The Must Have HR Policies for Successful Restaurants


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For years, your friends and family told you what a great cook you are, and that you should open a restaurant. But you just smiled and shrugged knowing you’d never do that. Until, one day, when venus was finally in full alignment with saturn, and you made up your mind to quit your day job and go full chef…”Never go full chef” they said but you did it anyway.

never go full chef

There’s no shortage of hurdles for you to overcome on your way to cooking the next restaurant entrepreneur millionaire success story. We’re here to help you traverse (at least) one of those hurdles.
eat here or we will both starve

Why Your Restaurant Needs HR Policies
One of the most challenging aspects of growth in the restaurant industry is human resources. According to a survey by Toast, 46% of restaurateurs listed hiring, training, and retaining restaurant staff as their #1 challenge. So if “you just can’t find any good help these days”, you’re not alone.

You might notice that as your business grows, so do the number of HR policies and their complexity. You have two choices at this stage. Either outsource your recruiting process. However, while outsourcing seems like the simple solution, choosing an HR consultant that is right for your needs can be very difficult. The best way to keep everything in order and ensure your employees are aware of their rights and the policies they must comply with is an employee handbook.
employee handbook

It’s worth noting that the word “policy” in itself is not a pleasant one. To many, it’s perceived as “a set of rules meant to police people”. No one likes to be policed. But policies play an important role in keeping your business running, so if you prefer you can call them “guidelines” if that makes you, or your employees, feel more comfortable – go ahead. Just make sure they’re aware of the consequences when these guidelines are not followed.

What HR Policies Do I Need?
Law & Order

The basic policies required to operate and grow a restaurant business are those required by law. You can’t skip those, especially since ignoring labor laws can get you in deep legal problems.

You should probably consult with your lawyer to get an up-to-date list of must-have policies in your state. Note that many federal and state laws only apply to businesses with a certain number of employees. So check which regulations apply to you as your operation expands.

Policies required by federal law:

  • Work hours
  • Worker’s compensation
  • Medical leave
  • Discrimination
  • Pay

Policies that are required in some states, but are probably good to have no matter where you operate:

  • Termination of employment
  • Harassment

Keeping It Clean (and Safe)

Your employees need to make an effort to comply with regulations. You might be well versed in the local legal requirements for a safe food preparation and serving environment, but not all your employees are. Be sure to outline the policies in the above-mentioned employee handbook, and place signs to remind employees of the important ones.
employees must wash hands

Food safety laws are there to protect your clients, which is important. But you also want to keep your employees safe, and having clear policies on that helps.

Look Sharp Online and Off
Dress code policies are important even if you don’t have branded uniforms for your employees. Some aspects of the dress code have to do with aforementioned safety and hygiene (like non-slip shoes and hair-nets). Others are mostly about appearances.

Another place you want to look sharp is online. Forget about the damage a negative Yelp review can do, and remember the old “taco-licking” incident from a few years back. It’s a hard one to forget. No restaurant owner wants to see their business in the news, in some photo-gone-viral of a disgruntled employee doing something disgusting. And potentially devastating to your business.

Easy-on, Easy-off
The restaurant industry is one with high turnover rates. Only very few of the 15 million restaurant employees bussing tables and flipping burgers will continue to work in the industry. As much as you might want to keep employees with you longer, and take steps to do so, your turnover rates will always be higher than it would in most businesses. Does that mean you should just say “to heck with it”? Absolutely not. What this means for you is that you need to set hiring, training and termination policies as soon as possible, if you haven’t yet.

Cheating (with Legal Aid)
This is important so it’s worth repeating, you need your lawyer in the kitchen, so to speak, when compiling your HR policies. But you’re not about to pay hundreds of dollars making a lawyer write them out, nor are you about to build your employee handbook from scratch.

There’s no shortage of examples and templates out there. You can create your own employee app and use some of the templates offered.


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