Restaurant Hiring Guide | Onboarding and Important Documents

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Alexandra Olive
August 31, 2022
restaurant hiring and onboarding

Restaurants are notorious for having higher turnover rates than other industries. They are also unique, as you need to quickly integrate your new employees into a fast-paced environment. 

So how do you overcome these challenges? Proper onboarding procedures make it easy.

In this article, we will outline a comprehensive restaurant onboarding process. Check out our guide to ensure your new hires can hit the ground running.


What is employee onboarding?

After finding a good candidate, employee onboarding is the step you take to integrate the new hire into your team. Typically, this includes a new-hire orientation, a short training period, and giving them a taste of what your restaurant's company culture is like. 


Why is restaurant onboarding unique?

Restaurant onboarding is unique because its turnaround times are much faster. Employees sometimes require special certifications and licenses. Plus, the turnover rate in restaurants is much higher than in most other industries. Restaurants need people working sooner in the onboarding process.

What does the onboarding process look like?

The typical onboarding process for restaurants involves four steps:

  1. A review of values, culture, and history
  2. General paperwork required by local/federal governments
  3. A high-level training review using a learning management system (LMS)
  4. On-the-floor action with a mentor by day one or two


New employees often experience a "trial by fire" effect. Many new employees learn quickly whether they can tolerate this kind of environment.


The restaurant onboarding process needs to be straightforward to understand. This ensures that employees can hit the ground running, becoming helpful from day one.


Why is onboarding crucial?

Onboarding is crucial because labor is one of the most expensive costs when running a restaurant. Creating a system to streamline everything allows business owners to save up to 75% of administrative time. With proper onboarding, business owners can focus on development instead of managing small fires.

Without proper restaurant onboarding, owners are stuck managing compliance, dealing with higher employee turnover, and struggling to motivate employees. When your process looks and feels professional and streamlined, employees won't feel so overwhelmed.  

Someone who is onboarding at a restaurant


How do I onboard a new hire?

To onboard new employees, you can either choose to process them manually or use employee onboarding software. Manual processing takes more time and requires you to track the paperwork. Self-serve employee onboarding software saves time and ensures you meet all the legal requirements of tracking new employees. 


How do you onboard manually?

To onboard people manually, you'll need to follow these steps:

  1. Print out the required paperwork for signing.
  2. Review the documents for accuracy 
  3. Store the documents for record keeping purposes. 


There are, of course, additional steps necessary for verifying certifications or performing background checks. 


How to onboard using employee onboarding software

To use employee onboarding software, all you need to do is provide your employees with a link. All the required paperwork will automatically be tracked and stored for easy retrieval. Basically, what normally takes an hour manually can take you a few minutes to complete with software.


The right
restaurant HR software includes these onboarding features:


  • Sending reminders to new hires when they miss forms.
  • Storage of important documents to easily confirm compliance requirements.
  • Employees can easily fill in payroll information (so they receive paychecks quickly).
  • Improves morale by making this part of the onboarding process painless.


Is onboarding a server or hourly worker the same as onboarding a manager?

The onboarding process between the two can be similar. However, managers are often salaried, while servers are paid hourly. Because of this, you'll need to ensure that the paperwork you clarifies what they get. There should be a clear distinction between a manager's and a server's paperwork. 

Servers are also more likely to work in multiple positions. In these cases, you might have to establish a different hourly rate for different kinds of work. If you account for tips in their hourly wages, you'll want to account for the lack of tips when working other positions. 

Also, managers and servers will often qualify for different benefits packages. Those with a bit more experience and seniority typically receive more benefits, such as a retirement plan. 

Finally, the training for a manager should be a bit more involved. Managers should still receive a high-level perspective on all positions. Servers, by extension, should only receive training for the positions they intend to work in. 


What should I include in an employee onboarding checklist?

There are four major things you should include in your employee onboarding checklist:
  • Ensure all the legally required documents are filled out.
  • Review procedure and culture (through an employee handbook).
  • Establish a schedule for training and later solo shifts. 
  • Ensure these documents are made continuously available for review.


What documentation do I need for onboarding?

First, you'll need to ensure you get all the legally necessary documents for onboarding. The documents under this list are not optional and change depending on where you live. Typically, you'll need tax forms, identification, and certifications. Some documents on this list are dependent on the position.


What are the required documents for onboarding in Canada?

If you live in Canada, here is the list of onboarding documents you are legally required to obtain:
  • Void check 
  • Required licenses and certifications
  • Contract or work agreement
  • TD1 
  • Criminal Record Check (If applicable)
  • Health and Benefits information (if applicable)
  • Serving it Right (If applying as a server)
  • Photo ID 


Canada often requires more certifications than US employees. However, most other information requests remind the same, such as tax information gathered from the TD1. 

On your side, be aware of the steps necessary to set up an account with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Meeting your business taxes through them is a requirement. 

By registering your business online through them, you can also recruit employees for free on the Government of Canada's Job Bank. So there are some benefits beyond paying taxes. 


What are the required documents for onboarding in The United States?

If you live in the USA, here is the list of onboarding documents you are legally required to obtain:
  • W-4 Form 
  • State Tax Form
  • I-9 Forms  
  • Non-disclosure agreement 
  • Void check 
  • Required licenses and certifications
  • Criminal Record Check (If applicable)
  • Contract or work agreement
  • Social Security Number
  • ID or Passport 


The required licenses and certifications for entry-level positions are menial. However, ServSafe is the governing body behind many food-related certifications. 

With full-time employees, inform them of FMLA, the Family and Medical Leave act. With this, employees are eligible for leave if they have been with their employee for one year. 

FMLA leave can result from medical emergencies, mental health, or military deployments. In many cases, you are still required to pay a portion of their check during this leave period. 


What other employee documentation should I have for onboarding?

When onboarding, you should also include the following documents:

  • Employee information form
  • Employee schedule
  • Job description
  • Employee handbook
  • Direct deposit form
  • Risk management policy
  • Organizational chart
  • Benefits overview 
  • Company calendar 
  • Health insurance information
  • Retirement documents 


What is an employee information form?

An employee information form allows you to track people in your restaurant more efficiently. It includes their position, the company they worked in, and when they worked. Typically, the information asked includes emergency contact information, just in case something happens at work. 


Do my employees need an employee information form?

Employee information forms provide easy access to information. You will typically use it to identify emergency contacts or determine who qualifies for a promotion. So, you don't need it. However, it provides easy access to information, making your job as an owner more manageable.


How should I set up an employee's schedule?

You should set up an employee's schedule as part of your restaurant onboarding process. You can choose to do this manually by looking at your current needs and making an approximation. Otherwise, you can use an integrated HR and scheduling solution to simplify and automate scheduling new employees.


What should I include in a server job description?

server's job description should clarify their responsibilities, duties, and what determines the most success in their role. Servers must often have good verbal communication skills and a great attitude. Servers should also be attentive to their customers by taking orders, answering questions, and helping where needed.


What should you include in an employee handbook?

An employee handbook is the "terms of service" for working there. It should specify procedures for employees at all levels, acting as the anchor that holds everyone accountable. The handbook should clarify what employees (and owners) are expected to do in any given situation.


What should you include in a benefits overview packet?

A benefits overview packet should include general information on a job's benefits. This clarifies an important point for new hires: what they get when working for you. Confirming pay, insurance, retirement, and vacation benefits are four general areas you need to include here. 


What do you include on a company calendar?

A company calendar draws attention to events that affect your employees. You can include events for employees (free pizza day) and outside events that affect the busyness of a restaurant (nearby sports events). Providing your new hire with an awareness of what's going on allows them to prepare. 


What employee onboarding software should I use?

The best employee onboarding solution works with the entire life cycle of a new hire. Using software that does this allows you to streamline the interview, easily digitize documents, provide self-service (so your employees can get information), and track their progress as their performance improves.  


Excellent restaurant onboarding software should also work with other parts of your business. These important areas include time tracking and scheduling. Ideally, you'll have an integrated system that allows your employees to punch in and get started, making them easy to track and pay properly.


Having a central system for all of this also makes your life easier. Rather than jumping between different programs, you have one place for everything, which is a must-have when managing multiple employees at multiple restaurants. 


This brings up an interesting question. What do you do about employee off-boarding? Creating a system for that can help you improve your employee experience. Check out our next article, "Restaurant Firing | Employee Off-Boarding" where we cover effective employee off-boarding process.

Ready to learn more about hiring new restaurant staff? Check out our free guide below!

Hiring guide for restaurants

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