March 25

Secrets To Onboarding New Employees for Increased Engagement in Restaurants


A Guide To Onboarding New Employees and Keeping Them Engaged in Your Restaurant to Save Time, Energy, and Money.

With warmer and longer days on the horizon, the hiring season has officially begun.

If you’re like other food and beverage businesses, you’re gearing up for increased traffic by hiring new team members to help make this Spring and Summer smooth and lucrative.

Luckily, with a record number of applicants on Poached, now is the perfect time to make a few great hires—but that won’t guarantee you’re entirely out of the weeds.

Onboarding new employees and emphasizing increased engagement in the first few months of training is critical to improving retention rates. You must pay close attention to this process to ensure that great hires stay throughout the busy season.

Christin Marvin, Restaurant Catalyst and Coach, shared her insights on creating a solid onboarding process and what she’s seen work in other restaurants to increase engagement.

Why Is Onboarding Important To Increasing New Employee Engagement?

Think back on a time when you started a new job. Your feelings were probably teetering between excitement and nervousness—will this be a great opportunity or a professional setback?

The onboarding experience is a weighted first impression that confirms how the employee feels about accepting the role.

“First impressions with new hires in a restaurant are undeniably crucial, especially in this day and age when competition is stronger than it’s ever been and applicants are inundated with job alerts on a daily basis,” Marvin said. “The initial experience sets the tone for an employee’s transition into the team and their ability to deliver an exceptional guest experience.”

Refining your onboarding process to be welcoming, professional, and supportive is essential to setting up the new hire for success and increasing the likelihood of giving the job their full attention (rather than putting that energy into looking for another job ASAP).

“Bringing a new employee into an environment with no orientation and no training schedule puts your company at risk and sets the employee up for failure,” Marvin shared. “Everyone wants to be confident in their abilities to do their job and build trust with the company they work for, and those things cannot happen if their initial experience with you is chaotic.”

Investing the proper attention to your onboarding process gives each new hire a real chance at success and is critical to ensuring your methods effectively increase engagement.

Key Features of a Successful Onboarding Process

Of course, you’re already familiar with the technical aspects of onboarding new employees, like filing employment forms and gathering copies of food handler cards. Still, successful onboarding processes go beyond the technicalities and encourage new hires to integrate within the company culture.

“Firstly, restaurant managers need to ensure that they are as thoughtful about the employee experience as they are about the guest experience, from the first impression to the last,” Marvin said. “By creating a formal plan for your restaurant’s onboarding process, you ensure that the experience is informative, efficient, interactive, and consistent, providing a solid framework for future success for employees.”

Setting the standard for onboarding through a documented procedure is essential to consistency. You and your managers need a process to refer to and expand upon to ensure your new hires are welcomed, trained, and supported.

“The most common mistake I see restaurant leaders make is not preparing for a new hire to join their team,” Marvin explained.

So, as you review or create an onboarding process, consider these effective ways to increase new employee engagement.

  1. Lay the foundation with a welcoming process.
    As mentioned, first impressions are everything when engaging new hires—so a strong welcome within the first week goes a long way.

    Organize formal introductions with owners and others on the management team. During these sessions, each leader can welcome the new hire and share important information about the business history, company values, mission and culture, and career opportunities.

    Marvin shared that a thoughtful welcome is integral in fostering an inclusive workplace ambiance and ensuring new hires feel seen as a valued asset to the company’s success.
  2. Encourage community.
    Consider a group orientation and training model if you’re onboarding a few new employees simultaneously.

    “One strategy that has worked well with the teams I’ve helped in the past is organizing group orientations to foster a sense of community among new employees,” Marvin said.

    While focusing on introducing new hires to existing team members and leaders is critical, creating camaraderie among new hires can be a great way to ensure a good team dynamic quickly and that those new hires can lean on each other as they learn and grow within the company.
  3. Incorporate mentorship with star employees.
    The benefits of identifying a few of your star employees as trainers are endless.

    First, you’re building a mentorship scenario that encourages team connection and ensures new hires are trained in a way you approve. Second, it validates existing team members as leaders within your company, enhancing job satisfaction and increasing retention rates overall.

    Be sure to include these employees in your onboarding plan so that they are trained and aware of their role as mentors.
  4. Don’t hesitate to leverage technology.
    “Some establishments I’ve worked with have leveraged technology, incorporating mobile apps and training videos to enrich the onboarding experience, making it both captivating and easily accessible to new employees.”

    We’re seeing many new people enter the hospitality workforce. These folks don’t necessarily have the built-in culinary or service skills needed to provide exceptional service and identify opportunities to enhance it uniquely.

    Tools like Rouxbie and Knowbie are fantastic, low-cost additions to your training plan. While you’re training for how things work in your business, these apps can ensure new hires learn foundational knowledge and offer career development opportunities to increase engagement.
  5. Participate in frequent check-ins.
    As always, scheduling 1:1 check-ins is a fantastic way to demonstrate your support for a new hire’s success.

    “Regular check-ins by leaders and managers with new hires are crucial. Dedicate a few minutes each week to assess the new hire’s progress, acknowledge strengths, and identify areas for improvement,” Marvin said. “Recognizing that employees seek growth and development, and consistent communication about their strengths and weaknesses is key.”

    Investing time in monitoring a new hire’s progress will also provide invaluable insight into what is working and what is not working in your onboarding process, allowing you to make adjustments as needed.

Marvin expressed that an onboarding process incorporating “a blend of personalization, interactive experiences, technology integration, and mentorship forms a robust approach that enables managers and operators to effectively engage new hires, laying the groundwork for sustained success and retention.”

If you’re looking for guidance on building or reviewing your process for onboarding new employees, don’t hesitate to email Christin Marvin directly at

For more tips and insights for restaurant leaders, subscribe to her podcast, No Hesitations.

About the author


Ashley McNally likes to cook, loves to bake, and is always dreaming of her next meal. With over 13 years of experience working in various roles within a restaurant — McNally has made a home in hospitality.


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