Flexible Staffing for Businesses

Guide: Onboarding and training for Retail and F&B staff from A to Z | Includes downloadable templates.

Imagine the following scenario

Eid is 3 days away, It’s late at night, customers are overflowing the space, products are scattered everywhere, and the cashier line has reached the street! 

A customer comes up to your employee “Ahmad” to ask about the price of an item, Ahmad takes them to Reem, Reem takes them to Khalid, who then takes them to Sarah at the cashier (further delaying the long line of waiting customers), only to check the price in the system! 

Now, there are 2 questions here: 

  1. What are the chances of this customer ever coming back? Or even waiting for the answer to their question? 
  2. Where is the gap? How did this problem happen? 

The problem is that none of the team had enough knowledge of procedures, products, or customer service!

Why did this problem occur? Can it be avoided? 

In short: this is a prime example of a lack of training, and yes, it certainly can be avoided through proper onboarding and on-job training. 

Now, What exactly do we mean here? 

1. Onboarding 

The systematic process of integrating new staff into the institute’s culture, management, and employees. 

2. On -job-training 

Involves technical and logistic components of the job. Training the new staff on their required work tasks, tools, and equipment. 

The difference between these two steps is simplified by the difference between “who” the institute is and what it stands for (onboarding), and the “how” of the works (on-job-training). The two stages usually coexist and overlap in duration. 

Most retail and F&B staff are either taking up these jobs as temporary positions until they can find a “real job”, or part-timers, seasonal employees/flexible (Read: 5 Reasons why companies use flexible staffing and so should you!). As a result, retail and F&B have high turnover rates.

One way of making up for that (or at least making it less time-consuming) is developing good onboarding and on-job-training programs. Although they might be time-consuming initially, they’re your best scalable way of minimizing the risks of attrition and sudden no-shows. Keep in mind that this can be outsourced, you can hire a freelancer (try Bahr, or Upwork). 

Let’s put this into actual points..

Here are 5 reasons to implement onboarding and training programs: 


Now let’s get to the meat of it! 

1. Onboarding

Now that you understand what the term entails, here are a couple of important things to know: 

  • When does the onboarding process begin? From the recruitment stage. 
  • What is the appropriate duration of onboarding? The gold standard answer is: It depends on the job. However, culture and policies onboarding usually takes 1 day – 1 week. Integration with the team is likely to be an on-going process, since it depends a lot on personalities/characteristics/likability…etc. 
  • Who handles the onboarding stage? It is usually handled by the recruitment specialist, or the direct manager. However, in retail and F&B,  It is handled by the branch manager. 

What are the stages and steps of onboarding a new employee? 

  1. The first stage is during the recruitment process. It is your first chance to introduce your brand identity, culture, and message. Consequently, you will attract the right people for the right job! (Read: Fantastic Employees for retail and F&B | How to find them?). 
  2. Before the first day 

Once you contact the new hire and inform them of their application status, make sure to provide them with the following:

  1. Brand Guideline booklet. It contains the brand’s/institutions: 
  2. Mission and vision. 
  1. Goals. 
  2. Values. 
  3. Organizational Structure. 
  4. Branches (number and location). 
  5. The number of employees.
  6. Sales (last quarter or annual).

2. Basic Information: this includes the information you will gather, and the information you will provide. 

  1. Employee’s basic information: 
  • Demographics and contact information. 
  • Medical condition (any chronic or life-threatening illness). Remember that the employee does not have to disclose it to you directly. They only need to inform you if there are any expected procedures that have to be followed on your end for their health. 
  • Emergency contact. 
  • Any other commitments (work, school…etc). 
  1. Employee’s guide, it should cover the following checklist: 

Download our Employee Guide template. 

3. First day: 

The employee’s first day is your chance to introduce them to the space and Its occupants. You should ensure that they get familiar with:

  •  The physical space (rooms, areas, emergency exits, first aid kits). 
  • Staff. 
  • Work zones (It is common in retail and F&B that employees move from one zone to another, so they need to be familiar with all the zones). 
  • Add them to all of your communication channels. 

The onboarding process will continue until your new hire is well integrated into the team, and is able to represent your brand’s culture and communicate it well to your clients. Therefore, investing in this process will reap great benefits for your brand and Its clients long-term. Make sure you properly monitor your employee’s onboarding process (onboarding progress template). 


Building on the onboarding process, you will start training your new hire for their new role.

2. On-job-training: 

Keep in mind that the point of this stage is equipping your new hire in how to navigate and utilize the tools, equipment, and appliances needed for their role. 

  • When does the training process begin? The theoretical part of training should start before the first day on the job (go back to the “before the first day” step. Practical training should start on the first day. 
  • What is the appropriate duration of the training? While the duration will largely depend on the role, It is safe to say this period will extend from 1 week to a month. 
  • Who handles the training stage? Branch manager or employee leader. 

It is very important in this stage to make sure your training program covers the role’s needed components. This brings us to:

how you can tailor your training program to your specific needs: 

  1. Collect and arrange information about all of your tools, policies, procedures, services, and products. 
  2. Elaborate on each one: What is it? When is it used/implemented? And how?.
  3. Allocate the appropriate time and duration for practical training. In this stage, you want to focus your efforts on the hands-on training, and leave the theoretical part for the employee to read on (while opening the chance for any questions they might have).
  4. Ensure that you supplement the practical training with guideline booklets for the employee to go back to when/if needed. 

Now that we’ve touched the surface, let’s dig deeper into what exactly are you training your new hire/employee on? 

1. Their role: 

This includes training them on the mechanics of their job. Like specialized barista training, cooking training, or hostess training. 

2. Technical training: 

This focuses on all used equipment and tools. This step is highly sensitive and risky as it touches on the safety of your products, employees, and customers. For example, a barista who can’t use a portafilter properly could lose an eye trying to set it up! 

Think of all the equipment used in your branch (this includes coffee machines, cashier register…etc). 

3. Customer service training: 

This is one of the most important -yet highly neglected- steps! 

You want to properly train your employee on customer care, and how they should talk to your customers (on every channel). Some of it will be practical, the other part will be written (like pre-written replies). It should involve training the employee on: 

  • How they should greet your customer.
  • Body language.
  • Tone, language, terminology. 
  • How they should handle questions diplomatically. 
  • Terms of reference. 
  • De-escalation. 
  • Sales and marketing strategies (keep it simple and basic, unless the employee shows additional interest). 

4. Products and services: 

What other services and products do you have? How can your customers get their hands on them? pricing? …etc. 

Ensuring proper training on this step will save you the ramifications of our introductory scenario! 

This step is vital for safety as well. For instance, allergy precautions. Knowing the components of your products will help them guide customers to the proper choices, advise them, and ask the right questions about allergy precautions.


In short, remember that your employee efficiency will reflect well on your customers’ satisfaction and sales. 

To sum up, remember our main highlights

  1. Ensure that both your onboarding and training process is systematic and clear, this will lead to smoother implementation with each new hire. 
  2. Remember that these programs are not fixed, there’s always a chance to fix, change, and enhance them! 
  3. Consult your employees, they are your best source to answer: “what should a new hire know about us?”. 
  4. Involve employees in both stages, and delegate some of the responsibilities to them. This will reflect well on your rapport with them. 
  5. Use pre-prepared courses, websites like Skillshare are a great resource. 
  6. Most importantly, be patient 🙏🏼.