How to Cover Your Bases When Hiring New Employees in Your Restaurant

Disclaimer: This guide is by no means meant to be a human resources handbook.  Laws differ from state-to-state, so please consult local labor laws for information pertinent to your location.

Maybe you’re about to start your very first restaurant. You need to hire a whole new staff from scratch. Maybe it’s your third or fourth concept and there’s no end in sight.  Regardless, having well-thought-out, well-documented hiring, firing, and staff-management practices can make or break any establishment. Whether you’re a restaurant, bar, or baseball team, you need a plan in place.

The issue in foodservice, of course, is that with tight margins it’s often impossible to consult an attorney. Oftentimes, we find ourselves without even a dedicated Human Resources director, and thus, we regularly glide right over practices that are second nature in most other industries. While in the moment it may not seem like a big deal, it can easily come back to bite us in the rear.  Below are a few quick tips to avoid big human resources problems.

Have an Employee Handbook

An employee handbook is a manual given to employees documenting in detail the policies of your company. This will include benefits, expectations, and guidelines.  It’s important that employees are not only issued a handbook, but also that they sign a form acknowledging that they have received it.

Make Clear Job Offers, In Writing, Including Agreed-Upon Wage and Job Responsibilities

For every new hire you should issue them a formal job offer. This document should detail wage/salary, whether an employee is full-time or part-time, and any other terms and conditions of employment.  This is often (and should be) accompanied by a detailed job description. The clearer the description, the better.

Document Employee Infractions, No Matter How Small

While no one enjoys cracking down on employee errors, it is incredibly important to have a detailed log on the off chance that things go awry.  In most places it simplifies the termination process a great deal (and keeps the employer from having to pay elevated premiums for unemployment insurance).  Small infractions can simply be documented in emails between management. Larger policy-based infractions should be detailed in a formal “write-up” sheet and signed by the employee in question.

Get Signatures On Everything

It’s important to be able to show that an employee was, or had every reason to be, aware of company policies, their job duties, and any major infractions. If they signed a document they can’t say they didn’t know about it later.

Train Everyone

The more people understand the scope of their job, the better they are able to perform it. The better they are at performing it, the cheaper it is for you as an owner.  Period.

Non-Disclosure Agreements

Many establishments require employees to sign a nondisclosure agreement prior to beginning a job. While they don’t hold up in every case (recipes are not officially viewed as intellectual property in the U.S.), in others, such as knowledge of banking documents/practices, they can be incredibly useful.

In summation, make it a point to lay everything out for your employees.  The better they understand their jobs and their expectations, the better off you’ll be.

Do you have any employee horror stories? We’d love to hear about them! Don’t forget to share in the comments below or on any of our social media accounts. Follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and YouTube! 


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Ryan Lamon

Professional Chef/Restaurateur and Recipe Writer/Tester

Ryan, a second generation Georgia pitmaster, began his career at his father’s restaurant, Frank’s Real Pit BBQ in Hoschton, GA. After working at several restaurants in Georgia, Ryan moved to New York City where he cooked at the original Fatty Crab under James Beard Award-winning chef Zak Pelaccio. He later he earned a Bon Appetit Best New Restaurants nod in 2012 as the opening chef de cuisine of Plum Alley in Salt Lake City, Utah. In 2013, Ryan started Peaches’ Smokehouse & Southern Kitchen, a gourmet BBQ and Southern food truck, and followed it up with Poppy+Rose, a brick-and-mortar in downtown LA a year later. He is currently operating a small consulting firm, Smoke and Vinegar Co.

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