6 ways onboarding employees in restaurants and hospitality is unique

The hospitality industry, with its bustling restaurants and vibrant hotels, is a world of its own. Yet, despite its unique charms, it faces an age-old challenge: high employee turnover. It’s an issue that, for too long, has been either overlooked or resignedly accepted. 

But, it doesn’t have to be this way. 

A strategic onboarding process can be the game-changer, transforming how staff engage with their workplace. Let's dive into five ways onboarding in this sector is distinct, and how tweaking it can spell a world of difference.

1. Hands-on training focus

In hospitality, onboarding often emphasizes practical, hands-on training. In most other industries, onboarding might be a week-long process of meetings and paperwork. Not so in hospitality. Here, the environment is dynamic, and the pace is fast. 

New hires often need to hit the ground running, which means onboarding must be efficient and practical. It's about teaching them to swim in choppy waters, not just showing them the pool. This requires a mix of on-the-job training with bite-sized learning sessions that fit into the busy schedule of a restaurant or hotel.

2. Prioritizing soft skills

Sure, hard skills matter. But in hospitality, it’s the soft skills that often make or break the guest experience. Onboarding should, therefore, emphasize empathy, communication, and adaptability. Role-playing scenarios, customer service drills, and feedback sessions can be excellent tools for honing these skills, helping employees to not just serve, but delight.

Onboarding in this sector includes training on handling various customer interactions, managing complaints, and maintaining a positive demeanor. This aspect is more pronounced than in industries where customer interaction might be limited or more transactional.

3. Shift work and flexibility 

The onboarding process in restaurants and hospitality often includes training on the nuances of shift work, including night, weekend, and holiday shifts. This is less common in traditional 9-to-5 office environments. New employees are also often trained to adapt to various roles as needed, reflecting the dynamic nature of the industry.

4. Health and safety protocols

While health and safety are important in all industries, in restaurants and hospitality, there is a significant focus on food safety, hygiene standards, and sometimes alcohol service laws. Onboarding includes detailed training on these aspects, which is more specific and rigorous compared to other industries that might not deal directly with food and beverage services.

5. Diverse roles

A hotel or restaurant is a tapestry of roles, from chefs and servers to housekeeping and front desk staff. Each role demands a unique skill set and a tailored approach to training. Generic onboarding just doesn’t cut it. Customized onboarding pathways that cater to the specific needs and challenges of each role can significantly boost confidence and competence in new hires.

6.  Cultural and linguistic diversity

Especially in global cities or tourist destinations, restaurant and hospitality businesses often have a culturally diverse customer base and workforce. 

Onboarding in these industries might include training in cultural sensitivity, basic phrases in multiple languages, or understanding diverse dietary preferences and customs. 

This level of cultural and linguistic emphasis is less common in industries that operate within a more homogeneous market or have less direct interaction with a diverse clientele.

Continuous learning and growth

The hospitality world is ever-evolving, and your staff should evolve with it. Onboarding is not a one-off event but the beginning of an ongoing learning journey. Encourage a culture of continuous improvement and provide opportunities for skill enhancement and career development. This not only reduces turnover but also creates a team that’s engaged, skilled, and invested in the success of the business.

In the restaurant and hospitality sector, an effective onboarding process is more than a nicety – it's a necessity. It’s about creating an environment where employees feel valued, skilled, and part of something bigger than themselves. 

By rethinking and reshaping how we welcome and train our teams, we can turn the tide on turnover, and in doing so, uplift the entire industry. It's not just about filling positions; it's about building a committed and capable workforce that will drive your business forward. 

Let’s not just accept high turnover as the norm. Instead, let's strive for a better employee experience, one onboarding session at a time.

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