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Employee Onboarding in Restaurants: Done Right

Daniil Klubov Founder & Ceo of spoon.tech
Audri Adhyas Paul
May 23, 2023
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Restaurant Customer Service Training

Welcoming new employees in restaurants is not just about filling positions, it's about igniting their potential and nurturing their growth. In any industry, a smooth and comprehensive onboarding process is crucial to set up new hires for success. This process is especially vital in restaurants, where individuals need to be well-equipped for their roles in fast-paced and customer-centric environments. Implementing a successful staff onboarding program not only ensures preparedness but also fosters motivation, proficiency, and self-assurance in employees. This article will explore the key strategies for effectively onboarding fresh restaurant staff, transforming them from novices to top performers. In this blog post, we will discuss how you can create the most effective onboarding experience for new employees in five overarching steps:  

1. Crafting the onboarding strategy – Here, we will talk about what you should keep in mind while curating your onboarding goals and objectives for the long-run, and the birds-eye view of an action plan to achieve your onboarding goals.

2. Developing the contents – Once you’ve formulated a strategy, the next step is to identify and document the topics that need to be covered in the onboarding and subsequent training.

3. Delivering the training – After developing the contents, the training contents need to be delivered. Here we’ll explore various traditional and modern delivery techniques of onboarding training.

4. Implementing the strategies and techniques – Finally, we’ll discuss how you can apply those strategies and delivery techniques for onboarding your restaurant staff.

5. Evaluating and updating your onboarding program – Take feedback from employees and periodically review and update your onboarding program to match the fast pace of the industry and employee demands.

1. Crafting the onboarding strategy

At the very beginning of crafting your onboarding process, you must ask yourself what exactly you are trying to accomplish with the onboarding experience you provide to new employees. Maybe you want a seamless transition for your new employees in their new roles, maybe you want to create a great first impression which increases their loyalty to the restaurant. For an onboarding program to be fruitful, you need to have a strategy, a clear birds-eye view of the program: your objectives, plan, and vision for it. The process of crafting the strategy entails the following elements: objectives, roadmap, employee needs, roles and responsibilities.

  • Objectives

Clearly outline what you want to achieve through your onboarding program. Are you aiming to create a seamless transition, make a great first impression, increase productivity, or increase employee loyalty? A good way to make your objectives comprehensive and quantifiable is making sure they are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound). An example of this: "Within two weeks of onboarding, new staff members will successfully complete all required food safety and hygiene certifications, ensuring compliance with industry standards."

  • Roadmap

Develop a structured and detailed execution plan for your onboarding program. It should contain the relevant milestones and checkpoints for your employees, and estimated timeframes to achieve them.

  • Needs of your target audience

To create an effective onboarding program, it is essential to customize it according to the unique needs and expectations of your new employees. Take the time to understand the individuals you have hired and their specific job requirements, enabling you to develop a program that aligns with their preferences and goals. By tailoring the onboarding experience to resonate with each employee, you can maximize their engagement and ensure a successful transition into their new roles.

  • Roles and responsibilities

To ensure a successful onboarding process, it is crucial to establish clear accountability for delivering training and providing support to new hires. Assigning responsibility to specific individuals or teams helps streamline the process and ensure its effectiveness. Moreover, it is essential to equip them with the necessary resources and support to effectively carry out their responsibilities. In the context of large and multi-location establishments where many people are involved, utilizing techniques such as RACI matrix can help establish a structured and systematic approach to defining roles and responsibilities. This is a widely used tool in project management, and it assigns individuals as Responsible (those accountable for specific tasks), Accountable (those with overall responsibility for the onboarding process), Consulted (those whose input is sought), and Informed (those who need to be kept updated). An example of this:

Please note that this is just a sample to illustrate the concept of a structured tool like the RACI Matrix in a restaurant onboarding context, the actual roles and responsibilities will vary depending on the specific restaurant's structure and resources available. By establishing a well-defined structure, you can ensure a smooth onboarding experience and facilitate the success of your new employees.

2. Developing the contents

Once you have formulated the broad strategy for your onboarding program, the next step is to develop the training contents and learning materials. For this, you should put in place a comprehensive onboarding program that covers all the necessary skills, knowledge, and resources that new employees need to succeed in their roles.  

Here are some contents to include in said onboarding training program:

  • Training about the restaurant

No matter how much industry experience an employee has, it is crucial that s/he gets a company orientation, because every restaurant operates in unique ways. They have unique values, rules and regulations and operational processes. Thus, training about the restaurant is an integral part of onboarding in restaurants. For new employees to develop a strong sense of connection and dedication to their work, it is crucial that they possess a deep comprehension of the restaurant's history, mission, values, and culture.

  • Role-specific Training

In the hospitality industry, providing job-specific training is essential for equipping new employees with the knowledge and skills necessary to excel in their roles. This training encompasses a range of areas, from technical skills related to equipment operation and software usage to operational skills such as cash handling and compliance with industry regulations. This training is tailored for each different role. For instance, training for servers and waitstaff should focus on menu knowledge, order-taking procedures, serving etiquette, and upselling techniques, while training for chefs and kitchen staff should cover food preparation techniques, culinary standards, recipe adherence, and kitchen safety protocols. Tailoring role-specific training to the unique responsibilities and demands of each position ensures that employees are equipped with the necessary expertise to excel in their respective roles, ultimately contributing to the overall success of the restaurant.

  • Hygiene, Safety & Compliance Training

Ensuring the safety and security of employees and customers is paramount in the hospitality industry. That's why including hygiene, safety, and compliance training as part of the onboarding process is crucial. This training is designed to familiarize employees with the organization's safety and security protocols, emergency procedures, fire safety measures, and health and safety guidelines. In the hospitality industry, strict adherence to these procedures is vital, as any lapses can have severe consequences. For instance, a lack of understanding regarding fire safety protocols can jeopardize the well-being of employees and customers, while disregarding health and safety guidelines can lead to foodborne illnesses.

By providing comprehensive safety and security training during onboarding, employees are better prepared to identify and respond to potential threats. It is essential to keep this training ongoing with regular updates and refreshers so that employees remain vigilant and well-prepared in case of emergencies.

  • Customer Service Training

This is a crucial but often overlooked category of restaurant training. According to a survey by TalentLMS, 70% of customer-facing restaurant employees reported that they haven’t received any customer service training. However, it is one of the most important kinds of training, because delivering exceptional customer service is paramount to creating a positive customer experience and fostering brand loyalty. As employees interact directly with customers, it is vital for them to possess the skills to provide outstanding service, handle complaints and feedback, and build positive relationships. Through comprehensive customer service training, employees can develop effective communication techniques, actively listen to customer needs, and deliver personalized service. Moreover, this training equips them with the ability to navigate challenging situations, such as handling complaints or negative feedback, and turning them into positive outcomes. By prioritizing comprehensive customer service training, organizations can enhance the overall customer experience, resulting in heightened customer satisfaction and increased repeat business.

  • Soft Skills Training

Soft skills training such as communication, teamwork, leadership, time-management, problem solving etc. are often overlooked in hospitality training, as the focus goes more on job-specific training. However, these skills are indispensable for employees to interact with customers and colleagues, manage their time efficiently, and creatively solve problems. By providing dedicated soft skills training, employees can enhance their productivity and effectiveness, leading to improved customer satisfaction, enhanced teamwork, and increased job satisfaction. Equipping employees with these essential skills not only strengthens their professional abilities but also contributes to creating a positive work environment where individuals can thrive. Since this is not always widely adapted, this helps restaurants stand out from other employees in the competition for retaining skilled employees. Employees also feel that the restaurant cares about their career growth and development, which in turn helps in increasing loyalty.


3. Delivering the training

  • Mentorship

Pair new employees with a mentor who can guide them through the onboarding process and provide ongoing support as they settle into their role. The mentor should be someone who is slightly more experienced than the new recruit, but also someone with whom the new recruit can feel comfortable asking questions. The mentor should also be welcoming, make the new employee feel comfortable, offer insights, answer questions without judgement, and provide feedback.  

  • Job Shadowing  

Providing new employees with the opportunity to shadow experienced staff members is an invaluable approach to help them grasp the intricacies of their job and perform their duties effectively, especially in the dynamic hospitality industry where hands-on tasks and customer interactions are prevalent. This immersive learning experience offers several benefits. Firstly, it allows new hires to learn by actively participating, resulting in a quicker learning curve compared to traditional classroom-style training. Additionally, shadowing fosters relationship building, making new employees feel more welcomed and facilitating the formation of valuable connections that contribute to their personal and professional growth.

However, it's important to acknowledge some limitations of this learning method. Shadowing can provide a limited perspective since it typically involves learning from a single mentor, potentially limiting exposure to alternative approaches or viewpoints. Furthermore, it can be time-consuming as it requires coordination between experienced staff members and new employees, involving a significant investment of time and resources from both parties.

Nevertheless, despite these considerations, the hands-on nature of shadowing remains a valuable component of onboarding programs in the hospitality industry, enabling new employees to gain practical experience, develop critical skills, and build meaningful relationships within the organization.

  • Training Manual

A training manual serves as a comprehensive guidebook that outlines the necessary steps and procedures to effectively perform your job. It encompasses a wide range of topics, including safety regulations and protocols, customer service standards, and clear expectations for job performance. By following the instructions and guidelines provided in the manual, employees can ensure that they are carrying out their responsibilities correctly and meeting the required standards. The presence of a well-structured training manual proves to be invaluable, as it not only assists current employees in their day-to-day tasks but can also be shared with prospective employees to prepare them for their initial work experience. It also ensures uniformity of learning across different locations and for all employees. It might be a good idea to send this manual to new hires before their first trial shift and after their job is confirmed, maybe part of an onboarding gift package. This allows the new member to already have an idea about the company structure, its operations, and what their first goals & milestones should be.

  • Digital Training Techniques

Technology has helped to streamline many aspects of restaurant operations, and one of the most underrated but useful aspects is staff training and onboarding. Learning Management Systems (LMS) are one such digital solution. It takes away almost all the manual tasks associated with training and enables managers and restaurant operators track employee progress and performance automatically. Some LMS, such as spoon.tech, allows you to easily convert your processes into interactive and visually engaging training materials. It makes learning fun by incorporating microlearning videos and gamification elements such as games, quizzes, leaderboards etc. Another important benefit of LMS like spoon.tech is their adaptability to the unique needs of restaurant employees who are not confined to desks. Such systems empower employees to learn from their mobile phones, anytime and anywhere, at their own pace. This flexibility enhances accessibility and convenience, enabling staff members to engage in training even during their busy schedules.

Additionally, for multi-unit franchises and restaurants, ensuring uniformity of training across various locations is essential. Digital solutions like LMS offer the advantage of delivering consistent training materials and content, thereby promoting standardized practices and knowledge dissemination across the organization. This ensures that all employees, regardless of their location, receive the same level of training and are equipped with the necessary skills to uphold the brand's standards. Incorporating technology-driven solutions like LMS into restaurant training not only simplifies processes but also enhances engagement, interactivity, and consistency, ultimately leading to more efficient and effective staff onboarding and development.


4. Implementing the strategies and techniques

When implementing the above strategies and techniques, make sure to cover the following steps:

  • Make the onboarding program comprehensive

Make sure that the onboarding program covers all the essential information and skills a new employee will need to perform their job effectively. This can include an overview of the company, its mission, and values, a breakdown of the employee's role and responsibilities, and specific training on relevant tools and technology.

  • Make it fun and engaging

Avoid creating an exceedingly lengthy & wordy document, as this can make onboarding training seem more of an obstacle than an opportunity. We recommend using a more engaging approach, such as interactive games and quizzes, as well as making use of visually appealing materials, such as videos and pictures. This will make it easier for your employees to consume the information and to digest it into a practical form. This will also create a good first impression to employees, which may increase loyalty in the long run.  

  • Don’t just stop at onboarding, make the training continuous

Instead of just a one-time onboarding training, provide ongoing training opportunities to help new employees can update their knowledge and skills, and keep up with the fast-paced and continuously changing restaurant industry. A clear roadmap of continuous learning plan can help new employees stay motivated and look forward to various milestones in career growth.

  • Encourage open and easy communication

Create an open and supportive environment where new employees feel comfortable asking questions, seeking feedback, and sharing their concerns. Encourage regular check-ins between new employees and their manager or mentor to ensure that they feel supported and can raise any issues or challenges. Facilitate easy communication channels so that employees can easily communicate their problems and responsible people can provide advice and guidance.

5. Evaluating and updating your onboarding program

Evaluating and updating your onboarding program is a crucial step in ensuring its effectiveness and relevance over time. Taking feedback from employees who have gone through the onboarding process allows you to gain valuable insights into their experiences, identify areas for improvement, and address any gaps or concerns. This feedback can be collected through surveys, interviews, or focus groups, providing you with valuable firsthand perspectives.

Periodically reviewing and updating your onboarding program is essential due to the fast pace of the industry and evolving employee demands. As new technologies, processes, or best practices emerge, it is important to incorporate them into your training materials to keep your onboarding program up to date. Additionally, employee expectations and preferences may change over time, requiring adjustments in the content, delivery methods, or duration of the program.

By regularly evaluating and updating your onboarding program, you demonstrate your commitment to continuous improvement and employee development. It helps ensure that your program remains relevant, engaging, and aligned with the evolving needs of your workforce. This iterative process allows you to optimize the onboarding experience, enhance employee satisfaction and retention, and ultimately contribute to the long-term success of your organization.

In summary, a well-designed employee onboarding program plays a crucial role in the success of the hospitality industry. By implementing a comprehensive onboarding program, employers can ensure that new hires receive the necessary training and support to become valuable and confident team members. It is vital to establish a structured plan with clear objectives, understand the specific needs of the employees, and delegate responsibilities effectively to ensure a smooth onboarding process. Additionally, continuous training and development opportunities, mentorship programs, job shadowing, training manuals, and utilizing digital training methods can enhance the effectiveness of the onboarding experience. By adopting these best practices, hospitality businesses can foster a culture of continuous learning, engagement, and open communication, leading to sustained success in the industry.  

If you're looking to create a top-notch employee onboarding and training program to take your employees to the next level, spoon.tech can help. You can get in touch with us by filling out our contact form, alternatively, you can call us via phone at (+43 670 655 56 82) Or email us at hello@spoon.tech.

Daniil Klubov Founder & Ceo of spoon.tech
Audri Adhyas Paul

Hi, I'm Audri, a Master's student in Digital Economy at Vienna University of Economics and Business, and an enthusiast of the food and hospitality sector. Digital transformation in the hospitality sector is an intersection of my practice and passion, and I love to write on that topic. Let's connect on LinkedIn to chat more!

Audri Adhyas Paul

Hi, I'm Audri, a Master's student in Digital Economy at Vienna University of Economics and Business, and an enthusiast of the food and hospitality sector. Digital transformation in the hospitality sector is an intersection of my practice and passion, and I love to write on that topic. Let's connect on LinkedIn to chat more!

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