Dawn Sweeney, National Restaurant Association President and CEO, opened Sunday afternoon’s Signature ’17 session, presented by American Express and supporting sponsor United Healthcare, by discussing the updates the NRA has made to better serve the restaurant industry. “The National Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation have the privilege to represent and advance this incredible industry. We are the voice for over one million restaurants and nearly 15 million hardworking people who are pursuing the American Dream,” she said.
She announced that later this year, the NRA and NRAEF will be launching a fully interactive career pathways model that will map out every step of the way to pursue the many key positions available in the restaurant industry. “The innovative career-path model will be driven by real-world data and research that will drive the industry and people within it to be able to make more informed career decisions,” she said.
Sweeney’s remarks on these new initiatives were a perfect frame for a discussion on how business owners and operators can evolve to better serve the needs of today’s empowered customer, especially as those needs and desires shift along with trends influencing the industry.
Serving Changing Customer Demands
Sweeney and Dan Park, General Manager, Commercial Sector at Amazon Business, talked about thriving and being successful in today’s foodservice industry with everchanging customer demands.
Park said he loves eating at restaurants, but has certain expectations. “The restaurants I keep going back to are the ones that provide me with an amazing guest experience, which includes a fresh menu, great ambiance and polite and attentive servers,” he said.
He admits that it’s difficult for restaurant operators to streamline operations and execute on all key items all at once and consistently in every location and to deliver amazing guest experiences. “Providing support for business customers just-in-time to keep their operations up and running is critical, especially for restaurants,” he said. Park alluded to several investments Amazon has made in the foodservice industry and looks forward to partnering with manufacturers, dealers, operators and suppliers to help improve service through innovation.
Understanding Gen Z & Millennials
Jason Dorsey, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer at The Center of Generational Kinetics, took the stage and delivered a 30-minute information-packed session on how to understand Gen Z, born between 1996 to the present, and millennials, born between 1977 to 1995. “Everything you’ve heard about millennials is wrong,” he said.
He debunked two myths about millennials. The first: that all millennials are broke. Not true. “Millennials are the No. 1 workforce. Our generation will outspend any other age group. We don’t use cash, but we spend more than any other generation,” said Dorsey.
Second: millennials think they are entitled by nature. Not true. “Entitlement is 100% a learned behavior. You’re not born entitled. You have to be raised that way,” said Dorsey. “And being entitled has delayed millennials from growing.”
The issue with Gen Z, born between 1996 to the present, is that they are young. “Just think that many Gen Z do not remember 9-11, because some weren’t even born yet,” Dorsey said, “but they are the driver of all trends.”
He also said Gen Z is one of the most diverse groups, and they’re the most frugal generation. “Gen Z will succeed in the workforce because they will take any job given to them. They will surpass millennials because of that work ethic, because millennials don’t really want to the work they’re told to do.”
Dorsey explained it’s vital that all restaurant operators understand the Gen Z and millennial generations’ likes and dislikes and how they access information, because it can make or break your business. “These generations are looking for unique experiences,” he said. “They do not want to be just a number.”
This post is sponsored by The National Restaurant Association®