- Millions from Generation Z are slated to enter the workforce in the coming years, but according to the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, the gap between the number of workers joining the restaurant industry and the number of restaurant industry jobs being created is widening, Nation’s Restaurant News reported.
- “In the next 10 years, we’re going to create 1.6 million additional restaurant jobs in this industry,” NRAEF Executive Vice President Rob Gifford told NRN. “And yet, the population we are dependent upon to fill those jobs historically will decline by 1.3 million.” To investigate what attracts Gen Z to restaurant work and what keeps them in the industry, the NRAEF administered a survey.
- Gen Z survey participants listed multi-tasking, teamwork and customer care as the most valuable skills they learned in restaurant jobs. They listed environmental stress, customer interactions and pay levels as the biggest challenges. A press release from the NRAEF also noted that flexible, ethical, diverse and positive workplaces appealed to the demographic.
The restaurant industry's struggle to find talent has intensified as labor inflation, crackdowns on undocumented workers and demand for living wages put pressure on the segment. As of last year, the turnover rate for hourly workers at limited-service restaurants was 146.2%, and that of full-service hourly workers was a 102.8%. Pursuing fresh workforce entrants is a savvy — and necessary — strategy for rebuilding the pool of restaurant employees, but the industry's image of late conflicts with Gen Z values.
"The No. 1 thing they want is a positive workplace culture," Gifford told Nation's Restaurant News. "Culture trumps everything."
Unfortunately, culture is exactly what the restaurant business is struggling with right now. Between the sexual harassment and abuse scandals that have been reported in the kitchens of Mike Isabella, Mario Batali and Besh Restaurant Group, as well as the #MeToo strikes by McDonald's workers across 10 cities in September, restaurants aren't exactly positioning themselves as an enviable work environment.
Gifford encourages restaurants to maintain sterling reputations on social media to attract discerning Gen Z workers, who the survey found to be more likely to pledge loyalty to brands that demonstrate authenticity, including taking stances on social justice issues — such as workplace harassment.
According to the survey, Gen Z talent are also looking for more than just a solid paycheck from their jobs. Businesses that provide mentorship and opportunities for continued training and education, as well as face-to-face check-ins with superiors, could differentiate from competitors as an enticing workplace.
A look at Glassdoor’s 2018 Best Places to Work list confirms that companies embodying Gen Z’s values get top marks from employees. In-and-Out Burger ranked number four on the list, with the top employee review listing “flexibility with scheduling” as a major draw. Further down, Nestlé Purina was praised by employees for its inclusion and diversity, and Starbucks and Chick-fil-A were recognized for their career advancement opportunities.
With this in mind, recruiting Gen Z workers, who prefer open collaboration and demand well-paid positions in a positive and inclusive environment, will continue to challenge restaurant businesses. The restaurant and foodservice industry has already taken note of Gen Z's affinity for fast-casual dining, healthful menu items and social media. Now that about 25% of those 67 million Gen Zers are in the workforce, businesses will have to adjust their culture, too.