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How to create a great restaurant onboarding experience

How to create a great restaurant onboarding experience

Hiring is a big part of the restaurant industry. Especially when you factor in the fact that only 54 percent of quick-service employees reached 90 days of work before quitting their jobs. Compared to the 47.2 percent average annual turnover rate for all industries in the U.S., restaurant owners and managers are faced with a constant challenge to recruit, hire, and retain their best workers. 

This is why getting the restaurant onboarding experience right is so important for your QSR. When it’s done correctly, new employees become familiar with your workplace and are able to perform their jobs with confidence—helping them succeed, belong, and feel more engaged at work.

It also sets your QSR apart from the ones who rush through or skip over the process altogether.

In our step-by-step guide, we’ll help you and your new hires get on the faster path to productivity using our restaurant onboarding checklist. It will not only help you rethink your current approach to restaurant orientation but also make new employees glad they chose the job and joined the team.

Many of these steps can be completed during a new hire’s first day of employment. Some of the other parts of the process will continue throughout the week. Restaurant onboarding starts with:

​​Paperwork and documentation

Before an applicant or new hire becomes an employee, they need to complete their onboarding documentation. As a hiring manager or owner, it’s your responsibility to make sure this happens. Let all your new hires know to bring a photo I.D., Social Security number, and bank information.

Get the necessary new-hire paperwork together, such as employment contracts, tax forms, and employee handbooks. Then, to streamline the process, include a checklist with those documents outlining all the tasks that need to be completed. The most important pieces of documentation to complete are the W-4 (so each employee’s taxes are withheld) and I-9 (to show they’re legally allowed to work in the U.S.) 

Items on your restaurant onboarding checklist to confirm, collect, or distribute should include:

  • Photo I.D. 

  • Social Security number

  • W-4 Form

  • Direct deposit form

  • Blank check or ACH bank information from the employee

  • Health insurance or benefits forms (as applicable)

  • Employment agreements or job contracts

  • Safety and/or compliance forms

  • Emergency contact information

  • Restaurant employee handbook (if available)

Keep these documents on file for every employee, either on paper or electronically. If your QSR doesn’t have handbooks available, make time to go over your restaurant’s policies or rules with new hires during introductions—especially dress code, attendance, and conduct expectations.

Welcome and introduction

Whether you’re a new hire starting your first job or an experienced veteran trying out a different restaurant, the first day of work can be both exciting and stressful. This is why it’s important to warmly greet employees the moment they arrive and introduce them to their team.

This is also the ideal opportunity for you to give your new staff an overview of your restaurant’s mission, values, and work culture. Every QSR is different, so your restaurant orientation is where you’ll answer any questions about your company’s rules and requirements. 

Sharing a brief history of your QSR, its brand, and ways of doing things is a fun and informative part of any restaurant onboarding. And it’s always important to review your scheduling policy as soon as possible—like how to take breaks, cover shifts, request time off, and handle sick days.

If your QSR uses an app or online schedules instead of printed ones, include this in your training and when setting up new hires with logins to your POS, payroll, security, or other staff systems.

Training and orientation

The training and orientation step is often the highlight of any restaurant onboarding for a new hire. It provides everyone with a chance to familiarize themselves with all the key areas that comprise your restaurant’s layout—from the kitchen and dining room to the storage area and restrooms. 

The restaurant orientation is when both front-of-house (FOH) and back-of-house (BOH) workers enjoy menu tastings to get a better feel for your restaurant. It also includes pairing suggestions and upsell ideas for servers and the memorization of ingredients and allergens for your kitchen staff. 

After the tour, plan on conducting initial training for your new hires on the essential tasks and job responsibilities of their roles—such as food handling procedures, safety protocols, and customer service standards. If anyone needs their food handler’s permit, ensure they get the right training.

Equipment familiarization

Getting your new hires up to speed with a fast-paced kitchen and ready to satisfy the needs and expectations of existing customers will involve introducing them to any equipment or technology they’ll use throughout their shifts—including POS systems, kitchen appliances, or cleaning tools.

Besides improving your staff’s speed and efficiency, providing employees with hands-on training and guidance on operating your equipment correctly can help prevent the most common accidents.

As a general kitchen rule, all machines should only be operated according to the manufacturer’s guidelines with the guards provided. Equipment should be turned off and unplugged for cleaning purposes. Keep appliances from wet areas and inspect cords to help prevent electrical hazards.

Shadowing and mentoring

During your restaurant orientation, try pairing your new hires with a mentor or buddy. These are typically the most experienced workers on your staff—the team members best equipped to provide the hands-on support they need throughout the onboarding process

By encouraging these ongoing shadowing opportunities, trainees will be able to see someone in action—expertly performing the role they were hired for and imparting best practices as they go. Trainees may also feel more comfortable going to buddies with questions rather than restaurant managers

Job shadowing and mentoring throughout is also an effective way to help new hires understand your company’s culture, correct bad habits or ineffective practices from past roles, and grow into their position more quickly. Even gaining a greater appreciation for the job and their fellow restaurant staff

Customer service training

Training your new hires in the nuances of customer service is critical for creating a more positive experience for your customers. It’s important for you to role play common customer interactions with your staff to practice the practical communication or interaction skills they’ll use day to day.

Whether they’re working front of house or back of house, your restaurant employees should be trained in all the basics of greeting guests, maintaining a clean workspace, and demonstrating professionalism at all times. As mentioned before, training should address a working knowledge of your menu so employees can make recommendations and answer any customer questions.

By providing comprehensive customer service training to your new hires during your onboarding program, your staff will be better equipped to provide a superior dining experience for guests. This will lead to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty, as well as greater employee confidence.

Feedback and evaluation

It’s critical to initiate regular feedback and evaluations with your new hires. This is how you beat the 90-day turnover curse and increase retention early on. An effective way is to schedule routine one-on-one meetings and send new hire surveys to discuss performance, address any concerns, and provide constructive feedback as needed.

By setting clear performance goals and job expectations from the start, you supply your trainees with the support and confidence it takes for continual skills development as they grow into their specific roles. Sharing guided, actionable feedback also helps new hires know where they excel and which areas require improvement. Schedule these check-ins throughout their first 90 days.

Check-ins, evaluations, feedback sessions, and one-on-one meetings not only benefit new hires during the restaurant onboarding. They’re also invaluable opportunities for you and your staff to evaluate the overall effectiveness of your training regimen and to make necessary adjustments.

Integration and team building

Building, maintaining, and retaining a winning team of restaurant employees involves a lot more than employee training, menu memorization, and knowledge about your brand. Staff members must be able to form interpersonal bonds and feel motivated to work together, whatever the situation.

By encouraging team bonding activities and social interactions between new hires and existing workers, trainees feel immediately welcome and integrated into the team. It begins by fostering a positive work culture that values collaboration, communication, and mutual support above all.  

Many of these activities can be hosted on location right at your restaurant—either after hours at night, in the morning before opening, or on a day your business is closed. For example, pair up new hires and experienced employees on a scavenger hunt as a fun way to familiarize trainees with the restaurant’s layout. Try games like 2 Truths and a Lie to share facts about each other.

Going out to see a movie together, forming a league softball team, or organizing a charity event are also great team-building activities. The important thing is for everyone to stay motivated and feel like they have each other’s back—all of which reduces employee turnover and increases productivity.

Follow up and support

Even the most successful team members among your new hires will require a follow up after the initial employee onboarding process. This is your chance to ensure that your trainees are adjusting well and any remaining questions or concerns they have after their restaurant orientation are addressed.

Plan to offer your continued support and make resources available to help employees succeed in their roles and contribute to your QSR’s bottom line. When the newest members of your FOH staff are happy, confident, and well-trained, the customer service and guest experience at your restaurant improves. When your BOH team works well together and knows how to maintain the quality and consistency of the menu, customers can always expect a timely and satisfying meal. 

Get the restaurant onboarding experience right for your new hires and everything falls in place.



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