The restaurant industry is notorious for its high turnover, which means it’s difficult for restaurants to find and retain employees. 

This can lead to increased costs and can make it harder for restaurants to provide consistent, high-quality service to their customers. One of the worst externalities of this high turnover rate is that because positions turn over so frequently and restaurants need to swiftly onboard large numbers of employees, it’s tremendously difficult to create an effective onboarding program.

With the customer-facing nature of many restaurant positions and the immense pressure on staff to perform right away, it’s all the more important to establish a great onboarding program for all food service employees.

How to create an onboarding checklist to improve your recruitment

We’ve boiled down the most essential elements of a great process for employee onboarding in the food service and restaurant space. Some restaurants use something called a “new hire checklist” or something like that, but proper onboarding goes far beyond that, and so does this list.

Creating an Attractive Job Posting

Before you even start creating an onboarding list, make sure to create an attractive job posting with respect to current market trends. Of course, you must clearly outline the duties and responsibilities of the position, the required qualifications, and any relevant experience that might be necessary. 

Be informative yet concise by providing accurate details about the company and its culture, as well as any perks or benefits the job may offer.

Make it easy to apply and display the wage. You don’t want to overwhelm potential applicants with too much information and long application forms that require them to sign up for an account and answer three essay questions.

Most importantly, the job posting should be easy to read. Put the most important information at the top to catch the eyes of more prospective candidates.

Recruiting and Screening Candidates

To combat the high turnover, not only do you need applicants, but you also need an efficient recruiting and screening process to separate the wheat from the chaff and ensure your interviewees meet the minimum requirements of the position.

Outlining Restaurant Policies

Most employees don’t read their manuals. They’re certainly not going to do it while they’re not on company time. If you want to be sure employees read and learn the restaurant policies, from job responsibilities to closing procedures, give them time to do it!

Don’t just leave them to their own devices, either. For better engagement, set up a written or verbal quiz or otherwise have employees apply their knowledge of the policies.

In terms of scheduling, be sure to break down everything they need to know: calling out sick, swapping shifts, vacations, etcetera. 

Review your local labor laws to make sure your employee knows his or her rights when it comes to: 

  • Overtime
  • Breaks
  • Minimum wage
  • Time off
  • And more!

Onboarding New Employees

You want your employees to have access to all the information they need to successfully perform at your restaurant. At the same time, you need to get all the required tax forms and documentation from your employee, all while maintaining a direct line of communication. 

How do you do all this and still have time for scheduling, overseeing staff, keeping track of finances, and all your other managerial duties? Easy. Companies like HigherMe have developed onboarding tools specifically for the food service industry that makes it easy to automate your job postings, screen candidates, and send out and receive onboarding materials all through one portal.

And this is not only for restaurants, it applies to the overall hospitality industry recruitment strategy. You would need to automate; that too efficiently.

Photo by Elle Hughes

Supporting New Employees With a Buddy or a Mentor

Some form of ongoing staff education and support, whether via mentorship, shadowing, or a buddy system, greatly facilitates a new employee’s education and orientation. This system could be formal or informal, so long as your employee has the opportunity to see, hear, and feel various duties of their job as they are expected to be done.

Exercise good judgment with whom you pair your new hire with; you don’t want him or her to pick up any bad habits.

Aligning expectations for the first 30/60/90 days

Your employee knows he or she isn’t going to get everything correct right away. That’s totally fine. In the meantime, you should supply your employee with a roadmap for how they’re going to make improvements in their performance to match your expectations.

Schedule performance reviews once a month for the first three months to check in on how your new hire is feeling with regards to job duties, company policies, interesting scenarios that have come up on the job, and other areas that you might be able to provide guidance on.

Create some knowledge and performance milestones such as price knowledge, POS efficiency, or menu expertise to track your employee’s progress on a more quantitative level. 

These performance reviews shouldn’t feel scary or formal – you want your employees to be honest with you in terms of how they’re doing. This will allow you to better identify their strengths and weaknesses and work on them accordingly.

Providing hands-on menu training and tasting

Organize regular menu tastings for both new and classic items on your menu to ensure your staff members, particularly the new ones, are familiar with your product! Front-of-house employees need to be able to answer customer questions about ingredients, flavor, portions, and pairing suggestions. This knowledge will help them with upselling, too!

Back-of-house employees will benefit from this knowledge in terms of recipe memorization, plate consistency, and allergen training.


The food service industry is a tough one, for managers and employees alike. If you want to be successful, you need to put some serious effort into your onboarding process and use the best tools and strategies available for employee satisfaction and retention. A smooth, efficient, and human onboarding process can be the difference between someone who turns in their hat after a few weeks and a valuable member of your team.

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