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How to Onboard a New Restaurant Employee

Jim McCormickAuthor

No matter which role you just filled, your restaurant orientation and onboarding process is critical to the success of your new team member. A good onboarding process shows your new employee you care and that you go above and beyond for your staff. Setting this standard early on will make them happy they joined your team.

The onboarding process is everything that needs to happen between “you’re hired” and “here’s your station.” There’s plenty to get done during this period of the hiring and training process, and often, some of these steps get glossed over or skipped altogether.

Here’s a tip: You can delegate different parts of the onboarding process to different employees to lighten the load and so that more people on your team will have a chance to connect with the new hire before they get cooking (or serving or accounting or whatever).

In this guide, we’ll walk through the details of what each step in the onboarding process involves. We’ll also suggest when an employee can take on part of the checklist so it doesn’t all fall on you.

One caveat — whether or not you delegate, but especially if you do, make sure each person responsible initials a tracking sheet to make sure every step gets done.

All these steps can be taken care of in a (paid) orientation shift for your new employee, which can range in length from two hours to a full day. If you have multiple employees starting around the same time, try to get them all in for an orientation together.


Week 1 Checklist

Help new employees start off right with this customizable Word doc of tasks for their first week, including HR, certifications, training, and more.


New Hire Checklist for Restaurant Employees

Do the dang paperwork.

It’s not fun but it must be done. Before your employee can get to work, you’ll need to get all their paperwork in order. This crucial step should be done by a manager or owner.

The following two forms need to be collected and submitted:

  • W4 form to calculate how much federal tax you’ll have to withhold from each employee’s pay.
  • I-9 form, which is submitted to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to make sure a new employee is legally allowed to work in the U.S.

Keep copies of all of these forms for every employee in their file.

Then, you’ll need to report the employee to your state new hire registry.

Set up direct deposit.

Most restaurants pay their staff with direct deposit, meaning the money is deposited right from the restaurant’s account (sometimes, their payroll-specific account) into the worker’s account.

Have your new hire submit a blank check or their ACH bank information so you can set up their direct deposit as soon as possible so they can get paid without a long lag after they start working.

This step should also be done by a manager or owner.

For more info on how to do restaurant payroll, check out this guide

Outline restaurant and team policies.

Every restaurant is different, so it’s important to go over your company’s policies and expectations when it comes to things like dress code, staff meals, behavior, and most importantly, harassment.

Your restaurant might have a uniform or dress code, it may not. You might provide free staff meals or opt for a staff discount on food instead. But when it comes to behavior and harassment, make it clear to every new hire that you hold your employees to a high standard of behavior, that you trust them to be respectful at all times, and that any claim of harassment will be taken seriously and addressed.

A trusted, tenured employee (who has been trained to explain the above) can take care of this step, or it can be done by a manager or owner.

Outline staff schedule policies.

It’s important to outline your restaurant’s staff scheduling policy as early as possible. This includes shift length expectations, break policies, how to submit requests for time off, whether or not they should expect to be called in to cover shifts, how to handle sick days, and an overview of your scheduling system, whether it’s an app, an online scheduling template, or a printed out schedule in the break room.

In this conversation, you should also schedule a new employee’s first shadowing shifts when their on-the-job training will begin.

This conversation can be led by a tenured and trained employee.

Set up benefits.

Within the restaurant industry, providing full employee benefits is unfortunately pretty rare. Businesses with 50 or more employees are required to provide health benefits, but many small businesses can’t afford to provide things like 401k matching, dental, or health benefits to their employees.

If you do provide any of these benefits, go through the paperwork and/or systems required with your new employee.

However, if you don’t, hopefully you’re able to provide some other alternative benefits, like transit reimbursement, gym membership reimbursement, or childcare coverage. Explain your policies around the benefits you do provide, and get your new employee set up in any online systems related to the benefits.

This should be done by an owner or manager.

Set them up in your staff systems.

At the beginning of most new jobs, there’s an influx of usernames and passwords and ID numbers, and a restaurant job is no different.

Get your employee set up in your POS system, your employee payment portal (where they can see things like pay stubs and tax information), and your scheduling app, if you use one. Give a brief overview of how to use each system. There might be other programs like vendor management, inventory ordering, and accounting tools or analytics, depending on the role.

A trusted employee can run through this step with your new hire, but you might need to get them access, first.

Talk history, mission, and brand.

Briefly tell the new hire the story of your restaurant and outline your mission and goals for the restaurant.

Depending on your concept, you might also want to share information about your brand and how you display it in decor, social media, and style of food.

Share your management approach with your new hire. Tell them what kind of boss you strive to be and what kind of environment your team has built.

For front-of-house staff, share high-level goals of what you want every guest to feel as they’re served at your restaurant. For back-of-house, share your goals for the culinary experience, the origins of your menu, and your approach to food allergies.

This step should be done by an owner or manager.

Talk roles and hierarchy.

Make sure your new hire knows who does what. It’s a small thing and it only takes a few minutes, but without this step, it’s easy for a new employee to feel overwhelmed on day one.

Write out the company hierarchy — or have it premade in a document in your handbook — including the names of every employee, and give a very brief overview of each role. This way, your new hire will know who to turn to if they have a question about something in particular.

This step can be done by a tenured staff member.

Set them up with a buddy or mentor.

Before your new hire starts, designate one of your best-performing staff members as the new hire’s buddy or mentor. They’ll be the new hire’s point person for any questions in their first few weeks and beyond.

Whether or not the buddy will also be the person training your new hire is up to you — there’s pros and cons to either way of doing it — but make sure you’ve gone over your expectations of what it means to be a buddy to the employee you’ve tasked with it.

This step should be done by an owner or manager.

Give them their 30-60-90 day checklist.

Set up a checklist with skills your new hire will learn and milestones they’ll have achieved at the 30-day mark, the 60-day mark, and the 90-day mark of their new job. This helps show your new hire that you want them to stick around and that you’re invested in them learning new skills and growing their career in your organization.

You can leave some of the milestones and learnings blank for the employee to fill out themselves, or you can have a prescribed timeline that you want all employees to follow. You can also choose to outline the things that you, as an employer, will have done for the employee in those same time frames.

These skills and milestones can be as vague as “is familiar with most recipes in the recipe bible,” or as specific as “can comfortably handle x amount of tickets in x timeframe.”

This step should be done by the manager (or other senior employee) who will be responsible for the check-ins with the new hire.

Give them your employee handbook.

Your employee handbook should summarize everything you’ve covered in the onboarding process, from your core values to your policies, as well as an outline of what should be expected to be covered in the training process.

You want this handbook to be something your staff can refer back to, so be thorough when building it and keep it updated. Give the handbook to your new employee, go through any key passages together, and be available to answer questions and explain reasoning for policies or approaches to doing work.

This step can be done by a tenured employee.

Set up a check-in schedule.

Regular check-ins are common in the corporate world but are way underutilized in the restaurant industry. These check-ins are great for catching small problems before they get bigger and preventing turnover.

Unlike the 30-60-90-day check-ins, these don’t have any goals or milestones in mind: They’re exclusively for an employee and their direct manager to have a quick conversation about how things are going within the job and in their life, if the employee chooses to share.

Since you’re likely strapped for time, these check-ins don’t need to be longer than 10 or 15 minutes, as long as they’re done regularly. Shoot for every two weeks.

Making sure your new hire knows about these check-ins. This will communicate to them that you care about how they’re acclimating to their new job and that you care about their well-being in general.

This step should be done by the manager (or other senior employee) who will be responsible for the check-ins with the new hire.

And that’s it.

A thorough orientation process saves you headaches down the line and prevents turnover by showing a new hire that you invest time and care into each of your employees. Keep in mind that this early stage is when you’re making your real first impression on your new hire. Make sure they know you’re open to answering any questions they might have throughout the process.

Related Restaurant Employee Resources


Week 1 Checklist

Help new employees start off right with this customizable Word doc of tasks for their first week, including HR, certifications, training, and more.


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