Hello, Gen Z!

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People born in 1996 are now of legal drinking age. In addition to serving them their first beer, you may hire them into their first real jobs.

They’re graduating college, building careers, and making plans. They’re part of the larger group called Generation Z, a population born between 1995 and 2010, and they’ve never known a world without technology. This generation will be almost 85 million strong by 2020, making up about 40% of the US population.


Gen Z as Employees

More diverse and entrepreneurial than their immediate predecessors (Millennials), they tend to be less focused and have higher expectations, according to one report. They may, however, feel less entitled than the generation before them, says David Stillman, co-author of Gen Z @ Work. In the Chicago Tribune, he points out, “If everyone-gets-a-trophy Millennials, reared by Baby Boomers during flush times, prioritized passion and teamwork, then Gen Z, raised by independent Generation Xers during times of financial distress, learned that you have to fight hard to win.”

But Dean Wendel, corporate director of food and beverage at Concord Hospitality, finds that his Gen Z employees “need to feel a connection to the values and goals of the company they work for…beating the bottom line does not speak to them…they are looking for a way to create an impact through guest experiences and within the larger community where they live.”

Because they are motivated, if you give them what they crave, this group could be just the powerhouse force your business needs. Seventy-seven percent anticipate working harder than previous generations to have a satisfying and fulfilling career. So, how do you become the venue where Gen Z wants to work? Be prepared to respond to the following questions and needs, and to change some of the ways you work to accommodate this high-potential group!


“Where’s my job? What are my hours?”

Because Gen Z was raised on digital media, you’ll need to be totally connected to online hiring tools like Snagajob, Industry, and JobPose to find those Gen Z superstars. This group won’t just value technology at your business –they’ll expect it.

Self-motivated, they may be easier to train than previous generations. Take full advantage of their digital comfort and encourage them to not only work with others but seek out new recipes and skills online.

Because they are so entrepreneurial (a whopping 72% plan to have their own businesses one day), create an “intrapreneurial” environment at your bar, restaurant, or club, allowing them to have some autonomy and input in your operation.


“I need to be me!”

In many bars and clubs today, anything goes when it comes to hair and clothes. But some businesses may need to change their standards and perspectives. Wendel modified his company’s dress code to better fit with Gen Z’s need for individuality. Piercings, facial hair and ink, once taboo in some establishments, is now almost expected. “It doesn’t change the fact that they are great employees who want to make a difference,” he asserts. Of course, you need to take into account the customers you serve and how they might react to employees who are a little too “customized,” but just be aware that Gen Z is used to displaying their personal tastes and identities.


“How am I doing?”

Ironically, although this group is digitally fluent, 51% say they prefer to be communicated with face-to-face rather than via email or text messages.

Although a healthy sense of competition can sometimes help people do better work, Gen Z is collaborative, according to this Restaurant Insider survey from Upserve. This includes collaborating with managers, seeking out mentors and coaches, and learning from the people with or for whom they work.

Health insurance, a fair salary, and a great relationship with a boss they can respect are the three most important things Gen Z seeks from jobs. Rather than looking for fun, they want the fundamentals.


“Should I stay or should I go?”

Like Millennials, Gen Z may be a transient workforce, although the good news is that 83% of Gen Z workers believe that three years or less is the right time to spend at a first job, whereas that number is 91% for Millennials. This new batch of employees wants to be in their “dream job” within 10 years of working.


“How can you make that dream come true?”

The first step is knowing what Gen Z might want and then leveraging their energy, skills, entrepreneurial spirit and drive to make your business a better place. Develop career paths and opportunities to contribute, be transparent and open to live meetings, and perhaps even look the other way when your top talent comes in with purple hair.


Gen Z as Customers

First, the not-so-great news. The Z-crowd is very health conscious, and alcohol consumption levels are expected to hit their lowest point since 1979. But don’t despair – this crowd still loves to leave their homes for worthwhile experiences. An impressive 73% eat out once a week! Going out in groups, they spend a whopping $78 billion a year in restaurants.


“What’s on my plate or in my glass?”

Because of Gen Z’s global perspective, they are open to new tastes, so you can differentiate your bar with unique specials. Keep in mind their interest in healthy options and products with a “cause.” Support your local community with homegrown foods and brews. Although they don’t have a bar (yet), Shake Shack recently raised the price of their burgers so they could pay their workers more. And, they made sure to let their customers know.


“Make it snappy!”

This generation is always online, so reaching them with your messages is relatively simple and cost-effective. They expect control and immediate gratification, so make sure your venue is smartphone-friendly and offers options for online reservations and speedy ordering.

Encourage your guests to spread the word about your bar or club. List the many ways they can connect via social media. Remodeling? Think about how you can make your venue more Instagram-friendly. Your restaurant is a stage now, and all your guests are stars; they can be a powerful marketing force for you as they share your space with their peers.

Step up to the bar, Gen Z!

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