How to Create an Effective Restaurant Onboarding Process

How to Create an Effective Restaurant Onboarding Process
Ana Cvetkovic

By Ana Cvetkovic

Did you know that restaurant employees change jobs every 56 days? The restaurant industry welcomes new staff at unprecedented rates. In other industries, the average employee tenure is 4.2 years.

In order for new hires to perform well and stay happy in their roles, hiring managers need to pay more attention to the restaurant onboarding process. Strategic onboarding is critical to battling costly and disruptive employee turnover.

In this comprehensive guide to the restaurant onboarding process, you’ll learn:

What is employee onboarding?

Employee onboarding is the process of welcoming a new employee to your team. The purpose of the onboarding process is to teach new hires how to do their jobs successfully, and to catch them up on the company's culture and procedures. It usually involves an orientation, paperwork collection, and training.

Onboarding can last anywhere from several days to several months. It can be part of a probationary period, meaning that continued employment is conditional on the employee performing well during their first few weeks.

What to include in the restaurant onboarding process

Here’s a close look at the key elements of the restaurant employee onboarding process.

Onboarding overview

Let new hires know what they can expect from the onboarding process. Give them an overview of what they will learn and do during onboarding, and how long the process will take. Send them an onboarding overview via email after they’ve accepted your employment offer.

Here’s an example of an onboarding overview:

Day One

  • Orientation: Learning about the restaurant’s culture and history, meeting coworkers, and receiving a uniform.
  • Admin: Filling out employment paperwork and receiving access to tools like the employee timekeeping portal, employee email, POS, and security system.

Day Two

  • Training: Learning how to do your job with a training manual, in-person classes, online learning, and shadowing.
  • Learning general guidelines and procedures.
  • Reviewing health and safety protocol.
  • Restaurant technology training, including how to request shifts and what to do during opening and closing shifts.

Day Three

  • Role-specific training.
  • Customer service training.
  • One Week after Training
  • Shadowing: Observing your mentor do their job.

Customize this overview to fit your restaurant’s onboarding timeline.

By providing new employees with an overview of their onboarding schedule, they’ll be better prepared to tackle orientation and training.

Culture training

Employee turnover costs the hospitality industry more than $5,800 per employee. Having a strong team culture is crucial to reducing turnover. Familiarizing new team members with your restaurant’s culture, therefore, is a critical part of the onboarding process.  

New employees should already be familiar with your restaurant's culture and values from the hiring process. Onboarding is your opportunity to reinforce these values.

During orientation, share a presentation or video that reviews the key principles of your restaurant's culture. Then, explain how you display these values at work.

If “family is everything” is one of your restaurant’s values, explain how that’s exhibited through the workplace culture. Perhaps it means that you view the team as family and want them to treat each other as such. One way you manifest this value could be by having family meals before shifts, which help team members bond.

Job guidelines and procedures

Create restaurant staff training manuals for each role at your restaurant. Give out hard copies and make digital copies accessible on a cloud storage system so that staff can easily reference them. Explain, in easy-to-understand terms, what each role entails.

Make sure to include:

  • Role expectations
  • Customer service standards
  • Your restaurant's dress code
  • Best practices and tips for getting things done
  • Safety guidelines (including COVID-19 protocol)

Consider adding visuals like flow charts to the manual or creating a video manual to facilitate learning.

Give new employees mentors

It isn’t easy being the newcomer on the team. Pair new employees with mentors or buddies to make them feel more comfortable while they learn the ropes. Trainees can ask their buddies questions that they may not want to go to their managers for. Mentoring sets newcomers up for long-term success.

Here’s how to set up a buddy system for trainees:

  1. Partner every new employee with a mentor on their team. Select mentors who excel in their roles. Schedule trainees and their buddies for the same shifts.
  2. Encourage new hires to ask their mentors questions. For after-hours questions, tell trainees to communicate with their mentors via your restaurant's team communication tool to help staff maintain a work-life balance.
  3. After new employees finish their training, have them shadow their buddies.

Scheduling procedures

Every restaurant has a different protocol for scheduling shifts, so don’t rush through this part of the onboarding process. Use this time to set expectations for when new staff will be working and explain what happens during each shift.

If your restaurant uses 7shifts, help new employees log in to their accounts. Have them watch employee training videos to get them started. Make sure they know how to:

Communication guidelines and expectations

Discuss expectations for how team members should communicate during shifts and after hours. Setting clear expectations is the key to avoiding conflict.

Here are some sample guidelines for in-person communication while at work:

  • There’s no such thing as over-communication. Be thorough in your communication.
  • Questions are encouraged. Measure twice, cut once.
  • Elevate concerns to management after getting consensus from two coworkers that you should.

And here are ideas for your digital communication guidelines:

  • We use 7shifts as our team communication tool rather than giving out personal phone numbers. This tool keeps us organized and helps team members keep their work lives and personal lives separate, which is important to us because we value work-life balance.
  • Tone can come off as harsh via digital communications without exclamation points or emojis. We encourage the use of both to maintain friendly rapport amongst the team!
  • We don’t expect you to respond to messages ASAP when you’re off the clock. We will call you if there is an emergency.

Customer service training

Customer service is the cornerstone of hospitality. It’s important to train all newcomers on your service standards to make sure they’re giving guests a uniform experience.

Follow these guidelines to give your new team members thorough customer service training:

  1. Include your service standards in your manual. Ask trainees to read them and sign a form acknowledging that they’ve read them.
  2. Include role-playing as part of the training. Run through difficult customer situations with new front-of-house (FOH) staff to ensure they won’t crack under pressure.
  3. Next, new hires should shadow their mentors on the floor to witness customer service in action. Eventually, the mentors should take a back seat and let the trainees interact with customers.

Your back-of-house (BOH) team should also have some basic customer service training. While interacting with customers isn't the BOH team's primary role, every employee should be able to exhibit the restaurant’s culture through customer service.

Health and safety training

Health and safety training has always been critical to the restaurant industry. Food safety keeps guests safe from foodborne illnesses and prevents the restaurant from getting shut down.

Health and safety are even more pertinent during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff members need to maintain safety procedures and make sure that guests follow them too.

Your health and safety training should include:

  • Teaching both the BOH and FOH teams proper hygiene standards for their roles
  • Getting food handlers permits for relevant team members
  • Training new staff on the restaurant’s COVID-19 safety guidelines.

What documentation to give out during the restaurant onboarding process

You should give new hires copies of the employee handbook and training manuals during their onboarding process. Make sure they have both physical copies and access to digital copies that they can access from anywhere via the cloud.

Here’s a closer look at what information you should include in your employee handbook and training manual.

Employee handbook

Your restaurant employee handbook serves as an introduction to the business. It helps set expectations for what staff members need to do and how they should do those things. After new hires have completed the restaurant onboarding process, they'll be able to reference the employee handbook to refresh their memories on important procedures and practical information.

Here’s what you should include in your employee handbook:

  • Introduction: Share your restaurant’s origin story. Who created it? Why? What was the inspiration behind the concept? Is this the original location, or did the restaurant start at a different address?
  • Values: Share the restaurant’s core values and explain how employees are expected to exhibit these values while at work. If you have them, share your mission statement and vision in this part of the employee handbook.
  • Code of conduct: Outline rules about appropriate behavior, attendance policies, and dress codes in the employee code of conduct. Have employees sign off on the code so that they understand how seriously the restaurant takes these rules.
  • Anti-harassment policies: Whether or not you include them as part of your code of conduct, it’s important to address workplace harassment in your employee handbook. Explain what counts as harassment so that everyone on the team is on the same page. Share guidelines for reporting harassment, as well as repercussions for harassing coworkers and customers.
  • Compensation and benefits: Use this section to share information about employee benefits like paid time off, sick days, healthcare, and professional development opportunities. Include instructions for logging in to your restaurant’s payroll platform and timekeeping tool. Don't forget to include your payroll schedule in this section of the handbook so employees know when they'll be paid.
  • COVID-19 health and safety procedures: Share your COVID-19 protocol. Talk about PPE expectations, employee health checks, and how to request time off if employees are feeling unwell.

Training manual

While the employee handbook covers general administrative information that applies to all roles at the restaurant, the training manual has role-specific instructions. New employees should use their training manuals to learn the ins and outs of their positions when they first start, and then refer back to them whenever they need a refresher.

You can create one training manual that contains information about every role in the restaurant, create separate manuals for the BOH and FOH teams, or create separate manuals for each role.

However you decide to organize them, here’s what you should include in your restaurant staff training manuals:

  • Job guidelines and procedures: Include details specific to each role. For example, a line cook’s training manual could contain recipes, guidelines for mis en place preparation, and food safety procedures. A server’s manual could contain a detailed description of each menu item, allergen guidelines, and a customer service guide.
  • COVID-19 safety measures: Whereas your employee handbook should contain general COVID-19 policies, you training manual should include what’s expected of each role specifically. For example, a hosts’ training manual could include a protocol for taking guests' temperatures when they enter the restaurant.
  • Restaurant technology guides: Include step-by-step guides for using your restaurant’s technology, from the POS to the security system. Share links to relevant training videos.
  • Customer information: Does your restaurant get frequented by local celebrities? Do you often host business banquets? Incorporate information about frequent customers or customer types so that FOH staff know how to ensure these guests have great experiences.
  • Customer service: While your employee handbook should outline customer service expectations, the training manual should go in-depth into procedures and FAQs. You could even include tricky scenarios and how to handle them.
  • Working the closing shift: Share information about safety procedures that employees who work the closing shift are expected to adhere to, such as setting the security system, turning the lights off, taking out the trash, locking up, and depositing cash at the bank.

What documentation to collect during the restaurant onboarding process

Here’s what paperwork and information you need to collect from your new hires:

  • Contact information: Create a contact form to collect employee names, phone numbers, email addresses, and mailing addresses.
  • Work authorization: If needed, collect proof of legal work authorization.
  • Tax information: In the United States, you’ll need to ask your independent contractors for W-9 forms and your employees for W-4 forms to collect their tax IDs and get information about withholding. Canadian restaurateurs should ask new employees to submit completed TD1s and provincial tax paperwork.
  • Proof of certification: If a new hire’s role requires them to have a specific certification, license, or permit (like a food handlers permit or Servsafe training) and you’re not providing that certification for them, ask them for proof of these permits.

The bottom line: A thorough restaurant onboarding process sets new hires up for success

Most employers focus a lot of attention on hiring and breeze through onboarding. However, when you create a thorough restaurant onboarding process, you set your new hires up for long-term success. When your new employees do a good job and are engaged at work, they'll be less likely to leave and your customers will be happier.

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Ana Cvetkovic
Ana Cvetkovic

Ana Cvetkovic is a freelance writer for 7shifts. She is also the CEO of BLOOM Digital Marketing, a creative marketing agency that helps the hospitality and tourism industries reach millennials online.