Industry News | August 26, 2010

Fast Food Staffs Are Growing Up

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The recession made a drastic impact on the American workforce; layoffs became the norm, unemployment shot up, and retirement, for many, became nothing more than a dream from the past.

And with Baby Boomers now creeping into their sixties, quick serves are left to face the fact that their potential worker pool may no longer be made up of just teenagers.

At QSR’s Dine America conference, September 12-14 in Atlanta, a panel of experts will discuss how quick serves can respond to the aging workforce—and whether an older, more experienced worker might actually benefit an operation.

Members of the panel include Brent Alvord, president of Lenny’s Sub Shop; Mike Amos, franchise consultant for Perkins and Marie Callender and president of the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers (CHART); and Barry Flink, executive vice president and partner for human resources management company Flex HR.

Flink says that with people living and working longer, and with younger generations growing slower than the Boomers, there are going to be less and less young people to work quick-serve jobs.

“If the industry just does nothing more than stay the size it is, the loss of young people coming in is going to dictate that we’re going to have to find labor somewhere, and older people who live longer and need to work longer because of social security … put more older people in the available market,” Flink says.

Of course, teenagers and other young people starting out in the workforce have long staffed quick serves. And in an industry that is constantly changing with consumer trends, Flink says, many restaurants are interested in simply hiring younger folks who can keep up with a fast-paced environment.

“One of the natures of this industry, more so than some, is we retool very fast, we watch consumer trends, and we change as we need to,” he says. “Yes, that can be a little bit more challenging for some old people.”

Flink says operators often think that older workers move and think slower than younger employees, and that they’re more prone to accidents.

“Certainly there are isolated instances to support this, but the generalization is not really valid,” he says. “But some operators do think that it is, and there are certainly some operators who think that the speed of service will be slowed down if they have older people working in their operation.”

But Flink says that quick serves would be foolish to ignore workers of an older generation, particularly because of the experience and dedication they bring to their job.

“The loyalty to the job and to the company is significantly stronger on average among the older generation,” he says.

“We grew up in a world where we were taught to respect the job. If you had a job, it wasn’t something to take for granted. We were taught to take it seriously, be there when you’re supposed to be there, and quite frankly, I think we all know … [the younger generation] has grown up until recently with a silver spoon in their mouth.”

To request an invitation to Dine America, click here.

By Sam Oches

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