Restaurant training 101: A complete guide to training your restaurant team

Restaurants are busy places. There’s a lot to do and a lot to learn. That’s why restaurant training for employees is essential for the success of your business. Not only does training your restaurant employees create a better working experience for them, it ultimately makes a better dining experience for your customers.

This guide will cover everything you need to know about restaurant training and help you create your own training program and manual. We’ll cover:

  • The benefits of training your restaurant employees
  • What topics should your restaurant training cover
  • The importance of effectively onboarding your team
  • Different training methods to help your employees learn
  • How to create your restaurant training program

Let’s get started.

What is restaurant training?

Restaurant training is the system you create for your restaurant that outlines the rules, regulations, and expectations that your employees must follow

There are a lot of moving parts in a restaurant, which means a solid restaurant training program can be pretty robust. A restaurant training program should cover everything from etiquette and food handling to safety and compliance. 

And while some industries may be able to take a “one and done” approach to training, the best restaurant training is continuous. Whether it’s your employee’s first day on the job or they’ve worked at a restaurant for over a decade, they should be continually learning and training. An ongoing training process will help your staff with any changes to your business, lead to greater productivity, and allow for employees to grow. 

Why is restaurant training so important?

There’s no denying that putting together an effective restaurant training program takes a lot of time and energy. But the benefits of having a training program for your restaurant employees can’t be overstated. 

Let’s look at some benefits of a high-quality training program that creates a high-quality team.

You can expect consistent service and performance

When you train your employees using the same method, you can assume you’ll produce a team that works similarly. Using a training program will help assure your employees are delivering consistent service and performance. 

Your employees will be prepared

A lot can happen in a restaurant setting. From running out of menu items to food being sent back, no two days will be the same for your employees. A solid training program will help your employees feel prepared to handle various situations when they come up. And they’ll feel confident in their abilities to troubleshoot problems when needed.

You’ll create a safer working environment for your employees

The safety of your employees and customers should always be a top priority. With the help of an effective restaurant training program, your employees will be trained and up-to-date on all the latest workplace safety policies and procedures.

The service at your restaurant will be impeccable

When all of your employees are trained through the same process, you create a team that knows how to work together. And a team that knows how to work together is an unstoppable force. Your customers will benefit from efficient service every time they dine with you—something you’ll notice when those five-star reviews come piling in.

Your employees will be happier

When an employee can walk into their job feeling confident, you’ve got a worker who’s comfortable in their position—and it will show. When employees are happy with the level of restaurant training they get, they’re more likely to stay at their job. This causes turnover rates to decrease. And happy employees are 12% more productive in the workplace. 

Your customers will be happier

Efficient and consistent service, a safe environment, and happy team members? That’s a recipe for customer satisfaction. And the cherry on top? Growth.

Growth is the benefit of properly training your restaurant employees. When your employees are happy and prepared, customers will have a great experience. They’ll love your restaurant, recommend it to their friends and become repeat customers, and your business will grow.

Plus, your employees will too. Especially when you invest in them with continuous training.

What topics should be covered in your restaurant training program?

For your restaurant training program to tick all the boxes for your employees and customers, it needs to be detailed. Why? Because the restaurant industry is like no other, which means your employees need to be trained for all that can happen. 

Giving your employees a training program that covers various topics helps prepare them for whatever might come their way. Remember, being able to think on their feet is an essential part of what makes a successful restaurant team member.

Did you know? All training must be paid to stay compliant with state and federal labor laws. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employees must be paid any time they’re working. And that includes training.

Let’s explore the topics you should include in your restaurant training program.

Etiquette and dress code guidelines

While the term etiquette might have you worried about which fork you should use for which course, etiquette guidelines for your restaurant are about creating an atmosphere. And if you’re running a fine dining establishment, you may need employees who know the difference between a dinner fork and an oyster fork.

You can use the atmosphere and style of your restaurant to inform your etiquette and dress code guidelines. For example, you may want all employees at your casual coffee shop to wear the same color aprons over their own choice of clothing. Or your casual dining restaurant may require all employees to wear all black. 

While every restaurant is different, here are a few general etiquette and dress code guidelines to help you start thinking about what’s appropriate for your restaurant:

  • Always be friendly and welcoming to customers.
  • Keep the conversation light and use your best judgment on whether a customer wants to chat or would prefer to be left alone.
  • Know your menu, and when you don’t have the answer to a question, always respond with “I’ll find out” or “Let me ask the chef” instead of “I don’t know.”
  • You should never touch a customer, even if you spill a drink or food on them. 
  • Keep an eye on all of your tables to ensure you’re addressing any customer needs as they arise.
  • Don’t start clearing plates until everyone at the table is finished eating.

As mentioned, these are simply suggestions. You may read one of these “rules” and know immediately that you do the opposite in your restaurant. That isn’t wrong; it’s just different. You know your business best, so train your employees on etiquette and dress code guidelines for your establishment.

Customer service

The restaurant industry is one of the most customer-focused industries in existence. Customer service can be why your restaurant is a success, but it can also be why it struggles. 

The first step in training your employees in excellent customer service is to define what that means to your business. When creating your restaurant training program, take the time to think about your best and worst customer service experiences. Ask yourself what made them great or what made them unpleasant. 

Some customer service tips can help any restaurant improve its customer service track record:

  • Have a standard welcoming and greeting process for guests arriving and seated.
  • Be knowledgeable about the menu and the venue. If someone asks about a menu item, servers should be able to answer their questions. And if a customer asks for directions to the washroom, every employee should be able to answer.
  • In regards to the menu, have some flexibility. Accommodating a customer’s dietary requests and needs is a definite check in the excellent customer service box.
  • Check on your customers regularly to make sure their needs are met.
  • Ask customers for their feedback on their meals. This gives you tangible information about their experience and shows that you value their opinion. 

Food safety

When discussing food safety, we’re talking about a huge part of every restaurant employee’s job. Knowledge of food safety ensures the food served to customers is prepared hygienically, isn’t contaminated, and is safe to eat. 

From foodborne illnesses to cross-contamination prevention to proper food storage, there’s a lot to cover under the food safety umbrella. But there are also legal considerations when it comes to food safety. 

At a minimum, your food safety training should take employees through the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food Code recommendations for safe food handling practices. This is required of all restaurant employees for your restaurant to pass regular health inspections.

Workplace safety

Workplace injuries are common in the restaurant industry, from cuts and lacerations to falls, slips, and trips. That’s why it’s so vital for you to have workplace safety standards in place at your restaurant, and that you’ve taken the time to train your employees on those standards. 

Do everything you can to avoid injuries in your restaurant with proper training for all team members.  

Restaurant training fact: In 2019, workers suffered 93,800 nonfatal injuries in full-service restaurants. Approximately 33% of those injuries resulted in at least one day away from work. 

Cleaning and sanitation requirements

Having a clean restaurant is extremely important for your business. A poll conducted by Cintas found that 75% of Americans won’t visit a restaurant if it has negative reviews about its cleanliness. 

And in a post-pandemic world, cleanliness and sanitization are more important than ever. When training your employees on cleaning and sanitizing procedures, the first step is to clarify what falls under their responsibility. Create a written guideline for employees to follow and include a checklist to ensure all cleaning is completed when needed. 

Opening and closing procedures

While the movies make opening and closing a restaurant look as easy as flipping a sign from “open” to “closed,” a list of pre-opening and post-closing procedures must be followed. 

We recommend creating a checklist for this very purpose. Checklists are an efficient way to explain what needs to happen and make sure each task is completed. Make the process even more efficient by going digital—use a team communication app to send opening and closing reminders directly to employees’ mobile phones.

 Your opening and closing procedures will be unique to your restaurant, but here’s an example of what they could look like:

Opening procedures

  • Turn on your lights and choose the music for the day.
  • Make sure everyone clocks in for the day.
  • Check the register for receipt paper and replace it if needed. 
  • Open your register and count out the money for the day.
  • Sweep or vacuum the floors.
  • Stock your server stations with glassware, silverware, and napkins.
  • Review reservations for the day and make a note of any special requests.
  • Review the daily specials with servers.
  • Check bathrooms for cleanliness, and restock soap and paper towels if needed.
  • Make sure all servers know the daily specials and how to talk about them to customers.
  • Unlock the doors and turn on/put up your open sign.

Closing procedures

  • Lock the doors and turn off /take down your open sign.
  • Go through your cleaning and sanitization checklist.
  • Refill salt, pepper, and condiments.
  • Fold napkins and tablecloths. 
  • Take out the trash and replace garbage bags.
  • Close out all cash registers.
  • Close all card batches for payment processing.
  • Make sure no food is left out of the refrigerator, and the refrigerator is set to 40℉.
  • Send any necessary messages via your team communication app for team members on the next shift.
  • Make sure all employees clock out.

Role-specific training is essential

There are a lot of different roles within a restaurant. You have front-of-house welcoming customers, bartenders mixing drinks, cooks preparing food, and everything in between. Depending on the structure of your restaurant, you may have some employees who fill multiple roles and others who strictly work in one role. 

Whatever the case, it’s integral that all employees are trained in the roles they’ll be performing. Beyond the restaurant’s day-to-day operations, every individual needs to know how to effectively complete their specific role at your establishment. 

Technology training

Technology makes the world go ’round. And technology also makes your business run smoothly. Even if you aren’t using a lot of technology in your restaurant, odds are there’s still something that your employees will need to learn. 

When you’re training your employees, set out some time to do a technology training day (or a tech-training hour). The technical side of their job is a lot different than their restaurant role, so giving them physical and mental space to switch over to technology training can be helpful.

Make sure you cover all the tools you use by putting together a list of all the technology you use in your restaurant. Don’t forget to include:

  • Point of sale (POS) terminals (including handheld POS systems)
  • Contactless payment tools
  • Scheduling tools
  • Time tracking tools
  • Team communication methods
  • Payroll systems
  • Kitchen order display screens
  • Self-order kiosks
  • Cash registers
  • Inventory management software

With so many topics, where do you start training for your restaurant staff?

We’ve just thrown a lot of information your way. So you might ask yourself, “Where do I start?” And while it might seem self-explanatory, you start at the beginning. 

When you create your restaurant training program, it should start with adequately onboarding your employees from day one, and continue through with training and support every day your employees are on the job. 

Look at onboarding and its central role in your restaurant training. 

What is restaurant onboarding and why is it important?

Restaurant onboarding teaches new hires how to be successful in their jobs and gives them insight into your company’s culture and procedures. It involves everything from orientation to completing paperwork and training. 

The onboarding process can last several days to several months and is the cornerstone of your training program. 

Onboarding is essential for the success of your restaurant. Labor is one of the most significant expenses when running a restaurant. So having a labor force that’s well-trained and needs little oversight help managers save time. It also keeps your employees motivated and reduces employee turnover.

Follow these six steps to create an onboarding process that sets your employees up for success:

  1. Establish your employee orientation process. Create a written manual with actionable steps that you can take to onboard all of your new employees. The best way to establish a repeatable process is to set up a checklist. It should include everything from setting up their work email to the ins and out of their on-the-job training.
  2. Hire the right people. The first step to successfully onboarding new hires is having new hires onboard. With Homebase hiring, you can create job posts, post them to the top job boards, and manage applications all in one place. And once you hire a candidate, you can seamlessly import them into your Homebase team and schedule their first shift.
  3. Get ready for their first shift. Before your new hire starts their first shift, complete all of their paperwork. This includes contracts, personal information, and federal and state tax forms. With Homebase, your new hire receives a handy new hire packet with every required U.S. federal and state form. 
  4. Make your employee feel welcome. When your newest employees come into your restaurant, please make an effort to make them feel like a welcome and essential part of the team. Introduce your new hire in person so they can get to know their peers. It’s important to remember to tailor your approach to each employee’s individual needs and learning style. 
  5. Explain the rules and start your restaurant training program. Now’s the time to dig into the employee handbook and review policies. Remember, there’s a lot to cover in restaurant training. Be sure to share all this information in a way that doesn’t overwhelm your new hire. Spread the information over their first few shifts to give them time to digest the new policies and procedures.
  6. Build in time for questions. Possibly the most important step of all is to give your new hires plenty of time to ask questions. Make a point of asking if they have any questions or need clarification often.  

Effective restaurant training methods

Everyone learns differently. A restaurant training program that incorporates different teaching techniques and styles is a great way to help all your employees reinforce their learning.

Peer-to-peer training aka the buddy system

A successful restaurant relies on a team that can collaborate. Building relationships and trust between your employees is vital for every restaurant. The buddy system, or peer-to-peer training, helps your workers learn from each other and allows them to bond. 

Assign new workers a “buddy” who has worked at your restaurant for a while. The new hire will be able to shadow their teammate to learn the ins and outs of your restaurant. And because they’ll inevitably become closer, the new hire will feel comfortable asking their buddy questions. Collaborative learning encourages employees to discuss, clarify doubts, and solve problems together.


Who knows the job you’re training someone on better than someone already doing that job? That’s why shadowing another employee is a great way to train in a restaurant. 

Consider having new hires—or employees transitioning to new responsibilities—shadow an employee in the same role for a few shifts. They can observe the role and start to see what a “day in the life” will look like. It also allows them to ask questions at the moment without disrupting the flow of service. 


Gamification takes tasks your employees generally don’t want to do and turns them into something fun and exciting. It’s a great way to get your team excited about the latest training. And who doesn’t want to have employees who are excited and happy to complete their training program?

In a 2019 study by TalentLMS, 88% of respondents said that gamification makes them happier at work. So the benefits of gamification are long-lasting and positively impact how your employees feel at work.

If your restaurant training program is fun, your employees will be excited to participate and will feel more comfortable throughout.

Team building

Another great way to bring fun into your training is through team building exercises. And before you roll your eyes, we’re not talking about trust falls and potato sack races. Team building exercises are an excellent way for your employees to bond and build those meaningful connections with each other, and they don’t have to be just a social exercise. 

Your team building exercises can be designed to provide your employees with important training information. And much like gamification, team building exercises are fun and help to keep your employees engaged in what they’re learning.  

Team building exercises also allow your employees to learn more about the other jobs in your restaurant. They can see what goes into the different roles, which can make them more empathetic to their coworkers and helps them make on-the-job decisions that benefit the entire team.

Did you know? Team building exercises are an effective way to motivate your employees and encourage productivity. Team building can give your team a 10x boost to their work ethic and innovation.

Video training

What’s the first thing you do when you don’t know how to do something? Most of us head to Google or YouTube to find a guide on how to do it. Lean into this by incorporating video training into your restaurant training program. 

Whether you find online resources that align with your training process or create your videos, video training is a great way to complement your in-person training.

Using video training is also less intrusive to the daily running of your restaurant. Employees can complete their training when they have free time, and you aren’t required to have everyone together simultaneously. Remember, employees should always be paid for their training, so be sure that they’re clocked in when completing video training.

6 steps to create a restaurant employee training program

A lot goes into creating a restaurant training program that supports the needs of your employees and your business. It can be overwhelming information and figuring out how to distill it into a cohesive training program. With these six steps, you’ll be well on your way to building a comprehensive restaurant training program. 

1. Identify your training topics

Every restaurant will have different needs and requirements for their training. Do your bartenders need to know how to run the espresso machine? Are servers required to bus tables? These questions will help you determine the topics you must cover in your training. 

Think about everything your employees will need to do during a shift, and once you’ve identified those topics, rank them in order of importance. This will give you a clear picture of what needs to be covered first and what can wait longer.

Here’s an example of what a training program may look like for a server:

Employee role: Front of house When training takes place Delivered by
1. Clocking in and out Day 1 Floor supervisor 
2. Overview of how the back of house is run Day 1 Floor supervisor 
3. Food and drink training Day 1 Floor supervisor 
4. Greeting customers and creating a positive experience Day 1 Assigned buddy
5. Taking orders and dealing with special requests and dietary requirements Day 1 Floor supervisor 
6. Food service rules and procedures Day 1 Floor supervisor 
7. Floor plan and restaurant layout Day 1 Assigned buddy
8. Presenting the check Day 2 Assigned buddy
9. Closing the bill through your point-of-sale system using cash, credit, debit, or a gift card (discounts, voiding items, etc.) Day 2 Floor supervisor 
10. Dealing with unsatisfied customers and returning food to the kitchen Day 2 Floor supervisor 
11. Closing up procedures Day 2 Floor supervisor 
12. Employee tip system Day 2 Assigned buddy

Source: iSpring Solutions

2. Decide how you’ll deliver your training program to employees

There are two main methods to deliver your training program to your team. You can print a physical version, or you can have a digital version of your training program.

The benefit of having a digital training manual is that you can update it, and everyone will automatically have a revised version. Employees will also always be able to access the information from their phones, meaning they’ll be more likely to find answers to their questions without disrupting service. 

You can embed media like videos, images, and sound clips into your manual when you deliver it digitally. Finally, it’s a much better choice for the environment. 

3. Write and organize your training program

It’s time to put your fingers to keyboard. Be sure to organize the content in a way that is easy for your employees to read and quickly find answers to their questions.

Consider using Google Docs, Notion, or another app that allows you to have a living document. You can easily update a living document and share the edits with your team. With a digital manual, this can be done in just a few clicks. 

4. Share your restaurant training manual with your team

Now that you’ve written your restaurant training manual, it’s time to get it in the hands of your employees. Whether you send it via email or direct message, ensuring your team gets a copy is essential.

With the Homebase team communication app, you can deliver messages and attachments directly to individual team members or groups. You’ll also be notified when your team members have read your messages so you can confirm that they’ve received the training manual. 

A team communication app will streamline your workflow and help you get important information to your employees in a timely manner.

Streamline your restaurant training process with Homebase

Onboarding and training your restaurant employees is a complicated process. But with Homebase, it’s never been easier. 

Onboarding new hires is a seamless digital process, thanks to Homebase. Send your welcome packet and your training program on their first day, and have them complete their tax information. And you can rest assured that all documents are organized and securely stored right in Homebase.

The Homebase communication tool lets you update your training program and easily inform employees of any updates. You can share new policies and other important work information—and ensure employees read and sign them.

Get started with Homebase today, and revolutionize your training processes. 

Restaurant training FAQs 

What is restaurant training?

Restaurant training is a system that outlines the policies, best practices, and expectations restaurant employees are expected to follow in any given establishment. This specialty training covers everything from etiquette, food safety and storage, compliance, serving, technology systems, and more. 

Restaurant training is an ongoing process that starts on the employee’s first day of work and is continuously built on.

Why does my restaurant need a restaurant training program?

There are so many benefits to having an effective training program for your restaurant. You can expect consistent service and performance from your employees, who will be prepared for whatever comes their way. You’ll create a safer working environment for your employees and customers when team members are properly trained on all safety procedures. When your workers are trained well, you can offer your customers impeccable service whenever they dine with you.

An excellent restaurant training program means you’ll have happier employees and customers. 

What topics should my restaurant training program cover?

There are lots of topics that your employees need to be trained on in the restaurant industry. Here’s a list that covers the essentials of working at a restaurant.

  • Etiquette and dress code guidelines. This covers everything from what side of the table you serve customers to what color shirt you wear for your shift.
  • Customer service. The restaurant industry is very customer-focused. Every employee at your restaurant should be trained in customer service.
  • Food safety. Employees should ensure the food served to customers is prepared hygienically, isn’t contaminated, and is safe to be eaten.
  • Workplace safety. Your restaurant should have workplace safety standards that employees are trained in.
  • Cleaning and sanitation requirements. Create a written guideline for employees to follow. Include a checklist of all cleaning requirements to ensure all cleaning is completed when needed. 
  • Opening and closing procedures. Employees should be trained in all the pre-opening and post-closing procedures that must be followed.
  • Role-specific training. This should outline what is expected of each role at your restaurant. 
  • Technology training. This is everything from your point-of-sale system to your time tracking tool. 

From onboarding to on-the-job, Homebase helps you streamline processes in your restaurant.

We’ve got all the tools you need to automate and manage hiring, onboarding, and training your employees so that you can grow your restaurant team fast. Try Homebase today.

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