At the outset, I should say that I am not an unqualified fan of manuals. Too many operators have
tried to control their operations by putting everything in writing and then expecting that their staffs would read,
understand and follow the gospel. I question how well this approach works.
For example, the operating manual for one major quick service chain is over five inches thick! In
the real world, how many people (other than the authors) do you suspect are really going to become intimate with
almost half a foot of paper?
On the other hand, the discipline of committing your thoughts to writing forces you to drop any
fuzzy thinking and get very clear about how you want things in your company to work, so manuals definitely serve a
purpose in modern foodservice operations.
But not all manuals are helpful. Let me share a few ideas on foodservice manuals:
The staff manual contains all the basic information
about the company that every member of the staff needs to be a functioning part of the company culture. Much of it
is information covered verbally in the staff orientation session along with a summary of other helpful information
the new worker will want to know. It is written in an informal, conversational style to make it easier and more
interesting to read. A staff manual is an essential part of a retention program.
Human Resources Manual
The HR manual details the company's policies
relating to people. It is important for several reasons: First of all, it is information that all your staff will
want to know anyway and failure to have the answers will lower the working climate. Second, you must comply with a
tangle of state and federal laws that govern your personnel policies. The HR manual helps ensure that you have
considered and devised an approach to all of them. Without this roadmap, you run the risk of innocently violating
one or more labor statutes with potentially serious consequences. You really need an HR manual to produce even a
meaningful staff manual.
I can also make a case for a simple policy manual
-- containing no more than ten major points -- to keep everyone in the operation moving in roughly the same
philosophical direction. For the sake of simplicity, these points could easily be made part of the staff
I am not a fan of procedure manuals -- those
detailed "do-it-this-way" manuals (as opposed to a "here's-the-way-it-works" book explaining, for example, the
computerized POS system). My concern is that typical procedure manuals can easily stifle creativity and actually
make your professional life more complicated.
The problem is that they typically spell out a set of specific activities that management wants the staff to
follow. In my experience, the key to productivity is to define the results you seek rather than the activities
involved. When you define only the results, you leave people free to interpret their jobs in a way that works for
them. This makes coaching easier and also increases workers' involvement with their jobs and their identification
with the company, all of which contribute to a higher retention rate while making the job of management easier and
The Staff Manual and Human Resources Manual I offer were originally developed for my own account. They will
certainly have to be modified to fit your operation but it is always easier to edit than it is to create. It took
me six months to write them and I wasn't trying to run a restaurant at the same time!
My Law of Creative Laziness ("Never do any more work than is necessary in order to achieve the results you
want") suggests that you don't try to write manuals from scratch if you can get copies of other operators' manuals
and revise them to meet your own requirements! To make this process easier, the manuals are available for immediate
download as computer text files in the most popular word processing formats.
Immediate Download in Microsoft Word
Immediate Download in WordPerfect