Gen Z Career Cravings (Infographic)

What Gen Zs want in a job or career is strikingly different from previous generations, according to new research from the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) and the Center for Generational Kinetics. 

They are more pragmatic, prefer face-to-face discussions and seek financial security.  On the job, Gen Zs thrive in workplaces with a positive culture, want diverse management and crave flexibility. With job openings in restaurants at a record high, and millions of Gen Zers slated to enter the US workforce, attracting and retaining Gen Z is critical to the success of the $800 billion restaurant and foodservice industry. This study was designed to explore the relationship between younger generations and the industry, in order to see if and where the desires of these younger generations overlap with what the industry has to offer.

“82 percent of Gen Z surveyed say a restaurant was their first paid job – that’s a tremendous amount of young people who experience what it’s like to work in our industry,” said Rob Gifford, Executive Vice President, NRAEF. “Our new study shows that we have the opportunity to purposefully foster longer-term relationships with Gen Z. We need to make sure every young person who works in our industry has an overall positive experience to encourage them to stay.”

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Among the key findings:


  • A Craving for $ and Flexibility: Top factors for staying at a job more than six months include compensation, having a good manager and flexibility.  Additionally, over half said they expect to make more money in the first three months and receive a promotion within the first year.  
  • Mentorship is Key: Over 40 percent stated mentors are essential to giving them confidence and the professional skills necessary to advance their careers.
  • Gen Z Want Careers, Not Just Jobs: Thirty-two percent of those surveyed see themselves as restaurant managers and 34 percent want to be owners and operators.  Nearly 40 percent want to advance to upscale restaurants.
  • The Restaurant Industry Is Training – And Keeping – Gen Z: 82 percent of Gen Z got their first paid work experience in a restaurant, and that experience is overwhelmingly positive, with Gen Z workers found satisfied with their restaurant work experience by a 64% to 20% margin. Around one-third of them aspire to become restaurant owners, managers, and operators.
  • Restaurants Provide Gen Z With 21st Century Skills: Gen Z makes clear that restaurants teach the practical, transferable skills required for success in our rapidly evolving workforce: flexibility, teamwork, multi-tasking, dependability, industriousness, customer service, and more.
  • Mentorship Matters: Over 40 percent of Gen Z stated mentors are advantageous to building their confidence and professional skills necessary to advance their careers. 58 percent who have a mentor were in more senior positions compared to 29 percent of those who had never had a mentor.
  • Culture Is King: Gen Z has a strong desire to be part of an active, creative, collaborative and flexible work environment. The top cultural traits found to be important for a Gen Zer’s ideal job include recognition, flexibility and a team atmosphere. Over half of Gen Z expect to make more money in the first three months and receive a promotion within the first year. 
  • Reputation Matters: Gen Z wants to be part of a restaurant or business that has high ethics, appreciates diversity, and a positive reputation in the community. Respondents expect a safe work environment where everyone is respected and treated fairly.
  • How Gen Z Finds Jobs: Good old fashioned word of mouth from family and friends is still highly effective in determining where Gen Z applies to work, with social media being an additional important resource.  With so many jobs to choose from and companies aggressively recruiting Gen Z, they also expect an application process that is seamless, easy and positive. 


gen z careers