Millennials on the Menu: Tips for Managing the Changing Restaurant Workforce
February 19, 2016

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, millennials are making up an even larger part of today’s workforce than before. Overall, millennials are now expected to make up close to 50% of the restaurant industry workforce. So what does this mean for restaurant operators?

Simply but, millennials are unlike any other generation before them and managing them will take a little extra effort on the part of your managers to keep them on board.

4 Tips for Working with Millennials
1. Offer Flexibility

In a recent survey by the Harvard Business Review, over 50% of millennials stated that flexible work hours was a priority in employment. Restaurants like Chili’s, Red Robin, T.G.I. Fridays, and Texas Roadhouse have all been praised by both current and former employees for offering flexible schedules.

Offering millennials flexibility options increases their morale and overall job satisfaction. It can also benefit companies by reducing the cost associated with employee tardiness and sick or missed days.

Perhaps the following flexibility options can be implemented with millennials in your restaurant:

Mix Different Shift Lengths – Offer Full-time employees 8, 10, or 12 hour shifts to allow for more days off per week and provide your managers more support for fluctuating workloads
Create Float Pools – Consider cross training employees in various areas to allow them to voluntarily “float” or fill in in other areas depending on your staffing needs.
Implement an On-Call System – Offer trusted employees the ability to be off with the understanding they could be called into work as needed depending on traffic that particular day.

2. Give Them An Opportunity to Make a Difference

Engaging the millennial workforce is a challenge for everyone, not just the restaurant industry. But understanding that millennials are drawn to a larger purpose is one key to keeping them engaged. The 2014 Millennial Impact Report found that 87% of millennials feel encouraged to volunteer or participate in their company’s cause work.

Restaurants like Piccadilly Restaurants, Inc. have found success by engaging employees in causes that personally impact them and their coworkers. For example, when an employee’s child was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes, the restaurant chain became supporters of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation through donations and sponsorships.

Looking for a place to start, visit Consumer Reports list of Best & Worst Charities for a list of organizations to consider.

3. Provide training and advancement opportunities

Many millennials many not see quick- or even full-service restaurant work as a career path so it’s import for companies to explain the potential to them from day one. Experts suggest developing specialized training programs and continuing education opportunities geared toward career advancement.

Companies like Chipotle Mexican Grill and Starbucks embrace training and career advancement. Both companies offer tuition reimbursement at both four and two year colleges. This keeps millennial employees vested in their companies and more apt to pursue management positions upon graduation.

To read more about helping employees find a career path visit, the National Restaurant Association’s Manage My Restaurant page.

4. Provide Employee Recognition

The Harvard Business Review states that it’s important for millennials to be seen as individuals not just employees. Be sure to celebrate team members achievements to demonstrate how individual contributions lead to overall company success.

Miranda Brookins of the Houston Chronicle recommends “giving an employee-of-the-month award or rewarding employees with incentives based on their customer service.”

According to Snack Nation, employee recognition programs identified an increase of 20% in business outcomes and 50% high levels of productivity. Their blog post, 33 Amazing Employee Recognition Ideas You need to be Using, includes great ideas for implementing a recognition from companies in various industries. Consider implementing some of these practices in your restaurant to make your millennial employees feel valued.