The Menu – the latest insights on restaurant technology trends, customer successes, and best practices.

  • February 3, 2020

Mentoring a Young Tech-Savvy Generation Pays Dividends for Restaurants

Rob Gifford
President, National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation

Many of us think of mentoring as a worthy effort, a way to give back. That’s true.

But for National Mentoring Month, let’s look at the other side of the equation. Mentoring is also a smart business move. Frankly, when done well, it can be terrifically self-serving.

Take Melissa Gray, who graduated from the Foundation’s ProStart Program. When in high school, she worked for two different restaurateurs. One laughed at her aspirations to go to culinary school. The other “made it his mission” to see her be successful. He always encouraged her and pushed her to do more within the kitchen.

As a result, Melissa earned the responsibility of overseeing back-of-house operations and managed ordering and inventory on the chef’s nights off.

Which restaurateur was better served by his efforts?

In a broader sense, Melissa’s mentor helped the industry, too. Melissa advanced to a position as the front-of-house manager at The Culinary Institute of America in California, a key player in the future of hospitality.

It’s true for every industry that mentoring is a two-way street. But because I am in the restaurant business, I am keenly aware of the benefits.

The tight labor market has been especially hard for our industry. Unfilled job openings in restaurants are at a record high according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Bringing newcomers along can have an immediate impact on the bottom line.

At the same time, restaurant technology is also transforming how we do business. We have a significant opportunity as the generations currently coming up through the ranks, Millennials and Gen Z, are adept at using technology. If they gain an understanding of how the new tools fit into the larger picture, they can help adapt and innovate in ways that, I have a feeling, will be wildly impressive.

We at the Foundation have found that time is of the essence. Currently, 40 percent of restaurant workers are between 16 and 24 years old. History tells us that we will lose a significant number of these young people. If we want to retain them, we need to show them not just how to do their jobs today, but the long-term benefits of a career in the food and beverage industry.

So, do yourself and your business a favor. Look out for newcomers and take the time to show them how to grow in their work. Become a mentor. Your business will be better for it.

Rob Gifford is President of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. The Foundation’s mission of service to the public is dedicated to enhancing the industry’s training and education, career development and community engagement efforts. To learn more about the how you can attract, empower and advance the next generation of leaders, visit ChooseRestaurants.org.


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