Attracting and Hiring Millennials for Your Restaurant

Maybe you’ve gotten a little frustrated when hiring Generation-Y staff members, who are often called millennials. The latest generation of the workforce seems more demanding and less inclined to follow established policies. Unlike past generations, who often appreciated their jobs in the food industry while training for other careers, millennials don’t eat to live but live to eat and have strong opinions on everything from food sourcing to healthier eating.

Restaurateurs owners face an annual employee turnover rate of 94 percent in 2014 for hourly workers and 34 percent for managers. These sobering figures reflect the difficulties that restaurants have attracting and keeping younger workers. Staffing a high-volume food operation has suddenly become a critical issue for many restaurants, and concerns about appealing to millennials is definitely a concern. Millennials are expected to make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2020, so managers need to develop a strategy for recruiting and hiring these seemingly hard-to-please workers.

Millennial Work Attitudes

Hiring millennials confounds many established restaurateurs who are used to hiring entry-level workers who make few demands. Millennials seems to have a sense of entitlement about where they work and what they do. Young job seekers want clear advancement opportunities, lenient work conditions and special treatment. Restaurants typically require that staff members work rigid shifts, weekends and even split shifts if needed. Millennials tend to be more demanding of their dignity and personal accommodations than other generations, which leads to even higher churn rates.

Millennials have developed their attitudes about work and social responsibility through social media connections, working in teams and communicating with diverse people and cultures. For traditional restaurateurs, these attitudes can prove difficult to address, especially in the regimented structure of classic restaurant kitchens. Challenges for attracting and keeping millennials in restaurants include:

  • Providing workers with clear paths to meet their career or temporary goals
  • Giving workers more varied job responsibilities
  • Allowing millennials to approach tasks creatively as long as the results are acceptable
  • Fostering a work environment where millennials can have fun and build friendships
  • Offering lots of feedback on job performance
  • Encouraging workers to share socially
  • Practicing sustainable sourcing and using energy and resources more efficiently
  • Embracing social causes

Learning Lessons from Fast Casual Restaurants

Fast casual restaurants are enjoying rapid growth and expansion mostly because they have solved the problems of appealing to the millennial generation. Chains like Panera Bread, Chipotle, Smashburger and Fazoli’s hire people through a multistage process that fills current gaps, allows for special needs and work schedules and offers long-term growth based on workers’ values. These hiring and operational strategies attract talented young people who want to grow with these restaurants.

Catering to Millennial Customers

Restaurants that are successfully hiring and retaining millennials do so by targeting millennial customers. Popular strategies for engaging young customers are:

  • Creating a rich dining experience
  • Providing healthier food faster
  • Embracing technology
  • Offering custom preparations and portions
  • Building loyalty through multiplatform marketing
  • Demonstrating value instead of concentrating on price
  • Taking part in social media and community causes
  • Giving customers more menu options for premium foods
  • Connecting with workers and customers through anecdotes and stories instead of statistics
  • Engaging millennial workers for advice on how to market to their generation

Providing a Millennial-Friendly Work Environment

Your social presence, website and creativity matter to millennials even more than the rate of pay. Industry analysts recommend that restaurants foster as fun an atmosphere as possible to lighten the demands of working with the public at jobs that often prove exhausting and frustrating. Strategies for creating an appealing workplace for millennials include:

  • Offering perks like mentoring and professional development
  • Giving workers opportunities to demonstrate their social responsibility
  • Encouraging collaborative efforts, creative approaches and team efforts
  • Providing a diverse working environment
  • Updating your website’s design
  • Integrating the restaurant for advanced digital communications
  • Supporting sustainability and local food sourcing
  • Emphasizing organic, hormone-free and ethically sourced ingredients
  • Making work schedules flexible

Your website can recruit young talent when you share information about current employees, fun photographs of the workplace and behind-the-scenes information about working at the restaurant. Millennials want to be proud of where they work and share their work experiences with their friends. If your website and Internet presence are hopelessly outdated, few millennials will want to work there because they’re embarrassed to share the links with their friends.

Hiring millennials will eventually be a necessity for any restaurant that plans to grow. Weaned on social media, sharing life’s ups and downs and “fitting in” with their favorite groups, millennials can prove loyal, creative and progressive hires when a restaurant’s HR staff members consider youthful workers’ lifestyles and career goals. Millennials aren’t satisfied with doing things like they’ve always been done, but savvy restaurateurs can turn this challenge into advantages for attracting customers and embracing new marketing strategies that are based on better communications and sharing and interacting with people through digital platforms.