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With a vast worker shortage due to the COVID-19 pandemic and an ongoing issue for employee onboarding and retention, the restaurant industry is left trying to solve a major pain point.

Not that it wasn’t an issue before, but the pandemic has doubled the necessity for restaurant owners and managers to have a top-notch onboarding process for new hires.

Onboarding employees is much more than filling out paperwork and sending them in front of customers or behind a grill. There is a process of training and nurturing that will build them into reliable and happy employees.

But now, in 2021 and probably into 2022, finding a restaurant employee has been the biggest challenge. According to August data with 7shifts, 26% of restaurants need line cooks and 17% of restaurants are looking for servers.

Contrast these statistics with the fact only 23% of restaurants looking for cooks have applications to look through, which is an immense disparity.

During the rise of the pandemic, restaurants faced closures or scaled back to long pauses before reopening. This caused layoffs or putting employees in huge financial holes, with plenty of time on their hands.

In the long run, employees found new careers, went to school, or just didn’t want to come back to work.

These reasons are why this is the situation that owners and managers find themselves in. Finding an employee has been a challenge, and when that right person comes along, restaurant management needs to make sure standards are different than in the past. They need to train them properly and give the employees reachable goals that make them glad.

So how should your restaurant create an outstanding process for onboarding new staff?

Let’s start from the beginning and “onboard” you through this blog.

First Things First Routine

When an employee starts, say a server, they need to go through the custom of filling out paperwork that an owner or HR department can keep on file. These first steps should also include access to tools like the point-of-sale system, timekeeping, email, security access, etc.

In many restaurants and even some mid-size chains, that may be where it all stops. But this is where the proper onboarding should begin.

As an owner, it’s up to you to educate your new employee on the restaurant’s culture.

girl in yellow copyTell them:

History of the restaurant – Every restaurant has some history to it, even if it’s been open a few years. If it has been available for over 30 or 40 years, there have to be some great stories of how the restaurant came to be, challenging or prosperous times, and great customer stories. Even if the restaurant has been in business for a short time, explain to the new hire how you made it through COVID.

Your background – Tell the new hire about you. How you bought or started the restaurant. Suppose it’s been in the family for years, how you came to be in charge. Talk to them about your chef skills. This is an excellent inspiration for an ambitious new employee.

Your customers – If you’ve been in business for a long time or even survived COVID issues, there’s a big reason for it, and that’s your customers. Talk about your loyal customers and why they keep coming back. Who are the most well-known, maybe some of the community leaders who come in, someone famous, a great war hero, a great first responder, and so on.

Your staff – Who has been with you the longest? Talk about outstanding performers currently or in the past. Then take the new employee and introduce them to the team. Describe how your employees work together and the traits that they bring to the table.

Company values –  Inform your new employee of words to live by, what your restaurant stands for, how important it is that the restaurant is a community cornerstone.

Proper Training Yields Efficiency

Training a new employee may be the most time-consuming onboarding process, but it is the most vital.

Developing an employee guidebook is a great place to begin. It has information like procedures and policies and acts as a reference guide for the employee to look back at how much sick leave or vacation time they have.

Proper training should include spending time with a veteran server so the new employee can shadow the experienced employee and get valuable tips. The trainer should serve as a mentor for the new employee and not only for a few days of shadowing but also to answer questions as the new employee becomes more experienced.


Areas of training a mentor should include:

POS hardware and software – The mentor should instruct the employee on general usage. But they should also give them “trial” runs at ordering, huge parties, unique orders, substitutions, etc.

Roleplay – Your mentor can sit down at a table and do a little acting. Maybe a couple of the restaurant employees can join in and provide the new employee with a way to conduct themselves during an order. Throw difficult situations at them. This is not routine as much as how the new employee provides and builds their customer service skills.

Switch it up – Slowly let the new employee go out on their own, but your mentor should keep an eye on them. Perhaps let the new employee handle a few customers’ tables, with the mentor now switched as a shadower. It takes a little time but ensures the new employee can get a handle on situations.

Stress communication – How new employees conduct themselves with customers is one thing, but communicating with other staff members and the back of the house promotes teamwork and atmosphere.

As a restaurant owner, you should also take into consideration what the mentor has done for you. Indeed, your mentor or trainer is someone who performs well at all times and that’s why you trust them. But don’t forget, onboarding is an ongoing process for new employees with experienced employees. The mentor should get some sort of perk or reward for devoting their time to train a new employee. For example, allow your mentor and trainee to receive a couple of items off of your menu at the end of the shift as a training meal. This can help your new employee become more familiar with your offerings while also getting to enjoy a meal.

A little extra toward the mentor and new employee is a terrific exercise toward increased motivation and making them feel like family. These are two key ingredients in employee retention.

Follow Up With New Employee

Throughout the onboarding process and beyond, you should constantly follow up with the new employee and all employees, for that matter.

In onboarding, ask the employees how their shift went. What went right? What went wrong? Continuously give encouragement and direction. Hand out praise when things went well or a situation that the employee handled effectively.

Set periodic employee reviews and let them know how they are doing well and what they can improve on. After a few training days, your new employee should become more familiar with the basics in your restaurants such as table numbers, seat numbers, and know the names of the most popular dishes.

The website has an excellent onboarding checklist to print and use.



Onboarding an employee should be a learning experience for the new employee, but you should make it fun for them to learn as an owner. It’s an exciting time for the new employee, and the experience for the first several weeks and months should be just as exciting.

A valuable and potent onboarding process can improve productivity, self-esteem and drive better customer service. It will have a positive impact on your employees, which will lead to retention and affect your customers. Positive and knowledgeable customer service means your guests will keep coming back too.

You need to ensure your new employees have the right tools for proper onboarding and retention.

Mad Mobile’s Restaurant Management solutions will help your staff become more efficient by streamlining day-to-day operations and getting new employees better trained and ready for your restaurant. The easy-to-use POS system keeps all your restaurant’s needs in one central location, making it easy for new employees to learn without confusion.

Begin your onboarding process with Mad Mobile and you can drive a better retention rate and increase productivity.

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