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What millennials want from restaurant employers

Posted by Emily Tatti on Aug 18, 2015 10:00:00 AM
Emily Tatti

Millennials get a bad rap from other generations for being unmotivated workers, especially in the restaurant industry, where they make up a huge percentage of the workforce. But that is, for the most part, an unfair generalization.

It might seem like you’re talking a completely different language when you’re trying to keep them engaged as restaurant employees, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You just have to understand what they expect from you as an employer.

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An easy application process 

Before you even get your millennial employees through the door, it’s worth considering how to attract the right ones.

Millennials – that is people aged between 18 and 34 – can consult up to 15 resources before deciding whether or not a restaurant job is right for them.

That means how you advertise the job matters. 83% of candidates apply for restaurant jobs online, and if you don’t have this option available, you’re going to miss out on some quality applicants.

How to do this

While a good old-fashioned help sign in the window still has its place, you are going to gain a greater pool of applicants if you advertise on Facebook and allow people to email in their applications.

Your customers will share the post with their friends. And you should take note of these endorsements, because their familiarity with your business means they’re only going to suggest people who are right for the job.


Train_your_millennial_staff_button Millennials want to feel like they’re contributing to something greater. That’s part of the reason they favour the hospitality industry. They have grown up with a fairly cynical view of corporate culture and loathe the idea of being chained to a desk.

In hospitality, they can connect with people and contribute to their happiness in a meaningful way. And they will be more attracted to your workplace if they feel like they have a mission there.

How to do this

Tell applicants your restaurant’s story during the interview process. If they’re the right fit for you then the same things that drive you will drive them, so tell them about your dream to offer people ethically sourced food or the best damn customer service in the city.

Once they’re hired, hold weekly meetings so they're constantly reminded of this ethos. Let them know that their time and energy isn’t being wasted. 


While other generations weren’t given a lot of praise as children, millennials were encouraged a lot, and as a result they’re not afraid to share their opinions. That’s not a bad thing – a different perspective never is.

Offer them input in decisions and trust them to carry responsibilities. While you could say they were 'coddled' as children, they tend to rebel against this treatment as adults, which means they don’t respond well to micromanagement.

How to do this

Encourage them to be independent. Allow them to come up with their own sales pitch when telling customers about your daily specials. If they have suggestions about how you could improve the efficiency of the kitchen, hear them out.


The reality is that a high number of millennials choose the hospitality industry because it fits in around their studies. While many of them will realise they’ve found their true calling working with food, just as many will move on to other professions once they’ve earned their degree.

But that doesn’t mean they’re going to brush off their time with you– if anything, they want to feel like it has armed them with skills they can take into their next career. If you show that you’re willing to further their education, they will be more likely to honour your investment by sticking around for a few years.

When Forbes recently ranked the 100 best places for millennials to work in 2015, Chili’s Bar and Grill was number 11 on the list. That's because Chili's offers every college student a $500 reimbursement for their tuition fees, and at least 20 hours of training per person a year. According to one team member, "They truly care about the wellbeing of the people that work for them. They continuously invest resources into making people better in life and at work."

How to do this

Have regular one-on-one chats with your staff so you can find out what their goals are and where they want to go, both in the hospitality industry and elsewhere.

Consider ways you can expand their skills in other areas – for example if you have a marketing student on your staff and they express an interest in running your Facebook page, send them to a social media workshop. 

A positive team culture

Millennials aren’t like their parents: they won’t stay with an employer for years and years just for the sake of having a job. If they’re unhappy, they will leave. And their happiness is very much influenced by your restaurant’s social environment.

If your team has the opportunity to build strong workplace relationships, they will be reluctant to move on. A new workplace means sacrificing the comfort and ease they have developed with their colleagues.

Take Chili's again, where they have impromptu group outings and regular parties. As a result, more than 9 in 10 team members actually look forward to going to work.

How to do this

Avoid pitting your staff against one another in competitions (friendly or no), and instead do out-of-work activities together like birthday dinners and fun runs. Be their friend as much as their manager. Create a family environment.

I would love to hear your opinions on this, whether you’re a millennial worker yourself or a restaurant employer who works with millennials.


What do you think millennials value in the workplace? 

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Topics: Hospitality managers, Hospitality staff, Restaurants