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
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 in my opinion, 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
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 manual.
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 more pleasant.
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
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 format $297
Download in WordPerfect format $297