[img id=”1″ align=”right”]

Each year at Black Box Intelligence (formerly TDn2K)’s Global Best Practices Conference, restaurant leaders gather to discuss the state of the industry, potential challenges and celebrate the brands that have raised the bar through a focus on people, profits and planet.

The 2016 Global BPC had me thinking about topics discussed over the past five or so years. Joni Thomas Doolin, Founder & CEO of Black Box Intelligence (formerly TDn2K) always offers great insight into the state of the industry and what we can expect in years to come. Doolin’s presentation at the Global Best Practices Conference in 2011 was titled Best Practices for Disruptive Times. In it there was a projection that it would take us five years to recover from the economic crisis we were going through.

Here we are five years later and the projection seems quite accurate. The climate in the room was much more optimistic than it has been in recent years. Kelli Valade, EVP and COO of Chili’s Grill & Bar, attributed this to the high level of optimism in young people and their belief that they can change the world. She also noted the opportunity for our industry to be more innovative than it has in the past. Roz Mallet, CEO & President of PhaseNext Hopsitality cited the number of women in the workforce and in leadership roles as a reason to be optimistic Doolin pointed out the number of “with women at the top” that had been nominated for Best Practices Awards and we witnessed Sally Smith, CEO and President of Buffalo Wild Wings as the first woman to win the Workplace Legacy Award. We certainly do have many reasons to be optimistic.

We’ve been hearing for the past few years that “millennials are coming.” This year Scott Stratten, author and keynote speaker, informed us that millennials are no longer coming, THEY’RE HERE! Doolin backed him up with the statistic that 80% of our hourly workforce are millennials. While some preparations have been made for their arrival, the restaurant industry is in many ways still trying to figure out what a new business model looks like to be sustainable in this new environment.

A few common themes stood out throughout the discussions: kindness, culture, local and purpose.

Kindness – Caterina Bulgarella, Ph.D., Leader Governance, Culture and Leadership at LRN, explained that Human organizations outperform others. We used to hire hands, then we hired heads, and now we need to hire hearts. Lead with your heart. Be kind. Treat our people better. Focus on tenure. Spend more and invest more in treating our people with dignity and respect. These are things organizations that are successful today are doing.

Culture – A Snagajob study shows that culture is the number one consideration among young people in choosing an hourly restaurant job.

When asked about culture, John Miller, President and CEO of Denny’s, stated that culture drives everything. Miller said, don’t ever get too big to do every job in the restaurant. Jamie Griffin, VP of Business Administration at Raising Cane’s explained how the restaurant does this by including shift leaders in critical meetings and giving front line staff opportunities to learn beyond in restaurant. Valade echoed Miller stating that culture is everything. People want to be connected to something bigger.

Mallet’s take on culture was that you have to have a passion for what you’re doing. That doesn’t mean you have to be happy all the time but you have to want to work for organization. People stay as long as they are having fun and contributing.

Joe Kefauver, Managing Partner at Align Public Strategies, noted that employees used to learn about their employer from their employer. Now they learn about their employer online. It’s become more critical that employers have a strong culture in order to have a strong credible voice in communication across channels.

Check back later this week for my thoughts on local and purpose!

Xz4lSjga_400x400 Jill McFarland is a Digital, Mobile & Social Media Consultant and owner of Stellar Digital Marketing. Connect with Jill on LinkedIn and follower her on Twitter @jillmcfarland.