How to Create a Restaurant Staff Training Manual

How to Create a Restaurant Staff Training Manual
Liam Hallam

By Liam Hallam

The restaurant industry has a reputation for high staff turnover. In 2022, we conducted a study and found that the average employee tenure was just 110 days—a little over 3 months. While a portion of this statistic is inevitable given the demographic of restaurant employees (many are students or teenagers), this figure represents a problem.

Staff turnover eats into your profitability and wastes a considerable amount of managers’ time. The more staff you have to replace, the more money you have to spend on recruitment, and the more time you have to spend interviewing and training. This takes your attention away from your core management responsibilities—plus a continuous stream of new, untrained staff can lead to mistakes and poor guest service.

In order to help new staff learn the ropes, you need to create a comprehensive restaurant employee training manual.

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Table of Contents

What is a restaurant training manual?

A restaurant training manual or employee handbook lays out what staff can expect while working at your restaurant, and what is expected of them. Think of it as a crash course guide, including the role’s responsibilities, processes, and frequently asked questions.

Why should you use a restaurant training manual?

Having a single source of truth means you’re giving all employees the same information that they can go back and reference. These standardized procedures, from food preparation to safety protocols, ensure consistency in the guest experience. The more comprehensive and accessible your training manual is, the less questions you’ll be peppered with later on.

Restaurant staff training manuals improve service and reduce turnover

We’ve all been in situations where we ask a new staff member why they’re doing something a certain way, to which the reply is “well they told me to do it like this.” Miscommunication and errors are common in staff training, as everyone has their own way of doing things.

By creating your own restaurant staff training manual, you will eliminate these types of errors and ensure everyone receives consistent training, which delivers a consistent level of support to your staff and service to your customers.

Even your most seasoned staff can forget things. Keeping a training manual at service stations or behind bars gives everyone a source of truth and helps iron out those little mistakes.

Many restaurants also rely on their most experienced staff to deliver training and keep the ship sailing smoothly. If they were to leave or be on vacation, you may find yourself in a situation with no one to train your new employees. It’s important you lean on your senior staff to help create the training manual, too, as they’re on the ‘ground’ more and could provide helpful insights into daily tasks. It will also help them feel included and part of something bigger.

Running a restaurant is a team sport, and your training manual should be a living eco-system where everyone can contribute and help improve training, service, and performance. You should actively encourage staff to think of new ideas for your restaurant—making them feel part of something will create greater attachment and pride in their work.

Your training sets the standard for your restaurant

It goes without saying that you care about your employees—but if you’re running a large operation, employees can feel disconnected and disposable. It’s important your training includes team building and fosters a positive spirit, bringing everyone together to make them feel part of something rewarding.

When you’re running a restaurant, you can get caught up in the day-to-day of it all and forget about the bigger picture, the ‘why’ behind your business. Creating your restaurant training guide should have a section that focuses on your grand vision, highlighting your mission statement and goals for the future—and how it will be achieved with your new staff.

The combination of high expectations, in-depth training, continuous support, and career growth all come together to create a workplace culture your staff will feel proud to be part of. Happier, motivated staff results in reduced turnover and better customer service. It’s win-win for all aspects of your restaurant.

Here’s what you should include in your training manual, as well as ideas to make it more interactive and inclusive, rather than just an endless list of tasks they need to learn.

What to include in your training manual guide

1. Restaurant overview

Whether you’re running an independent restaurant or you’re part of a franchise, you have a story to tell. Capture your staff’s hearts and minds with the passion behind your work, your restaurant’s mission statement and core values, and why they should be excited to work here. The opening section of your training guide should include:

  • Your mission statement and what it means to staff
  • Your vision for the restaurant and how you will achieve it together
  • Your average customer (Giving new staff an insight into ‘who’ to expect allows them to conduct their own thinking, and bring something fresh to the table)
  • Your work culture (Show your empathetic and supportive side. New team members will appreciate this and it gets your relationship started on the right foot)
  • Generic restaurant information such as address, directions, public transit routes, etc.

As this section is all about your restaurant—and a little bit about you as an owner or manager—it’s crucial you make it sound human. You don’t want to preach to them, instead make it positive and inclusive—you’re on a journey together and you can’t do it without their help.

Including your staff in your vision shows you appreciate their work and care about their career development. They’ll see you as a human—not just another boss.

2. Job guidelines and procedures

Once you’ve built some excitement and inspiration in section 1, it’s time to get into the weeds of their roles and responsibilities. Again, make this section as human as possible—avoid dictating tasks and complex jargon and make each role sound like an essential part in the operation, how they all rely on each other working together for the larger goal.

Break down roles and responsibilities into teams, so you’ll have a server training manual, as well as one for bartenders and kitchen staff. This section is where you should set your expectations too, highlighting your service standards, dress code, and little hacks to avoid any mistakes and keep the wheels turning smoothly.

  • Job responsibilities for each department (Be as detailed as possible without being preachy. Write your training guide as you’d coach them in person.)
  • Dress code
  • Kitchen safety, cleaning, and sanitizing instructions
  • Health guidelines

Bonus points if you can make this section visual. A map or flow of your restaurant’s process is much more engaging and memorable than an endless list of tasks. Or better still, create video content to share with new staff digitally. Video paints a greater picture and it gives you the opportunity to include staff which will enhance the human aspect of it all.

3. Restaurant Technology ‘how to’ guides

What’s second nature to you is alien to new staff, so make sure you create in-depth documentation on how to use your restaurant POS systems, ordering apps, team management software and other systems you have in place. While you can’t watch over everybody’s shoulder while they figure things out, keeping documents by your POS systems will significantly speed up training and reduce costly errors.

  • Detailed instructions on how to use the POS system. (Include info on how to edit and delete orders, amend bills, communicate with the kitchen, and other tips you may have in place)
  • Shift scheduling onboarding. (How to communicate with management to request, swap, and cancel shifts)
  • Online ordering and delivery best practices.

4. Customer Information

Your restaurant will attract a certain demographic who have their own expectations. The more detailed insights you can provide on customer information, behavior, and overall vibe, the quicker your new team members will adapt to their role. It’ll also help them overcome obstacles with greater assurance.

  • Create a guest profile (Include average age, party size, reason for visit, average spend, expectations, potential challenges)
  • Objection handling (How to respond to and deal with difficult customers)
  • Include restaurant policies
  • Real-life scenarios (Provide examples of difficult customers or challenges they may face)
  • Include a test at the end to see how they’d handle such situations

5. Customer service

The perfect location and unique menu mean nothing if your service is below par. Customer service is arguably the most important aspect of your restaurant, and your server training manual sets the standard of service your staff will provide.

Even before a new team member’s training begins, you can set simple tasks that will help them understand customer expectations. Get them to read through your reviews on Google, yelp!, Trip Advisor, and Opentable. It’ll provide a glimpse into the people they’ll be serving, and there’ll be some useful do’s and don’ts in there that they can take into their first shift.

It takes on average 2-3 months to hire and train new staff, a considerable time frame that could result in bad service and a loss of repeat business. The time between losing an experienced team member and training someone new is yet another reason why lowering your staff turnover should be top of your to-do list.

  • Service standard (Include table setting, taking orders, serving food, clearing tables)
  • Customer communication
  • Include server scripts on how to communicate deals, upsell items, explain dishes, and handle unhappy customers
  • Make every experience an 11/10 (Tips on positivity, body language, celebrating occasions, and how to enhance the customer experience)
  • Continuous improvement (Encourage staff to visit other restaurants to see how they do things, and what they can implement to improve their own service)

Food service skills can be taught, so it should be hard work, a positive attitude and a passion for work that you’re looking out for when interviewing new staff.

6. Working the closing shift

We’ve all been there, waving goodbye to the last customer in the hope that we’ll be following them out of the door soon enough. But that’s always a pipedream because of the closing tasks that need to be completed.

Your staff should understand that their shift only ends when everything is in place for tomorrow’s shift to start. Create a clear checklist of tasks with designated roles for each person, and emphasize the importance of teamwork so you can all get out of there sooner!

Some ideas for your closing checklist:

  • Set the alarms
  • Lock windows and doors
  • Restock the bar
  • Restock service stations
  • Remove/lock patio furniture

7. Closing acknowledgements

Start by thanking them for their time and commitment to reading through and learning your training manual. Like their contract and other health and safety guidelines, you should request their signature to confirm they have read, understood, and acknowledge their staff training and expectations of their new role.

You should also include a test—whether that’s once they finish the manual or complete their full training is up to you. It’s a great way to reinforce your expectations and ensure everyone keeps referring to the manual for constant training and improvement.

Anyone can create a test or questionnaire with Google Forms. Think of all the questions and tasks new staff will need to know (answers can be multiple choice or written) and send it out for them to complete before or after their first shift. Once complete, you’ll get all the answers in a spreadsheet.

Close the document with a message written by you. Tell them you’re grateful to have them onboard and are excited for where the restaurant is going, and that you can’t do it without them. Make your staff part of your restaurant rather than workers. Share your vision and success with them and they’ll stick around for longer.

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Liam Hallam
Liam Hallam

Liam is a freelance writer with 5+ yrs experience writing for life & entertainment brands. He loves fine dining but can never say no to gluttonous street food—call him the AA Gill of the street.