Teens are disappearing from the food industry, and the workforce in general, at an alarming rate. Many of them are choosing developmental paths like volunteering or travel over working. Unfortunately for restaurant owners, that means their labor pool is shrinking, causing many to rethink how they can attract and retain talent.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are as many teens working in restaurants as there were before the recession. However, there are less employed teens overall when compared to pre-recession numbers. In 2007, 41.3 percent of teens held a job. 9 years later, that number fell to 35.7 percent.
So how can restaurants attract more teenage workers, a demographic that has helped build the industry into a billion dollar behemoth?
Some Taco Bell franchises in Indiana are using “hiring parties” to attract teenage workers. One franchise offered local teens free nacho fries and watermelon freezes in order to get teens to come to their store and learn about the company. Those that chose to apply were given on-the-spot-interviews.
“For us, young people have always been the heart and soul of Taco Bell. They are the next generation of leaders,” Bjorn Erland, Taco Bell’s vice president of people and experience, told National Restaurant News.
At one time, Taco Bell depended on a constant churn of teens to fill their entry-level jobs. Now, their workforce consists mainly of adults and seniors who are looking for benefits, according to Erland.
Another benefit of throwing hiring parties is that they seem to attract teens with hard and soft skills. Hiring parties have helped cut down the number of applicants managers settle on who can’t figure out how to count change, or who refuse to wash dishes, according to one franchisee.
In many cases, teens take a job in order to build their resume for college. But, this often contributes to the high turnover rate restaurants face. In 2018, 73 percent of employees left the restaurant industry.
So, in order to cut down on turnover, many restaurants have begun offering tuition assistance and scholarship programs to help keep the teens they hire when it’s time for them to go to school.
McDonalds and Chick-fil-A are two of the most popular restaurants that offer educational perks to their employees, but other restaurants are catching on as well.
Papa John’s currently offers free tuition to Purdue University Global and Starbucks has begun to offer baristas 100 percent tuition reimbursement at Arizona State University.
Younger workers are keener to take advantage of these perks because of the skyrocketing cost of college. Offering educational benefits has many perks for owners and operators as well. First, it helps them keep good employees by showing the employee that the business truly cares about their development and future. Second, it can reduce turnover because employees don’t want to lose their benefits while they are in school.