The Best New Method for Cutting Your Onboarding Costs

2/17/16 8:00 AM Ted Vrountas


If you’ve worked in the restaurant industry longer than 27 months, congratulations. You’ve lasted longer than the average food service employee.

Don’t believe us? Check out these excerpts taken directly from a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics

“Within the private sector, workers in manufacturing had the highest tenure among
major industries, at 5.9 years in January 2014. In contrast, workers in leisure and
hospitality had the lowest median tenure (2.3 years).”

“Among the major occupations, workers in management, professional, and related
occupations had the highest median tenure (5.7 years) in January 2014. Within this
group, employees had the longest tenure in the following occupations: management (6.9 years), architecture and engineering (6.4 years), and education, training, and library (6.2 years). Workers in service occupations, who are generally younger than persons employed in management, professional, and related occupations, had the lowest median tenure (3.3 years).  Among employees working in service occupations, food preparation workers had the lowest median tenure, at 2.2 years.”

Food service employees spend an average of just under two years and three months at their place of employment. That’s the lowest median tenure of any occupation in any industry, and nobody else comes close.

It’s less than one-third the median amount of time someone in the management field spends in their respective position, and no other non-service occupation has an average tenure of less than three years.

So what gives?

Why is restaurant turnover so higher in food service than in any other industry?


Well, when you dig deeper into the data, the answer becomes a little clearer:

  1. Even though restaurant workforce demographics are changing, almost one-third of all 16-19 year-olds in the US work in a restaurant.

Most of these teens see their employment in food service as temporary – a stepping stone to bigger and better things. They’re on summer break earning some extra spending cash, or trying to beef up their resume before moving on to college. 

  1. Many food service establishments employ a lot of seasonal workers. In fact, the National Restaurant Association claims that US restaurants post more than 400,000 job openings during the summer months. The people who fill them come and go as the weather changes.
  1. The restaurant industry is highly competitive. Expert Carrie Luxom explains it nicely:

“The beauty of our restaurant culture is that there is a wide range of tastes represented. From curries to gyros to pastas, customers have a delicious spectrum from which to sample.

But here’s the catch 22 – so do employees.

If the opportunity for advancement and growth isn’t available, your company culture isn’t a good match for their skills and personality, or you don’t have a functional retention program in place, then employees will move on.

Remember: Employees have choices, just like your customers.”

Facing challenges like these, it’s becoming more and more important that restaurants take their time to hire the right people, and train them well – or watch them chase better opportunities elsewhere.

But when turnover is this high, onramping can get expensive. Gordon Food Services claims that it can cost anywhere between $1500 and $1800 to educate just one employee. 

So as part of an industry that saw nearly a 90% turnover rate in Nov. 2015, you’re likely spending thousands of dollars on workers who won’t be around very long – even if you do vet them well.

Now the question then becomes…

How do I more affordably onramp employees?

With a mix of old-school thought and new-school technology, that’s how. The combination is better known today as:

Online Training Systems/ E-learning

Old-school training required a lot of funding on the part of food service establishments.

After you factored in the cost of the actual course or certification, on top of travel and accommodations, things could get quite pricey.

That’s why these days many restaurants are saying “goodbye” to seminars, and “hello” to webinars. By taking offline concepts and digitizing them, self-service courses are slowly replacing the old ways of employee education.

Instead of spending money to contract an outside business to come in and train your employees, or to transport them to an educational event, you can create courses tailored to them that they can follow at their own pace.

Businesses like Ernst and Young have used e-learning to reduce their training costs by 35%, along with training time by 52%. IBM and Cisco followed suit, employing the use of online training to cut costs by about $200 million, and 40-60%, respectively.

Now we know what you’re thinking: “These aren’t food service businesses. Training in the restaurant industry is different, and no computer can replace the hands-on learning that many employees in our field require.”

Well, we hate to say it, but…you’re kind of wrong. Okay, not kind of. You’re very wrong.

Services like Mindflash and Yardstick have worked with several businesses in the food service industry to speed up training and slash costs.

Take Unilever Foods for example. The food service manufacturer, whose clients include Hellman’s, Knorr, and Lipton, has been delivering time-saving ingredients and new menu ideas for the last 14 years.

Unilever_logo_NEW.jpgBecause their staff is comprised of countless smaller sales teams, their training needed to be specialized and, according to their Capabilities Training Managers, that wasn’t happening as efficiently as they’d hoped. 

“We don’t have the resources to get together all the time,” says Beverly Looney, Unilever’s CD Capabilities Training Manager. “We need a way to get out training materials easily and quickly, in a user-friendly format.”

Previously, the company was holding a lot of live meetings over the phone. Training materials were not readily available, making it difficult for people to review courses without asking someone else to search for a file and email it. “Plus, it was very difficult to reinforce training,” says Beverly, “and it’s important that we ensure that employees not only understand the materials but also retain the information.”

So, Beverly used Mindflash to create a program called “UFS-University,” geared toward educating teams of 5-10 salespeople at the company.

She uploads materials, and monitors employees as they complete assignments. In just one year, Beverly has created 30 educational courses, and reduced training time for new employees by 66%, all while boosting employee morale.

Yardstick used a similar method to help Booster Juice, the largest provider of healthy smoothies in Canada, to quickly and affordably train new employees. 


Now all new hires go through a 5-day training program called “Booster Juice 101” that takes them through their first five days with the company. All the while, higher-ups track and record their progress, intervening only when necessary.

The results speak for themselves. 

According to Yardstick:

“Over 6,000 employees have logged in to take training with minimal support time needed. Booster Juice has dominated the market in Canada and is quickly spreading internationally, with an average 3 locations opening every month.” 

Using similar methods, the Los Angeles food bank has trained hundreds of members on food safety. And you can save time and money the same way.

A few tips to creating a great online training course

  1. Figure out what kind of training is absolutely necessary to your staff 
  1. Come up with ways to convert your traditional courses to online courses
  1. Become an expert on what you’re teaching 
  1. Leverage live events like webinars to get trainers interacting with trainees directly

Have you used online training systems to cut training time or cost? What would you suggest newcomers do to ensure they use e-learning effectively? Let us know in the comments! 

Topics: Restaurant Staff Hiring