Last Updated: February 16, 2024, 12:06 pm by TRUiC Team

How to Build a Coffee Shop Employee Handbook

An employee handbook is a resource for the policies, recipes, and general information your workers need in order to understand your expectations of them. By outlining important details about your cafe’s daily operations, you also empower your employees to do their jobs to the best of their ability. Employee handbooks can serve as a tool to prevent liability as well if they cover company policies on subjects likely to cause legal trouble. As such, be sure to review your handbook with every employee and require them to sign a document that acknowledges they understand your expectations of them.

To help you develop a useful and comprehensive employee handbook for your coffee shop, this guide outlines the key areas it should cover.

Recommended: Read our full, in-depth How to Start a Coffee Shop Business guides, inspired by coffee professionals, they will help make your coffee dreams real, from sourcing beans to hiring baristas, choosing a POS system, forming an actual company, and everything in between.

The Handbook Checklist

Your employee handbook is a collection of information your workers need to know so they can do their jobs successfully. It should, ideally, cover the following seven topics.

Your General Policies

In this section, you’ll outline all the general information you want your employee to know before they start the onboarding process. Common topics include:

  • Grace Periods: If applicable, describe your company’s “grace period.” Many small businesses have a standard, three-month grace period for new hires to give them time to assess if the employee is a good fit. Be sure to include information about what changes an employee can expect after their grace period ends, such as a raise or eligibility for benefits.
  • Pay Periods: Outline how frequently your business pays employees, on which day of the week or month, and any other helpful information about this subject.
  • Scheduling Information: Highlight your policies for covering shifts along with who employees should contact about such changes. If your employees are responsible for covering their own shifts, for example, be sure to state this policy clearly.
  • Raises and Reviews: Summarize your timeline for reviewing employee job performance as well as your company’s structure for raises, if applicable. Be sure to include what employees should focus on to earn a positive review and a raise.
  • Dispersal of Tips: At most coffee shops, baristas receive tips in cash and on orders paid for by customers using a credit or debit card. Explain how you disperse tips at the end of each shift so employees know if they’ll receive their share of tips in cash when they leave for the day or if you’ll add it to their paycheck.

Your Training Schedule

After employees have a basic understanding of your general expectations, you should communicate their training schedule. Consider featuring details on these training sessions in your handbook, such as:

  • Espresso Extraction and Milk Steaming: This training session will focus on how to dial in and troubleshoot espresso. Specifically, it will cover the volume and length that compliments your coffee as well as how to properly steam milk.
  • Drink Preparation: This training session covers how much of each ingredient goes into the drinks on your menu as well as which type of cup to use when serving them.
  • Manual Brew Methods: If you have any manual brew methods on your menu, set aside some time to train employees on the recipes you want them to use that best compliment your coffee.
  • Opening, Middle, and Closing Shifts: In addition to offering training on each type of shift as part of your employee training schedule, consider featuring information in your handbook about how to work each shift. This will give employees a reference guide on the specific tasks they should complete during each shift type.
  • POS System Training: This training session should teach employee how to enter the customer's order into the POS, how to give customers happy-hour discounts, and how to view daily sales report. Many POS systems offer free training training sessions for employees.

Consider also including details on who will train your employees — whether it’s a manager, a trainer from your staff, or an outside party like a trainer provided by your coffee supplier. Letting your employees know with whom they will complete their training gives them a clearer picture of this process.

Your Recipes

Recipes represent one of the most important areas to cover in your employee handbook because they give new employees specific directions to help them successfully do their jobs. Here are the key recipes to include:

  • Drip Coffee: This recipe should note how much coffee baristas must add to brew a full or half batch, the optimal grind consistency, and which cycle to use when brewing full or half batches. If your coffee grinders have dials that use numbers to show grind consistency, remember to add this number as well.
  • Manual Brew Methods: After you teach your new employees how to use manual brew methods to best showcase your coffee, include your chosen recipes in this section. Be sure to also note the equipment they’ll need in order to prepare the coffee, such as scales, funnels, or filters.
  • Hot Tea: Include recipes for using loose-leaf and bagged teas as well as how to make chai and matcha, if you plan to develop a tea menu.
  • Iced Tea: Explain how to brew your iced tea as well as the type of teas you want employees to serve as iced drinks if you sell more than standard, black iced tea.
  • Flavored Syrups and Chocolate Sauce: This won’t apply to everyone — only cafes that make their own flavored syrups and/or chocolate sauce. Include any relevant information about proper storage, shelf life, and if employees should date each batch they create.

Your Approach to Conflict Resolution

Techniques for dealing with workplace conflicts can vary depending on management style. To help your employees understand the proper steps to take when a conflict arises, include this information:

  • Who to Contact During a Conflict: Clearly state if employees should contact a supervisor, manager, or other member of staff along with the best way to reach that person (e.g., email, phone, or in person).
  • Definitions of Major vs. Minor Complaints: Define what you consider as major and minor complaints as well as if those definitions change who your employees should contact in such a situation. Provide examples of each type of complaint along with the proper next steps to help employees understand the difference.
  • Your Disciplinary Policy: Outline the disciplinary action you’ll take if another staff member, customer, or vendor files one or more complaints against one of your employees.
  • Policies for Handling Customer Complaints: Summarize what an employee should do when a customer is unhappy or unruly — and to whom they should talk first during these situations (e.g., a manager or the police).

Your Dress Code

What should your employees wear during work hours? This section should encompass any policies you have related to grooming, clothing, and body modifications that are noticeable during an employee’s shift. Consider featuring the following information:

  • Uniform Requirements: If your employees wear a uniform, explain if you will provide that uniform or if they must purchase it themselves. Also include details on the required condition of an employee’s uniform when they start a shift and if the uniform includes any required accessories, such as an apron or name tag.
  • Clothing Policies: Workplaces that don’t require a uniform should provide details on any other clothing requirements, such as if employees must wear long sleeves, a specific color, or non-slip shoes.
  • Piercing and Tattoo Policies: State whether or not you want employees to cover their tattoos — or remove jewelry from any visible piercings — during work hours.
  • Hair and Makeup Policies: If you require employees to have only natural hair colors and makeup, for example, clearly explain those policies.

Your Products

Your employees act as both a barista and a salesperson. That means you need to highlight any rules that involve the products you sell — from merchandise to cups of coffee. For example, consider featuring the following in this section of your handbook:

  • Retail Item Policies: This covers bags of coffee as well as merchandise. Outline any information employees need to know when selling these products, such as pricing, “best by” dates, and product rotation schedules.
  • Your Free Drink Policy: From loyalty cards to a free cup of coffee with the purchase of a bag of beans, provide any guidelines for when your employees should give customers free drinks.
  • Your Return Policy: Explain what employees should do when a customer returns a purchased item, such as offering a store credit or a full refund. This also will help your employees more easily deal with a relatively unhappy customer.

Your Equipment

Providing detailed information on how to troubleshoot an equipment failure and how to properly clean your equipment will not only help employees solve minor problems by themselves, but also ensure they complete daily maintenance. Your employee handbook should outline:

  • How and When to Clean Espresso Equipment: This includes backflushing, end-of-day cleaning tasks, and what to do with equipment in the morning after cleaning.
  • How to Fix Minor Issues With Equipment: This can prove challenging because you can’t foresee every potential equipment issue. However, be sure to include any information you may have about temporary fixes that will allow baristas to continue serving customers despite faulty equipment.
  • Who to Contact for Equipment Repair: When equipment stops working, your employees need to know who they should contact immediately (e.g., their manager, a supervisor, or your training staff).

Recommended: Check out our guide on getting the Right Equipment for your Coffee Shop


Your employee handbook is the gateway to your policies and expectations as an employer. Making it a helpful resource to which your employees can refer throughout their employment will promote their success, and ideally reduce turnover at your coffee shop.

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