How to Onboard Your Restaurant Employees
So you’ve hired your latest batch of employees at your restaurant. Congratulations, but your job is far from done. Your new employees’ experience during their first few weeks will be vital in determining their long-term retention and job performance. To ensure your new staff meets or exceeds your expectations, create an onboarding process that will effectively serve both parties.
First, let’s outline the primary benefits of implementing a formal onboarding process for employees:
Improving Employee Retention
Employee turnover in the restaurant industry is among the highest across all industries. While almost every restaurant owner struggles with high turnover, few realize the impact of onboarding on employee retention. Consider these alarming statistics:
- Up to 20% of employee turnover happens during the first 45 days of employment.
- Organizations with a standard onboarding process experience 50% greater new hire retention.
You can see why having a standard onboard process for all employees is crucial for retention. It’s simply not enough to give them an employee handbook and call it a day.
Early employee engagement plays a big role in long term retention. If you don’t think you can afford to invest in onboarding your new hires, think again. The average cost to replace an employee in the restaurant industry is $5,864. A breakdown of this cost reveals that productivity loss ($3,049), recruiting costs ($1,173) and Orientation and training costs ($821) constitute the bulk of the cost burden.
Further, one Cornell University study estimates the annual cost of turnover at a mid-sized restaurant to be nearly $150,000.
You’ll find that any costs associated with onboarding will be marginal compared to the long-term cost savings it affords you.
Increase Customer Satisfaction
Properly onboarded and well-trained staff will provide your customers with a superior experience compared to poorly-trained staff. While your experienced staff may know the dos and don’ts of serving your customers, your new, inexperienced staff will inevitably make mistakes. Seasoned restaurant employees are also better at predicting the needs and expectations of their customers, navigating the timing of food prep and delivery and understanding the general pace of the restaurant.
Granted, your new staff will learn the rules given time. However, you can help new hires avoid making costly mistakes in the first place by providing proper training.
Now that we know why a formal onboard process is so important, let’s learn how to create your own. Below you’ll find a step-by-step guide.
Step 1: Create a Checklist
Because the first few weeks at a job are a crucial for a new employee, you should set them up for success as early as possible — ideally, even before their first day on the job. Create a an onboard checklist to help keep you and your new employees on track and aligned from the outset. Here’s an example of a basic checklist you can use or modify:
Before Day One:
- Fill out employee paperwork
- Send shift/training schedule
- Discuss responsibilities and work policy (e.g., dress code, vacation, benefits)
- Hand out official employee handbook
- Introduce to staff
- Give tour
- Introduce to mentor or trainer
- Check in about performance
- Get feedback on onboarding
- Get feedback from mentor or trainer
Step 2: Update Employee Handbook
Don’t reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to. Gather together written materials or handbooks that have been previously used to train employees at your restaurant. Review each of them and make sure the information is up to date, consistent and relevant to your current needs. Going forward, you want your new onboard process to replace all previous versions, so it is important that you do not omit or contradict any existing policies.
Tip: If your employee handbook reads like a tome, it may serve you and your staff to include a one-page cheatsheet or high-level summary of the most important FAQs, such as: vacation policy, perks or benefits and disciplinary structure. If you’re not sure what to include on this page, ask current employees about what they feel is important to note.
Step 3: Review Employee Handbook Together
While you don’t have to read every page with your new employee, it is important that you are able to provide context or explanation for any section that they may have questions about.
Provide the handbook as soon as they accept the job so they can instantly familiarize themselves with the workplace and know what to expect. It’s better to be prepared beforehand than to scramble and flail while on the job.
During your check-ins, you can also set some time to discuss any workplace policies that may require special attention.
For example, some of your new employees might not know that your restaurant accepts Groupon deals. A customer walks in, asks a new employee about the Groupon deal and is told that your restaurant doesn’t accept the Groupon. In the worst case, the customer may leave. In the best case, your customer will be frustrated to learn that your restaurant does in fact accept the Groupon and that your employee simply didn’t know about it.
This scenario could have been avoided entirely if you had discussed this policy to new employees. It also highlights the importance of providing ongoing training to your existing staff to make sure they are caught up with the latest updates to your restaurant.
Step 4: Assign a Mentor or Trainer
Assign new hires a mentor from your existing staff to show them the ropes. They will also be able to help provide constructive feedback on their performance.
Having a mentor also helps new employees build relationships in the workplace. In fact, a recent Yale University study suggests one of top reasons employees love their jobs is because of good relationships with their co-workers. After all, who wants to spend all day with people they dislike?
In addition to training, a mentor will help motivate the new staff and help them feel supported.
Step 5: Check in and Repeat
Now that you’re finished going through your onboard checklist, the hard part is done! What’s left is consistent maintenance. In other words, don’t assume that after two weeks, you can suddenly become a hands-off manager. Consider regularly checking in as an extension of the onboard process.
Scheduling time where you and your new staff can discuss any workplace matters allows you to address and fix issues sooner rather than later, share new rules and policy changes, and most importantly, prevent a sudden departure or firing.
The Bottom Line
Providing your customers with a superior experience gives you a notable competitive advantage and fosters customer loyalty. Making sure your staff give your customers the best experience possible starts with providing your staff proper training when they join and ongoing training along the way.
Many restaurants fail at onboarding their new employees because they treat onboarding as a box to check. However, you can improve your employee retention and customer satisfaction immensely if you treat onboarding as an ongoing process of employee engagement and training.