Five policies you need to enforce with your restaurant employees

By Diane Chiasson

Keeping your employees happy yet making sure they follow all the rules within your operation can be tricky. The key is to spell out all your policies clearly and fairly in your employee handbook (and elsewhere in your operation if necessary via signage). Upon hiring, make sure you go over each and every single policy with your employee so that your employee is aware of the policies from the get go.

Management must also be vigilant about enforcing all the rules and guidelines you set out for your employees. Once you let one employee get away with something, other employees will follow suit. You will also expose yourself to potential liability if an employee complains about unfair treatment.

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, President of Chiasson Consultants Inc., a restaurant and foodservice consultancy firm in Toronto offers the following suggestions to ensure that your employees are representing your business in a proper manner:

1. Strictly enforce a no cell phone policy

The biggest issue for today’s employers is the use of cell phones while on duty. As a restaurant owner/operator, you must implement this policy and strictly adhere to it. Many owners find it helpful to post a big sign in the kitchen that reads “Phone use is strictly prohibited while on duty.” Others ask their employees to keep their cell phones in their lockers and are permitted to check their phones on their breaks. You must have this policy written clearly in your employee handbook and signed by each employee so that they understand the violation and consequences of using their phone while on duty.

2. Make sure your employees are washing their hands

One of the most important policies for a restaurant/foodservice operation to enforce is proper hand washing procedures. Place hand washing signage over each sink, and ensure that all your employees follow it. They should be washing their hands as soon as they start their shift, as well as after eating, drinking, smoking, going to the washroom, going on break, using their cell phone, etc.

3. Have a dress code

Every restaurant operation should have a dress code for their employees that reflect their brand. A dress code can also help to make each restaurant/dining experience unique. Uniforms also help to distinguish employees from guests, and allow employees to take pride in working for your restaurant or foodservice operation. Be very specific with your dress code. For example, your employees wear proper/clean footwear, pressed shirts, etc. Long hair should be tied up, fingernails should be short and clean. Think about what type of image you want your operation to project to your guests, and how your employees can represent that image.

4. Have a set of rules for drinking at work

Alcohol abuse can be a serious problem in any workplace, but especially in a restaurant operation that serves alcohol. Any employee serving alcohol to guests should be properly certified and adhere to all the rules set forth by the province. But there also needs to be some sort of policy in place regarding consumption of alcohol on the premises by your employees (whether during your employee’s shift or post-shift). For example, some restaurants require employees to leave the establishment following their shift and return in street clothes if they wish to dine or drink in your restaurant.  Other restaurants prohibit any employee from consuming alcohol at the restaurant. Make sure your employees have a clear understanding of what your rules and policies are with regards to alcohol consumption.

5. Have “zero-tolerance” for harassment

Unfortunately, harassment, particularly sexual harassment, is often seen in the workplace. But discrimination based on race, religion, disability or sexual orientation are equally harming. Take a “zero tolerance” stand towards harassment of any kind in your restaurant operation. Make sure each and every single employee signs a discrimination/harassment policy, and understands your policy towards it. If you are unsure of what qualifies as harassment, take a course. There are several that are geared specifically for the restaurant and foodservice industry. Train your managers and team leaders to deal with any situations that arise.

About the author:

Diane Chiasson, FSCI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., is recognized as the world’s best restaurant, foodservice, merchandising, hospitality and retail consultant based in Toronto. She has been helping restaurant, foodservice, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for over 30 years.Her company provides innovative and revenue-increasing consulting services including restaurant and retail merchandising, interior design, marketing, brand identity, menu design and training. 

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