joining the restaurant’s team. This section should also review the restaurant’s history, including significant milestones and the vision for the business. It should discuss the restaurant’s culture and values, touching upon its mission and the standards it wants to meet.

Policies and Procedures

Next, a restaurant employee handbook should set forth various policies and procedures that employees must follow. These include punctuality, attendance, dress code, and behavioral expectations. The handbook should also describe how to call in sick, request time off, and follow scheduled break times. Customer service standards, food safety, and cleanliness policies should be clearly defined. This section should also include the restaurant’s policy on tip sharing, handling cash, and what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable behavior in the workplace.

Remember, the aim here is to foster a culture that embodies the restaurant’s values and promotes a safe, respectful, and professional environment. Providing clear guidelines helps to eliminate ambiguity and sets clear expectations for all employees, including managers.

Employee Dress Code

The dress code section is a crucial part of the restaurant employee handbook as it details the appearance standards employees are expected to maintain. This section should clearly outline the restaurant’s specific dress code, whether it requires uniforms, guidelines on acceptable casual wear (if allowed), or formal attire. It should also provide information about required accessories, such as name tags, aprons, or specific footwear.

This section may additionally cover policies concerning personal hygiene, tattoos, piercings, and other aspects of personal presentation that could impact an employee’s professional appearance.

A well-dressed, neat employee makes a positive impression, reflecting the restaurant’s commitment to professionalism and high standards. Furthermore, roles involving food handling, hygiene, and cleanliness are not just about making a good impression—they’re vital for maintaining food safety standards. 

Employee Conduct

The employee conduct section should clearly outline the codes and ethics governing each employee’s actions. This section might include guidelines about maintaining a positive and respectful attitude towards coworkers, supervisors, and customers and rules against workplace harassment, discrimination, or any other form of misconduct. It can also cover honesty, integrity, confidentiality, and adherence to the restaurant’s policies and procedures. This section can address the fact that alcohol and drug use are not tolerated in the workplace due to their potential to impair employee performance and jeopardize safety.

The employee conduct section lets you set your restaurant’s behavioral standards and cultural tone. It’s essential to laying the foundation for a respectful and harmonious workplace environment. Outlining the consequences of not adhering to these guidelines also provides a measure of disciplinary control, ensuring each employee is aware of the potential ramifications of failing to meet the standard you set.

Compensation and Benefits

The compensation and benefits section of the restaurant employee handbook should detail the remuneration employees can expect and the benefits provided. This section should clearly explain the pay structure, including the frequency and method of payment, such as whether it’s hourly or salaried and whether payments are made weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. The handbook should also include information about overtime pay, holiday pay, or other special pay rates (if applicable). The restaurant’s policy on tips—whether they are shared, pooled, or given directly to individual servers—should also be clearly laid out.

Additionally, this section should outline the benefits offered by the restaurant, such as healthcare plans, retirement options, meal discounts, paid time off, and any other employment perks. Also, clearly explain the eligibility criteria and processes necessary to obtain these benefits. 

Health and Safety Guidelines

The health and safety guidelines are some of the most essential items in a restaurant employee handbook as they ensure the well-being of the staff and patrons. This section should emphasize the restaurant’s commitment to providing a safe and healthy work environment. It should detail measures to prevent accidents, such as keeping walkways and workspaces clear of hazards and correctly storing and using equipment. It should also include guidelines for the following:

  • Food safety: Describe applicable food safety regulations to prevent foodborne illnesses, like correct food handling, storage, and preparation, personal hygiene standards, and procedures for cleaning and sanitizing equipment and surfaces.
  • Handling of alcohol: If the restaurant serves alcohol, include guidelines on responsible service, including checking identification and refusing service to intoxicated patrons. 
  • Emergencies: Dedicate a portion of this section to emergency procedures, including what to do in case of fire, injuries, or other urgent situations. Include clear instructions on how to use fire extinguishers, the location of first-aid kits, and the protocol for reporting accidents or injuries. This section should also outline the restaurant’s policy on handling health-related issues, such as what to do if an employee is sick or suspects they have contracted a contagious disease.

Equal Opportunity and Anti-Discrimination Policies

This section should outline the restaurant’s commitment to providing equal employment opportunities regardless of race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, national origin, or disability. It should clearly state that discrimination is unacceptable and will result in disciplinary action. It should also provide information on how to report incidents of discrimination or harassment and the steps taken by the restaurant to address such issues. This section should align with federal and state employment laws and promote a workplace culture of diversity, inclusion, and fairness.

Communication Policy

An employee handbook should also include a section outlining times and methods of communication between employees, supervisors, and management. It should outline the procedures for addressing grievances or concerns without fear of retaliation. It should promote transparency, trust, and a healthy work environment where management can address problems promptly and effectively.

Tips for Writing a Restaurant Employee Handbook

Creating a restaurant employee handbook is essential to establishing a well-structured and smoothly operating restaurant business. Here are some tips to ensure your restaurant employee handbook is practical and user-friendly:

  • Make it comprehensive but concise. A good handbook covers all necessary topics but avoids unnecessary complexity. Use clear and concise language to ensure the information is easy to understand and digest.
  • Use a positive tone. Even though the handbook contains rules and regulations, strive for a positive tone. Doing so will help your employees feel welcome and valued rather than overburdened by numerous rules and policies.
  • Comply with legal requirements. Ensure your handbook complies with all local, state, and federal laws. Consult an attorney if you’re unsure about any particular items or sections.
  • Include visuals when possible. Photos, diagrams, and infographics can make your handbook more engaging and easier to understand, especially when addressing things like safety procedures or the proper handling of equipment.
  • Regularly update the handbook. Laws and restaurant policies can change, so update your handbook regularly.
  • Encourage feedback from employees. Let your employees know that their feedback on the handbook is welcome. This can help you identify any areas that may need clarification or improvement.

Your restaurant employee handbook is vital in communicating with your staff. A good handbook can foster a positive work environment where everyone understands their roles, rights, and responsibilities, making it easier to train employees and reducing unnecessary turnover among your staff.

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We know how important same-day payments are for veterans of the service industry who are accustomed to quick cash — and we’re now seeing that same demand expand into other industries as well. 

Kickfin co-founder Justin Roberts joined MasterCard’s InConversation Webinar series to discuss why immediate payment disbursal is key for the restaurant industry and the gig economy as a whole.

Watch the webinar here or read our recap for the highlights: 

People live paycheck-to-paycheck

Not just some people are living paycheck to paycheck. Most people are. 

That’s right: around 64% of U.S. consumers are just getting by. Even more shocking, 51% of consumers who earn over six figures are still living paycheck to paycheck, despite their higher tax bracket. 

It’s a major reason why employees need access to their earnings sooner rather than later. The pressure of watching your bank account slowly drain in the two weeks between payday is putting a lot of pressure on people, leading to a much greater demand for instant payments than ever before. 

Instant payouts are now table stakes

A PYMNTS study found that people of all ages prefer to be paid out immediately, as well as some other interesting statistics:

  • When given the choice, 68% of respondents said they would opt for an instant pay out
  • 40% of gig workers surveyed were willing to pay a fee for an instant disbursement
  • 81% of respondents were willing to switch jobs to an employer that offers instant access to earned wages and tips

It’s safe to say instant payouts are becoming the expectation for today’s modern workforce. But not all instant payouts are created equal.

Consumers are much more likely to engage with an instant payout system if they aren’t required to share their bank account and routing numbers and can access funds with just their debit card credentials. Why? It’s faster, more convenient, and feels more secure. 

Instant payouts and tip management: a perfect use case.

Instant payout innovation has come at the perfect time for the restaurant industry, which is struggling more than ever with the hassles and cost of cash.

If you’re in the restaurant biz, then you know: Most consumers pay with credit cards these days, not cash. That means there’s rarely enough cash on hand to pay out tips at the end of a shift. But employees still want and need instant access to their tip earnings.

Enter: instant payouts. Offering employees the option to receive their tip earnings directly to their bank of choice, the second their shift ends, can go a long way in improving employee satisfaction and ensuring their financial security.

But instant payouts are more than a work perk for employees. The operational benefits for employers range from reduced administrative burden and significant time savings to stronger compliance and streamlined reporting.

Modernizing your tip management strategy: 5 best practices 

There are three key components to your tip management strategy: 

  • Tip pool policy: How are you divvying up tips among your staff? 
  • The payout method: How are you distributing those payments?
  • The systems and tech: What are you using to facilitate those payments?

Under the current circumstances, restaurant operators are under immense pressure to bring their tip management into the future. 

5 best practices for tip management 

Based on our experience working with restaurant operators across the country, we’ve found that these five practices are the perfect recipe for building a successful tip management system.  

  1. Determine the right model and method for your restaurant, based on your location and tech stack
  2. Get a written tip policy (and get it legally approved
  3. Solicit employee feedback in a structured way
  4. Leverage technology for efficiency, accuracy, and compliance
  5. Don’t over-complicate (but do over-communicate!)

Tip management solution must-haves

When seeking a new tip management solution, make sure you carefully vet each system to see if it really meets your needs, or if it’ll be just as frustrating as cash. Here are a few suggestions for what should be on your checklist: 

  • Instant payouts
  • Direct to bank of choice
  • Availability of employee funds
  • Payroll option 
  • Integrations 
  • Simple implementation + onboarding process 
  • Around-the-clock customer service 

Big emphasis on strong customer support teams. Restaurants and bars don’t have “typical” business hours, so neither should your tech support.

Bar Louie automates payouts with Kickfin 

In a recent case study, we took a deep dive into our partnership with Bar Louie, a chain with over 60 locations that took advantage of our new integration with Toast. They made the switch from cash payouts to Kickfin’s instant, direct-to-bank payouts and haven’t looked back.  

Two-minute tip-outs

Before Kickfin, managers spent an average of 45 minutes per shift working through Bar Louie’s complex tip out policy and counting cash. The tip pooling rules were important to them — it’s what makes the entire staff feel like they’re getting their fair share. 

Using the Kickfin0Toast integration, Bar Louie was able to automate the tip pool calculation process and send tips straight to employees in under two minutes – a potential annual savings of 15,000 labor hours across all locations.

>> See more customer success stories 

Do you want to see these kinds of cost-saving results at your business? Let’s talk. Get a demo of Kickfin and see why restaurant owners and employees alike trust us to manage their tips.

Kickfin’s best-in-class tip calculation tool has some exciting new bells and whistles.

If you’re already using Kickfin’s tip pool calculator, then you know how much time and hassle you’re saving by automating everything. (And if you’re not? Head over to our tip pooling software page to see how it works!)

As we partner with more restaurants to bring their tip management into the future, we’re continuing to innovate our product so we can address their biggest pain points.

In this case, that means enhancing our tip pooling features so you can auto-calculate tip amounts even for the most complex or unique tip pool or share policies.

Check out a few of our latest features that will make tip calculations easier than ever.

New Release: Splitting Large Party Tips 

If your restaurant often hosts large parties, you know that the tip share can get confusing. Say one server is taking care of a party of 40 with a bartender assigned to only make drinks for that party. Meanwhile, the server has a few other two-top tables that are getting drinks from the main service bar. At the end of the night, how do you ensure that the large-party bartender gets their fair share of the tip out (without spending an hour on your phone calculator)? 

Kickfin can now automate that process for you, alleviating questions from your event bartender and saving time and effort on the part of your managers. 

Seamless Integrations 

Kickfin is partnering with your POS system to integrate seamlessly with your existing restaurant tech. Already, we’re serving Toast customers through our integration — and your POS just might be up next. 

Kickfin integration users get access to new product features first, like our new tip-out transparency tool. Your employees can log into their Kickfin accounts and see exactly how their tips have been split between team members, offering them full transparency into your tip policy in action.

Manager Tips 

We’re always listening to feedback to improve the Kickfin experience, and this one goes out to all of our restaurant partners who asked us to streamline the manager tip reallocation process.

>>Learn more about managers & tipping laws

In most cases, managers are not allowed to earn tips since they are salaried employees. But we all know that managers often step in and take care of tables to help servers get out of the weeds. Well-meaning guests will most likely leave a tip, not knowing that the manager technically can’t accept them — so where does that money go?

Kickfin now features a default pool, where tips “paid” to a manager are automatically redistributed to tipped staff based on your restaurant’s tip policy. 

Improved Labor Data Accuracy

We all know how easy it is for an employee to forget to clock out after a long shift. And sure, they aren’t going to get paid for a 16-hour overnight shift, but when payday comes around, those extra hours create a nightmare for your payroll team. 

With Kickfin, all employees are required to be clocked out in order to finalize payments — so you’ll catch the labor data mistake long before your payroll team has to sort it out. 

Even Better Security 

We’re committed to protecting you and your employees’ hard-earned money, so we’re adding an extra layer of security for certain transactions. You can now enable double approval of payments that meet certain conditions:

  • First payment for new employees
  • Employees getting their first payout in X number of days
  • Employees receiving more than X payouts in a 24-hour period. 

With these extra guardrails in place, you can always be sure that the right money is going to the right person. Reach out to our support team to configure your custom security measures.

Using Kickfin is a win-win for operators, managers, and employees alike. Restaurateurs save on cash delivery and labor costs, managers shave hours off their workload, and servers have the same instant payment that they’re used to — without the hassle and uncertainty of cash. 

Want to learn more about Kickfin? Let us show you the ropes with a demo

You heard it here first: 2024 is the year of integrations. 

In an effort to make Kickfin even more user-friendly and adaptable for our partners, we’re working with restaurant tech leaders to integrate our tip management solution with their existing systems. 

First up — Toast! A trailblazer for cloud-based restaurant management technology, Toast is a favorite POS system for restaurants, food trucks, and bars. You probably know them best for being the first to create handheld POS devices, drastically changing the entire restaurant ecosystem. To make life easier for their customers, Toast partnered with Kickfin to create an integration that makes tip pooling, tip distribution, and calculation smoother. 

As restaurant tech innovators ourselves, this partnership is the perfect fit for Kickfin. 

Our goal at Kickfin is always to save time for managers, prevent loss for operators, and create more financial freedom for hospitality employees through pioneering technology that digitizes many of the analog processes that the restaurant industry is built on. 

As a member of the Toast Partner Ecosystem, we’ll be able to deliver our product to Toast customers and modernize their tip management systems with ease. Using technology that they’re already familiar with, Toast customers can reap the benefits of Kickfin with minimal ramp-up upon implementation.

“No two restaurants split tips the same way, but invariably, it takes too long and involves too much risk,”  said Justin Roberts, the co-CEO of Kickfin. “This integration allows for the utmost customization with a near-zero learning curve — truly the best of both worlds for restaurants that want to save time, reduce labor costs and make life easier for their team.”

And one of their partners is already enjoying the ROI with Kickfin. Bar Louie takes great pride in making tip distribution equitable for all of their employees, so they rely on a complex tip pooling system to ensure fair pay. Prior to using Kickfin, managers at each of their 60 locations spent 45 minutes at the end of every shift to make calculations and divvy out funds to all of their servers. Now, they’ve streamlined their tip-out process with Kickfin — and managers are doing the same work in less than a minute! That’s an annual average of 15,000 hours saved across their entire chain. 

>> Hear more Kickfin success stories

After implementing Kickfin, managers can spend their time on what matters most: delivering excellent customer service. That means more table touches, more support for your staff, and more time to focus on server training. 

With managers spending more time on the floor (instead of counting cash in the back), you’ll see better customer reviews, better service, and increased sales — all from digitizing your tip-outs with Kickfin.

We’re excited about our new partnership with Toast and the opportunity to make digital tipping a reality for their customers. For restaurants who aren’t using Toast, don’t worry! We look forward to providing similar integrations across the restaurant tech industry.  

Want to see these results for yourself? Find out how to become a Kickfin integration partner or check out a demo of our platform.

No growing pains here! 

We’re thrilled to announce that Inc. listed Kickfin in their list of the top 10 fastest growing companies in the Southwest. (In fact, we earned the #1 spot in the software category and were listed as #9 overall!) We’re honored to be included alongside innovative companies that are making a big difference in our region. 

Inc. measured Kickfin’s growth from 2020 to 2022 — which wasn’t an easy time for the restaurant industry, to say the least. In spite of the challenges posed by the pandemic, restaurant concepts across the country embraced Kickfin’s technology. 

As a group, the 2024 Inc. honorees averaged 136% growth and created 17,606 new jobs over a two-year period. Individually, Kickfin grew by a whopping 1,304% (yes, really!).

We want to recognize and thank both our amazing customers and the Kickfin team for being part of our success story and allowing us to be a part of theirs. 

Our Customers

For years, restaurants manually calculated and paid out cash tips — despite the increasing hassle and liability those old-school methods entail. It’s not because operators are tech-averse; there simply wasn’t a good way to automate the process that didn’t create new friction or require new workarounds. 

That’s precisely why we developed Kickfin. Of course, we’re proud of what we built and the team behind it (more on that below). But we owe a great deal of our success to the customers who trusted us enough to give Kickfin a shot — especially those early adopters who are now some of our longest-standing customers.

There’s a leap of faith involved when you partner with a vendor and layer in new technology, particularly when it impacts something as important and sensitive as how you pay your people.  We don’t take that lightly, and we are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to serve each and every customer who’s been on this journey with us.

>> Hear from our customers about their experiences with Kickfin

Our Team 

Every person on our team wholeheartedly believes in our mission and vision for the future. In short: we’re here to make the tip management process insanely easy for everyone so that paying out your people is (almost!) as great as getting paid. 

As backstory: Our co-founders, Brian and Justin, came up with the idea for Kickfin while dining out together and noticing that an armored car was dropping off cash. They asked why a restaurant would need a cash delivery when most patrons pay by card; the manager explained the cash was needed to pay out tips at the end of the shift. The inefficiency (and expense, and risk…) of that process was a lightbulb moment for Brian and Justin.

They set out to build a team who not only understood the problem, but could think critically and creatively about a solution — and bring it to life. 

From sales and marketing to product and support, every Kickfin employee has had a hand in the growth and success of our company, thanks to their passion for our purpose and their commitment to being best in class.

We’re proud of what we’ve achieved thus far, and we’re excited to continue collaborating with our customers, innovating on their behalf, and taking Kickfin to the next level together. Onward and upward!

See Kickfin in action!