Passion for Pizza: How a Hungry Howie’s Franchisee Leverages Generation Z Strengths for Success

As a third-generation Hungry Howie’s franchisee, 27-year-old Rebecca Shannon is set to open her very first Hungry Howie’s restaurant as sole franchisee in Monroe, Mich. In this first-person essay, Shannon shares insights as a Gen-Z franchisee including why she decided to invest in a franchise, ways she’s tapping into her digital fluency, and embracing a purpose-driven approach to franchising.

Not all women emerging in the workforce are embracing the “trad wife” trend taking the internet by storm. In fact, a substantial 77 percent of Gen Z females express that they want to be their own boss and 45 percent intend to run their own business. With this demographic leading the charge in the workforce and changes in consumer behavior in the years to come, many wonder how the future of business will evolve and adapt. 

As a Gen Z female and proud third-generation Hungry Howie’s franchisee, I’ve gone from an employee to overseeing seven locations in Michigan and becoming the sole owner of my first store in Monroe, Michigan. What began as a task of folding boxes as a toddler in my parents' Hungry Howie's store in the 90s has blossomed into a lucrative business venture. Now, at 27, I’ve honed my passion for the pizza industry and taken the helm of my own operations as one of the youngest franchisees in Hungry Howie’s’ system. 

For Gen Z, entrepreneurship offers the opportunity to escape the restraints of traditional employment and pursue their passions. Tapping into the entrepreneurial mindset and autonomous nature of Gen Z, franchising offers budding entrepreneurs the flexibility to be independent business owners, while being provided support from well-established brands.

Below are some key learnings and ways I’ve leveraged my generation’s strengths as a franchisee to attract a younger audience and foster a collaborative culture and purpose-driven structures to better serve our customer base and employees.

Digitally Driven Disruptors

As the first generation to grow up with internet and social media, Gen-Z is perfectly primed for staying competitive amid an increasingly digital world. Social media and enhanced online tools play a significant role in enticing younger customers to invest their time and money in a business and helps attract purpose-driven employees. 

From an operational standpoint, I’ve begun incorporating the use of more seamless communication channels, such as Discord, to easily allow our team to communicate guest issues, operational concerns, or even swap shifts.

The influencer marketing industry is expected to exceed $24 billion in 2024, making it clear that it’s an effective strategy to reach consumers. Influencers have dedicated followers who trust their recommendations. By partnering with influencers, businesses are able to build awareness and expand visibility within a target audience, therefore resulting in sales conversions and new customer acquisition. At Hungry Howie’s, we recognize this and have built relationships with key influencers that are instrumental for us in developing more authentic brand awareness for younger generations through digital channels. 

From an operational standpoint, I’ve begun incorporating the use of more seamless communication channels, such as Discord, to easily allow our team to communicate guest issues, operational concerns, or even swap shifts. We often use the platform to develop incentives for our team with a prize-winning aspect or use it to shout-out employees who have gone above and beyond. Finding a streamlined way to build a culture of appreciation for our team has been an exceptional way to increase the work-life balance that Gen-Z prioritizes when finding a job that suits their preferences. 

Social Good

Gen-Z consumers are increasingly becoming more conscious about corporate responsibility and how their investment in a business could impact their world. To further build upon our purpose-driven approach to business, my team maintains a high level of activity online to build our presence locally across platforms like Facebook. There, we more seamlessly identify community organizations or opportunities to partner with and give back. Adding that element of give-back allows authenticity of a business to shine through to younger and older generations.

An example of other social good efforts includes Hungry Howie’s annual Love, Hope & Pizza fundraising event held every October across all stores to benefit the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF). For the last 16 years, the brand has partnered with NBCF to build awareness of the breast cancer statistic and fundraise for an organization that has impacted so many lives. 


Gen Z is the most diverse generation in history, and we value inclusive businesses and workplaces.

One of my continued focuses is creating an inclusive atmosphere at my store to ensure every team member and guest feels comfortable, no matter their age, sex, gender, ethnicity, etc. I have a zero-tolerance policy for keeping team members who disrupt the creation or maintenance of a safe environment.

Photos courtesy of Hungry Howie’s

Additionally, I strive to provide more career opportunities for all employees. Across the stores I oversee and own, I ensure every employee knows there is always room to grow, and that opportunities are there. Building new stores is important to me because I know that I can bring this inclusive mindset that lets aspiring entrepreneurs know that they have the ability to grow and pursue their passions. 

While there’s many that may think Gen Z are not positioned well for the workforce, we are a powerhouse generation that understands the evolving consumer landscape who place an importance on enhanced digital capabilities, community centric initiatives and inclusive environments to enhance our business’ success.