The Millennial Restaurant Manager: 5 Secrets You Need to Know

By: Suzanne Scacca

7 Minute Read

Dec 05, 2017

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managing millennials

Restaurateurs spend a lot of time pondering what sort of influence the millennials will have on their business, and it makes sense.

The issues that often arise are how to attract millennial customers and/or how to retain them as employees. The millennial generation is getting older and their influence on and importance to your business cannot be ignored. But rather than focus on the millennial as a consumer or as an employee, why not put the spotlight on the millennial as a manager?

It’s not a totally far-fetched idea to say that millennials may soon dominate the workforce. By 2020, it’s estimated that about 75% of the U.S. workforce will be comprised of millennials. What will that mean in terms of management and other leadership roles?

  • A survey conducted by Future Workplace found that 83% of people polled have already worked for a millennial manager.
  • The 2015 Millennial Majority Workforce study found that 28% of millennials were currently in a management role.
  • That same study also uncovered that 2/3 of millennials hope to be in a management position within the next ten years.
  • In the 2015 Millennial Leadership Survey, millennials expressed a strong desire to lead, regardless of whether they were in a management role or not. 80% of millennials polled consider themselves a leader now.

Envisioning the Millennial Manager

Millennials are often portrayed as apathetic, disinterested, tuned out, and selfish. None of those adjectives describe the millennials I've been privileged to meet and work with.” – Chelsea Clinton

The millennial generation is definitely an interesting one. Often, you’ll find many people willing to label them using the kind of words Clinton referenced in the quote above — none of which are flattering. This idea that millennials are self-involved and difficult to work with has perhaps inspired this drive many of them have to become a leader and affect real change.

As a restaurateur, you’ve probably wondered at some point whether or not it’s a good idea to hire (or promote) a millennial manager. Even if they didn’t have that negative reputation following them around, this generation is different. They don’t approach life or work or management the way previous generations have, so to hire a millennial manager means you need to first have a solid understanding of what you get with them.

Here are five priorities for millennials that will help you better understand them, how to work with them, and how to know if you should promote them to the role of manager.


If there is one absolute associated with this generation, it’s their love for technology. With such a deep-seeded connection to all things tech, that means you can expect many (and probably much-needed) change-ups in terms of how you run your operations.

  1. Mobility is going to be key. They’re used to being connected 24/7 while on the go, so they’re going to expect that same capability when managing a restaurant.
  2. They’re also going to push for mobile-friendly, customer-facing initiatives like mobile apps, mobile POS systems, and more.
  3. You can expect other technology suggestions from them as well — especially cloud-based software solutions that are affordable, easy-to-use, and increase efficiency.
  4. Don’t forget about big data. You hear a lot about how millennials are willing to give up their personal information as consumers in exchange for a special offering or good deal. Millennial managers understand this and will want to take full advantage of everything big data has to offer in terms of gaining more visibility into the customer base and the restaurant’s operations.

Multi-Channel Communication

Millennials are always on, always connected. They can’t help it. For most of them, they don’t know what life is like without access to the Internet. In that same respect, they also value the ability to be reached whenever, wherever, and however someone wants to contact them. The same will go for your millennial managers.

They won’t want to be relegated to handling customer complaints tableside or having to field reservations from the phone. Everyone has a different communication preference and millennial managers will want to offer multiple channels through which they can be reached. Phone, email, a website contact form, social media direct messages, comment cards, a Yelp review, or a talk tableside — however a customer wants to reach out, a millennial manager will want to be accommodating of that.

Employee Empowerment

Any HR manager will attest to how expensive the recruitment, hiring, and onboarding process is. Add to that a drop in team morale and productivity as your staff is forced to adjust to yet another new face and then work to quickly bring them up to speed, and you’ve got yourself a very costly hiring process.

Millennials are known for being tough employees to please. So when studies like the one conducted by Deloitte show how willing and sometimes eager millennials are to switch jobs, it can be difficult to want to hire them — especially knowing what an expensive mistake that could end up being. As a manager, millennials will be fervently aware of this desire their team has to jump ship if something doesn’t sit right with them (since they themselves may feel it at times too). So who best to manage those employees than those with a similar mindset?

There are a number of ways millennial management may aim to keep employees happy:

  • Millennials won’t be satisfied staying in the same, low-paying, entry-level restaurant gig forever, so managers will empower them to grow within the company.
  • They will also keep open lines of communication with their employees. The more honest they can be with them and the more supportive they can be of their interests and goals, the better.
  • Millennial managers also know that problem-solving is a collaborative process, which is why they’ll actively solicit feedback from their employees. They’ll understand that their teams are on the ground floor and see things that are happening that management may miss. That’s why they’ll want them to have the opportunity to directly influence the matters that affect them — and the customers — the most.

Better Balance

Customers leave bad reviews about your restaurant online. People get injured in the kitchen and you’re down a man the rest of the night. Minimum wage is rising and you’re not sure how you’ll deal with it. Restaurant work can be very stressful for all those involved — especially for the restaurateur.

That’s why millennial management makes great additions to the team when you’ve got a lot of competing priorities pressing down on you. They understand that establishing a work-life balance is important. They also know that the key to surviving a stressful work environment is to make it less stressful. They’ll most likely turn to technology solutions first to help relieve the burdens of the day-to-day. They’ll also want to develop processes that promote better time management, productivity, and efficiency from everyone on the team.

People First

Many people rush to judge millennials as being self-involved or selfish, though the reality is more likely that they’re just very self-aware. They understand what works for them and they want to understand what works for others. That’s why as managers it’s really important for them to build relationships with and within their teams. They’ll want to put the people first, rather than focus on how to manipulate staff to upsell more or work extra hours to prep the kitchen for special events.

young restaurant managers

Millennial managers really believe in building their workplaces around solid values and ethics. By making a real investment in their team and showing them how important they are to the company’s mission, they are more focused on developing a true team spirit. And if their teams can trust and respect them as leaders, their work will be more thoughtful and reflect better on the brand as a whole.

A Case for the Millennial Manager

All of those same qualities above that make millennials worthy of management are also the same qualities you’ll have to take into account when trying to attract and retain that talent, too. They’ll expect:

  • Your restaurant to be run on meaningful values and honesty.
  • An opportunity to really help support and build your restaurant’s brand — in person, online, wherever, and whenever.
  • A competitive salary and benefits package that reflect what they’re worth to your organization.
  • PTO and shift flexibility that allow for a work-life balance.
  • Plenty of opportunities to grow within your organization — and fast.

Millennials are bound to make a difference in your restaurant — as customers, as employees, and as management. Gain a better understanding of who they really are and you’ll be able to make smart business decisions around this generation set to bring major positive changes to the industry.

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