In this article: How to write manuals, procedures and policies for your servers, bartenders and support staff that make sense for your venue, and why templates can be counterproductive.
I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted a new article here on the Yelli blog. I took a little break to regroup, and now we’re ready to get back at it.
Over the past few weeks I have been working with a lot of restaurant managers and operators to update and digitize their training programs. Something that comes up in almost every conversation is “Do you have templates that we can use?”
I’m not sure exactly why, but this comment always makes me feel some type of way. The short answer is no, I don’t have templates for your manuals and procedures. I always feel like I’m letting them down with this answer, and that in turn they have so much work to do. However, in my experience, the restaurants who write their material from scratch have a way higher success rate than those who copy material from elsewhere.
I want to break this whole thing down and look at what exactly goes into writing effective manuals and procedures for your team, and why templates can be more counterproductive than helpful.
To start, it’s important to be clear about what policies/procedures/manuals you and your team need.
Even though a lot of restaurants are very similar, they are also ALL different. Elements like service style, cuisine, geographic location, and clientele are just a few things to look at when deciding how to best train your team.
Let’s look at steps of service, for example. In a traditional full service restaurant, your steps of service are extremely important, and you need to outline the steps for multiple job roles (servers interact differently with guests than the hosts do, etc)
However in a quick service restaurant, or the increasingly popular “order on your phone” format, there may not be servers and bartenders, but simply support staff and hosts. How much do steps of service help within this team, and should you be looking at overall staff guidelines instead?
Basically what I’m saying is that you need to decide what information your team needs, and create from there. If you are going to copy someone’s material, make sure they are taking the same approach to service as you, and that they have a similar team structure.
Once you’ve decided what policies and procedures you need to provide, it’s time to start writing them! Take a deep breath and don’t panic, we’re gonna get through this together.
I’ve outlined a few of the common policies/procedure/guideline areas and some best practices when writing each:
Steps of service refers to the individual steps that a team member should follow when interacting directly with guests. This is most common for a full service restaurant, but can be helpful in quick service as well.
The best way to write effective steps of service is to first outline each individual step: Greeting, drink order, menu spiel, food order, ringing in food, delivery, check-backs, prebussing and full clear, dessert service, check presentation, farewell. These are going to be pretty standard, but make sure that you are adding any steps custom to your venue and not just copying from here or somewhere else.
Next, for each step go into more detail and outline your expectations. Careful not to write too much, try to stay clear and concise so that your team can more accurately hit the points you need them to.
Sidework is the industry term for all the opening and closing duties that team members have to perform. Sidework can also include things that need to be done during a shift, like refilling water pitchers or checking restrooms.
When creating sidework sheets, start by outlining all of the duties you need completed. Depending on your venue this may be organized by job role (servers do A,B,C while bartenders do D,E,F) or maybe you organize by shift (openers do A,B,C while closers do D,E,F) Again, find what works best for you and make it make sense!
Health and safety procedures are things like handwashing, how to replace sanitation buckets, what to do if the health department shows up, first aid procedures, allergy guides or safe meat cooking temperatures.
Honestly, this is the one section where using outside material would be OK. Pulling a graph from the CDC about proper hand washing or a pamphlet from EcoLab about how often to change sanitizer buckets can help you get the info to your team without reinventing the wheel.
This is probably the one place that you absolutely don’t want to use someone’s template! Your company is unique, along with your mission, values, and goals.
What is it that you want your staff to take pride in about your restaurant? Copying a 5-word acronym from a book you read on leadership could be great, but it also could land on deaf ears. Of course it’s important to be kind and honest, but shouldn’t you simply be hiring people who are kind and honest?
It’s easy to write too much information here - listing lots of goals, marking every positive trait in existence as a “core value” or writing mission statements that sound like they came from NASA. Look, I’m not saying your business isn’t important, but you need to be realistic about what kind of commitment your part-time, minimum wage employees are willing to make. Give them the information they need in clear, concise nuggets that can be easily relayed to your guests.
There’s a whole slew of possible procedures and policies you may need to write. Again, it’s up to you to first decide what you need, but in-house procedures refers to anything that isn’t job specific within the venue. Some examples include handling guest complaints, answering the phone, boxing to-go orders, or requesting time off.
If you’re opening a new restaurant, or rebuilding your training program, don’t get overwhelmed here. Start by creating the procedures you know you need, and then add more down the road as they come up. I think sometimes we try to get everything done at once, so we rush and end up with information that isn’t really accurate, especially if we’ve copied something we don’t need.
Last but not least, I always get requests for templates of new hire training schedules. Here’s why it’s nearly impossible to create a template - your staff training should be a culmination of the policies and procedures you put together, along with learning the menu and physical on-the-floor practice. We can’t start building training schedules without the rest of the information!
The biggest tip I have for building new hire training is to keep it simple. Start by deciding how many days each job role needs to complete. From there, decide what individual tasks you want them to complete on each day. Write this out in checklist format, and then tweak it as you think of things or find things that don’t work.
Don’t worry about cramming every last bit of information into this training schedule. You might simply write “Stand at the chef pass for 2 hours and study the menu” which covers a whole lot of information! Try to keep each task concise, easy to read and understand. Remember, the goal is to give each team member the information they need to get the job done at your expectation, not to waste their time learning things they won’t need.
Are you still with me?
If you are…yay! You didn’t die, and now you can start writing the policies, procedures, manuals or guidelines that your venue has been lacking. I hope that this article gave you some helpful tidbits to get you started, and to understand why searching the web for templates can sometimes be a waste of time.
I’m passionate about good restaurant training and communication. I see teams that do it well, and I see teams that struggle, even with all of the resources available to them. What sets these teams apart most is the people who manage them, and the work they’re willing to do to create a great culture, progress the business, and make sure their staff is happy.
What kind of manager are you willing to be?