Millennials are a hot topic nowadays, and the restaurant industry is not immune. I’ve heard plenty of stories from chefs and GMs complaining about the millennial work ethic—and conversely, millennials who are choosing not to work at places where they don’t feel valued (nobody likes to be treated poorly).
So this got me thinking. Do you think there’s a serious clash with this generation and the industry, or are we all just getting older and complaining about ‘those kids’ like we’ve been doing for decades?
I posed the question to my colleagues at Tundra Restaurant Supply, a mixture of millennials and older generations, who at one point or another in their lives have worked in the foodservice industry as servers, chefs, hosts, managers, service technicians and more. (As a side note, I am considered a millennial myself, however I’d suggest that those born in the 80s versus the 90s are very different generations. Perhaps a topic for another time.)
Very rarely is one side of a conflict 100% right or wrong, which is why I’m compiling general observations and feedback into two posts: Advice to Millennials (see below), and Advice from Millennials (coming next week!).
Advice to Millennials
Who can name this iconic scene from a popular 80s music video?
Not a millennial! Ha. But I digress.
Managers are not parents (see #2 below), but sometimes it seems difficult to criticize a younger generation without it going in one ear and out the other.
Consider the following to be genuine, heartfelt advice from those who have spent years in the foodservice industry.
1. Tipping is a Thing
According to a national survey of 2,019 adults conducted in December, 2013, about one in three Millennials admit they tip less than 15% when dining out.
Some blame the Chipotles and fast-casual concepts where you pay at the counter and then take a number and wait for food to be delivered to you.
But not me.
I blame you.
If you’re old enough to dine out in a restaurant by yourself then you’re old enough to understand basic courtesies in our society. And if you don’t know, well there’s Google for that.
Can’t math today? Here’s a simple way to calculate a 20% tip (don’t worry, common core is rough on all of us):
2. Your Boss Is Not Your Parent
Make no mistake, your boss is there to keep a business moving—and so are you, actually.
If you need a pep talk then go talk to mom and dad, or a friend who doesn’t work with you (griping about a work problem to someone you work with will just add to the drama). A common misconception is thinking that being respectful means you can’t deliver any constructive criticism. First and foremost, criticism is a part of your own personal growth.
That isn’t to say that some managers don’t make excellent mentors. I’ve been lucky enough to have several mentors over the years (one of which actually was my mom) who have helped me advance my technical and interpersonal skills. There are good managers and there are bad managers, and honestly most of the good managers don’t try to be your friend.
3. A Job Is a Job, Even If It’s Not Your Career Path
Just because you think this is your fake job before your real job doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take it seriously. As a first-generation American, few things are more humbling than hearing stories about your abuelo working the night shift as a janitor in New York City because a job was a job (He worked janitorial shifts at a high-powered magazine publication.). No matter if you’re washing the dishes, serving the tables or cooking the food—no job is any less important, or valued.
This job might be helping you pay the bills while you earn a degree, or maybe it’s filling the gap in between other opportunities. Whatever the reason, a job is a job—respect it…particularly if you want to be respected in return.
4. Put in the Time If You Want the Reward
Maybe it’s this era of the “celebrity chef” that we’re in, but the most common complaints about millennials that I’ve heard from chefs and restaurant GMs is the unwillingness to put in the time for the reward. There’s a reason that experience goes hand-in-hand with pay increases—the more experience you have, the better equipped you are to perform your job above and beyond expectations. And experience isn’t just about the technical skills, it includes interpersonal skills too. Skills like developing the maturity to work with a high-performing team, or providing exceptional customer service in challenging situations are key traits that future employers will look for.
5. There is No “I” In Team
But there’s an “M” and an “E”!
There, beat you to it.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get real for a second.
You’ve heard it before, but it doesn’t make the adage any less true. Put the attitude away, put the phone away, and get to it. There’s a reason that many employers have used terms like “privileged” and “self-righteous” when describing the millennial generation. Be present at your job and put the drama aside. Remember, you and your coworkers should be sharing a common goal—to work hard, make money, and be treated with respect.