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How to Successfully Onboard Your New Restaurant Employee


Jessica Reimer

Picture this:

You’ve just scored a serving gig at a trendy new restaurant. You turn up on your first day feeling nervous, excited, and ready to work. Instead of a warm, friendly welcome, your supervisor and coworkers barely introduce themselves, carrying on like you aren’t there at all.
Eventually, you muster up the courage to ask for something to do. Eyes roll, shoulders shrug, and before long you find yourself relegated to a closed-door office and a mountain of paperwork and manuals, most of which mean nothing without some much-needed context. No one comes to check on you, and no one makes an effort to show you around.

Not exactly a great first day on the job, hey?

 Employees are most receptive to learning in the early days of employment, which means the scenario described above is a textbook example of a missed opportunity.
To prevent your new hires from enduring the same kind of disappointing experience, you’ll need a bulletproof employee onboarding process.

What Is Employee Onboarding?

Sometimes referred to as organizational socialization, onboarding is the process of orienting new staff to your restaurant – who you are, what you do, what they’ll do, what their coworkers do, and the tools and information necessary to get the job done.
Onboarding is important for many reasons: providing a smooth transition into the workplace can increase productivity by setting clear expectations, boost employee morale, promote compliance, and decrease employee turnover. Considering the average cost for staff turnover can set a restaurant back as much as $5,864 per employee (ouch!), restaurateurs should pay special mind to this last one.
Some restaurants (those with a small staff, for example) might assume that an informal onboarding process – something semi-structured but largely ad hoc – will suffice. But without a proper restaurant employee handbook and the fixed sequence of activities and events that characterize a formal onboarding procedure, you reduce your chances of getting your new hire off on the right foot.  

The Four C’s of Formal Onboarding

While the employee onboarding process can and often does differ between restaurants – especially if you’re currently in the midst of contactless hiring – ultimately the goal is the same: build a committed, positive relationship between a new hire and his or her coworkers and managers, while also promoting consistent and on-brand service.

According to Dr. Talya Bauer of the SHRM Foundation, the best onboarding programs contain four key ingredients:

1. Compliance

Employees learn about the rules, regulations, and legalities governing your restaurant and/or the service industry. This level encompasses everything from waste management policies to training on restaurant scheduling software.

2. Clarification

Employees receive a breakdown of job-related responsibilities, accountabilities, and expectations. They also learn how their specific role –expo, hostess, line cook, or otherwise – fits into the bigger company structure and organizational hierarchy.

3. Culture

Broad in scope, culture is an umbrella term pointing to the ins and outs of your restaurant: values, ethics, best practices, and so on. Make sure you familiarize your new hire with your restaurant’s unspoken rules, too – like not talking to sous chef Joe before he’s had his morning coffee, for example.

4. Connection

Employees gain many skills working in a restaurant, but arguably the biggest perk to a restaurant job – after the tips, of course – is the friendships and sense of kinship that emerge from spending so many long, busy hours together. It’s essential that the new employee receive the opportunity to forge and nurture these interpersonal relationships and information networks, both on the job and outside of working hours.

Not sure how to implement the Four C’s at your restaurant? Make Google your first stop. There you’ll find loads of checklists and resources – some designed specifically for the restaurant industry.

 Happy hires, healthy restaurant. Easy as pie!

Jessica Reimer is the Content Producer for 7shifts, working alongside their marketing team to help their customers all over the world save time scheduling, reduce labor costs, and improve communication in their businesses. Jessica has authored feature pieces and blog posts for a number of provincial, national, and international publications.

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