Managing Millennial Restaurant Employees

Real talk: millennials have gotten a bad rap over the years. At best, they’ve been a puzzle everyone wants to solve; at worst, their name has become a catch-all for anyone under the age of 23 who comes across as entitled unmotivated, or lacking ambition.

But millennials aren’t kids anymore. In fact, a lot of them are out of school and have families of their own; some of them (ahem) are even staring down middle age. And they now make up the bulk of the hospitality workforce as employees and managers — and increasingly as owners, executives and consultants.

If you’re operating a restaurant or bar, chances are, you’ve probably got a team of millennials. Even if you’re a millennial yourself, you might be scratching your head as to how to manage them in a way that engages them, motivates them to work hard, and makes them want to stick around.

Good news: a little understanding can go a long way. Here are 5 things you should know about your millennial restaurant employees that will make work more productive and pleasant for everyone (yes, yourself included).

1. Set them free (within reason).

Maybe you’ve heard millennials have a problem with authority — and for some of them, that’s probably true. But it’s no more of an epidemic for millennials than it was for their predecessors.

What is different, however, is their very obvious desire for freedom. Millennials, on the whole, are wary of being tied down. Compared to Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, they’re enthralled with the idea of a life in constant motion. FOMO (fear of missing out) is a real thing, both on a random Friday night, but also when it comes to the bigger picture— because millennials want to see and do and experience everything.

As restaurant employees, it doesn’t mean they’re unreliable or impossible to pin down. But it does mean they’re more open to moving from one job to the next, unlike their parents and grandparents who tended to stick with an employer for the long haul.

So how do you keep them around and give them the freedom they crave?

  • Train and teach: There’s nothing less freeing than feeling like you’re being micromanaged. As a restaurant owner, you won’t have to do that if you create an effective and efficient onboarding program that clearly communicates responsibilities, policies and procedures from the get-go. And remember: training isn’t a one-and-done kind of deal. It should be ongoing, so that you’re always reinforcing good habits.
  • …and then, trust: A Harvard Business Review article defines workplace freedom as “trusting employees to think and act independently.” That doesn’t mean your restaurant becomes a free-for-all; it means if you’ve hired the right people, implemented the right framework, and communicated it to your team, then everyone should feel equipped and empowered to succeed in their roles — no hovering required.
  • Let them share: Hopefully, you’re hiring smart, curious people who have been shaped by many diverse experiences. Give them the freedom and space to share ideas, give feedback, or contribute in ways beyond the role they were hired to do, if they express an interest or desire. At the very least, they’ll appreciate your willingness to listen and your trust in their perspective.

2. Be flexible

Freedom and flexibility go hand in hand. Many hospitality workers have chosen this line of work because it offers some level of flexibility that other jobs don’t — it’s not a 9-to-5, stuck-in-a-cube kind of gig. And while this is a true career for some people on your team, for others, it’s a job they’re able to work around school, or family duties, or another job.

But restaurant employees — from hostesses to servers to line cooks to chefs — are some of the most overworked people in the modern workforce. And the keyword there is people: they’re not assets or line items. They’ve got lives beyond the four walls of your business.

Fairness and compassion go without saying. Being accommodating is simply the right thing to do when circumstances arise that are beyond their control. But if you get a little creative, there are other ways to provide a little flexibility to your millennial employees:

  • Millennials increasingly gravitate toward remote-friendly, work-from-home jobs. Obviously, unless they’re planning to seat people in their very own kitchen, it’s hard to work remotely when you’re a restaurant employee. But perhaps you can choose to make some of your team meetings virtual, or maybe you can give digital access to onboarding and training materials.
  • Another flexibility play is giving employees more control over schedule creation, while also ensuring that your team is actually large enough for the business you’re doing, so that it’s not impossible to get shifts covered as those needs arise.

3. Go digital.

Technology is a millennial’s one true love. There’s a “smart” everything these days, and no one is more enamored with (or appreciative of) the digital age than this crowd.

Millennials are well-versed in technology and they understand the efficiencies and capabilities that innovation can deliver at home and on the job. They’re also extremely well informed because they’re always connected to the rest of the world — so they know what else is out there.

That means, for employers, ignorance is not bliss. If you’re not leveraging the technologies that could make work and life easier for your people, then they’re probably well aware of that fact, and they have easy access to jobs with other employers who are doing it right.

For example: many restaurateurs have felt the pain of the labor crisis as their employees go after “gig economy” jobs with the Ubers and Lyfts of the world, whose platforms allow for real-time pay out. Taking advantage of industry innovation can help you win the battle for good labor.

Tools like Kickfin — which allow you to tip out employees in real time, directly to their bank accounts — or front-of-house solutions like workforce and table management software will certainly deliver ROI to you, but they’ll also show your team that you’re invested in their wellbeing and that you take care of your people.

Pro tip: Employee-facing software solutions should drive transparency and engagement across your whole team, not just your managers or operators. Selecting vendors that take the employee experience into account is incredibly important; it may be something as simple as having a well-designed app or an intuitive, easy-to-learn interface.

4. Give them purpose.

Work is work — there’s no way around it. But millennials are coming to the table (so to speak) with higher expectations. Yes, they’re willing to work, but they also want to be fulfilled and find meaning in what they’re doing.

It’s not about pride or being the most important person in the room; it’s about being a part of something bigger than themselves and contributing to a greater cause. Maybe your restaurant isn’t going to save the world or solve the hunger crisis, but every good business and brand should give its people and its customers a reason to believe.

So find out what that reason is, if you haven’t already. Know your mission, know your why — and share it with your team. Every single person you employ should be able to articulate this.

At the end of the day, there’s no code to crack or equation to solve. Like with any other employee or colleague, empathy will go a long way in establishing trust and transparency — two things that millennials value highly.

And here’s the good news: when you bring millennials into the fold, they tend to bring a lot of people with them. By winning their respect and loyalty, you’ll also win some of the best brand ambassadors you could ever hope to have.

Kickfin can change the way you manage your millennial restaurant employees.

You might also be interested in

We know how important same-day payments are for veterans of the service industry who are accustomed to quick cash — and we’re now seeing that same demand expand into other industries as well. 

Kickfin co-founder Justin Roberts joined MasterCard’s InConversation Webinar series to discuss why immediate payment disbursal is key for the restaurant industry and the gig economy as a whole.

Watch the webinar here or read our recap for the highlights: 

People live paycheck-to-paycheck

Not just some people are living paycheck to paycheck. Most people are. 

That’s right: around 64% of U.S. consumers are just getting by. Even more shocking, 51% of consumers who earn over six figures are still living paycheck to paycheck, despite their higher tax bracket. 

It’s a major reason why employees need access to their earnings sooner rather than later. The pressure of watching your bank account slowly drain in the two weeks between payday is putting a lot of pressure on people, leading to a much greater demand for instant payments than ever before. 

Instant payouts are now table stakes

A PYMNTS study found that people of all ages prefer to be paid out immediately, as well as some other interesting statistics:

  • When given the choice, 68% of respondents said they would opt for an instant pay out
  • 40% of gig workers surveyed were willing to pay a fee for an instant disbursement
  • 81% of respondents were willing to switch jobs to an employer that offers instant access to earned wages and tips

It’s safe to say instant payouts are becoming the expectation for today’s modern workforce. But not all instant payouts are created equal.

Consumers are much more likely to engage with an instant payout system if they aren’t required to share their bank account and routing numbers and can access funds with just their debit card credentials. Why? It’s faster, more convenient, and feels more secure. 

Instant payouts and tip management: a perfect use case.

Instant payout innovation has come at the perfect time for the restaurant industry, which is struggling more than ever with the hassles and cost of cash.

If you’re in the restaurant biz, then you know: Most consumers pay with credit cards these days, not cash. That means there’s rarely enough cash on hand to pay out tips at the end of a shift. But employees still want and need instant access to their tip earnings.

Enter: instant payouts. Offering employees the option to receive their tip earnings directly to their bank of choice, the second their shift ends, can go a long way in improving employee satisfaction and ensuring their financial security.

But instant payouts are more than a work perk for employees. The operational benefits for employers range from reduced administrative burden and significant time savings to stronger compliance and streamlined reporting.

Modernizing your tip management strategy: 5 best practices 

There are three key components to your tip management strategy: 

  • Tip pool policy: How are you divvying up tips among your staff? 
  • The payout method: How are you distributing those payments?
  • The systems and tech: What are you using to facilitate those payments?

Under the current circumstances, restaurant operators are under immense pressure to bring their tip management into the future. 

5 best practices for tip management 

Based on our experience working with restaurant operators across the country, we’ve found that these five practices are the perfect recipe for building a successful tip management system.  

  1. Determine the right model and method for your restaurant, based on your location and tech stack
  2. Get a written tip policy (and get it legally approved
  3. Solicit employee feedback in a structured way
  4. Leverage technology for efficiency, accuracy, and compliance
  5. Don’t over-complicate (but do over-communicate!)

Tip management solution must-haves

When seeking a new tip management solution, make sure you carefully vet each system to see if it really meets your needs, or if it’ll be just as frustrating as cash. Here are a few suggestions for what should be on your checklist: 

  • Instant payouts
  • Direct to bank of choice
  • Availability of employee funds
  • Payroll option 
  • Integrations 
  • Simple implementation + onboarding process 
  • Around-the-clock customer service 

Big emphasis on strong customer support teams. Restaurants and bars don’t have “typical” business hours, so neither should your tech support.

Bar Louie automates payouts with Kickfin 

In a recent case study, we took a deep dive into our partnership with Bar Louie, a chain with over 60 locations that took advantage of our new integration with Toast. They made the switch from cash payouts to Kickfin’s instant, direct-to-bank payouts and haven’t looked back.  

Two-minute tip-outs

Before Kickfin, managers spent an average of 45 minutes per shift working through Bar Louie’s complex tip out policy and counting cash. The tip pooling rules were important to them — it’s what makes the entire staff feel like they’re getting their fair share. 

Using the Kickfin0Toast integration, Bar Louie was able to automate the tip pool calculation process and send tips straight to employees in under two minutes – a potential annual savings of 15,000 labor hours across all locations.

>> See more customer success stories 

Do you want to see these kinds of cost-saving results at your business? Let’s talk. Get a demo of Kickfin and see why restaurant owners and employees alike trust us to manage their tips.

Kickfin’s best-in-class tip calculation tool has some exciting new bells and whistles.

If you’re already using Kickfin’s tip pool calculator, then you know how much time and hassle you’re saving by automating everything. (And if you’re not? Head over to our tip pooling software page to see how it works!)

As we partner with more restaurants to bring their tip management into the future, we’re continuing to innovate our product so we can address their biggest pain points.

In this case, that means enhancing our tip pooling features so you can auto-calculate tip amounts even for the most complex or unique tip pool or share policies.

Check out a few of our latest features that will make tip calculations easier than ever.

New Release: Splitting Large Party Tips 

If your restaurant often hosts large parties, you know that the tip share can get confusing. Say one server is taking care of a party of 40 with a bartender assigned to only make drinks for that party. Meanwhile, the server has a few other two-top tables that are getting drinks from the main service bar. At the end of the night, how do you ensure that the large-party bartender gets their fair share of the tip out (without spending an hour on your phone calculator)? 

Kickfin can now automate that process for you, alleviating questions from your event bartender and saving time and effort on the part of your managers. 

Seamless Integrations 

Kickfin is partnering with your POS system to integrate seamlessly with your existing restaurant tech. Already, we’re serving Toast customers through our integration — and your POS just might be up next. 

Kickfin integration users get access to new product features first, like our new tip-out transparency tool. Your employees can log into their Kickfin accounts and see exactly how their tips have been split between team members, offering them full transparency into your tip policy in action.

Manager Tips 

We’re always listening to feedback to improve the Kickfin experience, and this one goes out to all of our restaurant partners who asked us to streamline the manager tip reallocation process.

>>Learn more about managers & tipping laws

In most cases, managers are not allowed to earn tips since they are salaried employees. But we all know that managers often step in and take care of tables to help servers get out of the weeds. Well-meaning guests will most likely leave a tip, not knowing that the manager technically can’t accept them — so where does that money go?

Kickfin now features a default pool, where tips “paid” to a manager are automatically redistributed to tipped staff based on your restaurant’s tip policy. 

Improved Labor Data Accuracy

We all know how easy it is for an employee to forget to clock out after a long shift. And sure, they aren’t going to get paid for a 16-hour overnight shift, but when payday comes around, those extra hours create a nightmare for your payroll team. 

With Kickfin, all employees are required to be clocked out in order to finalize payments — so you’ll catch the labor data mistake long before your payroll team has to sort it out. 

Even Better Security 

We’re committed to protecting you and your employees’ hard-earned money, so we’re adding an extra layer of security for certain transactions. You can now enable double approval of payments that meet certain conditions:

  • First payment for new employees
  • Employees getting their first payout in X number of days
  • Employees receiving more than X payouts in a 24-hour period. 

With these extra guardrails in place, you can always be sure that the right money is going to the right person. Reach out to our support team to configure your custom security measures.

Using Kickfin is a win-win for operators, managers, and employees alike. Restaurateurs save on cash delivery and labor costs, managers shave hours off their workload, and servers have the same instant payment that they’re used to — without the hassle and uncertainty of cash. 

Want to learn more about Kickfin? Let us show you the ropes with a demo

You heard it here first: 2024 is the year of integrations. 

In an effort to make Kickfin even more user-friendly and adaptable for our partners, we’re working with restaurant tech leaders to integrate our tip management solution with their existing systems. 

First up — Toast! A trailblazer for cloud-based restaurant management technology, Toast is a favorite POS system for restaurants, food trucks, and bars. You probably know them best for being the first to create handheld POS devices, drastically changing the entire restaurant ecosystem. To make life easier for their customers, Toast partnered with Kickfin to create an integration that makes tip pooling, tip distribution, and calculation smoother. 

As restaurant tech innovators ourselves, this partnership is the perfect fit for Kickfin. 

Our goal at Kickfin is always to save time for managers, prevent loss for operators, and create more financial freedom for hospitality employees through pioneering technology that digitizes many of the analog processes that the restaurant industry is built on. 

As a member of the Toast Partner Ecosystem, we’ll be able to deliver our product to Toast customers and modernize their tip management systems with ease. Using technology that they’re already familiar with, Toast customers can reap the benefits of Kickfin with minimal ramp-up upon implementation.

“No two restaurants split tips the same way, but invariably, it takes too long and involves too much risk,”  said Justin Roberts, the co-CEO of Kickfin. “This integration allows for the utmost customization with a near-zero learning curve — truly the best of both worlds for restaurants that want to save time, reduce labor costs and make life easier for their team.”

And one of their partners is already enjoying the ROI with Kickfin. Bar Louie takes great pride in making tip distribution equitable for all of their employees, so they rely on a complex tip pooling system to ensure fair pay. Prior to using Kickfin, managers at each of their 60 locations spent 45 minutes at the end of every shift to make calculations and divvy out funds to all of their servers. Now, they’ve streamlined their tip-out process with Kickfin — and managers are doing the same work in less than a minute! That’s an annual average of 15,000 hours saved across their entire chain. 

>> Hear more Kickfin success stories

After implementing Kickfin, managers can spend their time on what matters most: delivering excellent customer service. That means more table touches, more support for your staff, and more time to focus on server training. 

With managers spending more time on the floor (instead of counting cash in the back), you’ll see better customer reviews, better service, and increased sales — all from digitizing your tip-outs with Kickfin.

We’re excited about our new partnership with Toast and the opportunity to make digital tipping a reality for their customers. For restaurants who aren’t using Toast, don’t worry! We look forward to providing similar integrations across the restaurant tech industry.  

Want to see these results for yourself? Find out how to become a Kickfin integration partner or check out a demo of our platform.

No growing pains here! 

We’re thrilled to announce that Inc. listed Kickfin in their list of the top 10 fastest growing companies in the Southwest. (In fact, we earned the #1 spot in the software category and were listed as #9 overall!) We’re honored to be included alongside innovative companies that are making a big difference in our region. 

Inc. measured Kickfin’s growth from 2020 to 2022 — which wasn’t an easy time for the restaurant industry, to say the least. In spite of the challenges posed by the pandemic, restaurant concepts across the country embraced Kickfin’s technology. 

As a group, the 2024 Inc. honorees averaged 136% growth and created 17,606 new jobs over a two-year period. Individually, Kickfin grew by a whopping 1,304% (yes, really!).

We want to recognize and thank both our amazing customers and the Kickfin team for being part of our success story and allowing us to be a part of theirs. 

Our Customers

For years, restaurants manually calculated and paid out cash tips — despite the increasing hassle and liability those old-school methods entail. It’s not because operators are tech-averse; there simply wasn’t a good way to automate the process that didn’t create new friction or require new workarounds. 

That’s precisely why we developed Kickfin. Of course, we’re proud of what we built and the team behind it (more on that below). But we owe a great deal of our success to the customers who trusted us enough to give Kickfin a shot — especially those early adopters who are now some of our longest-standing customers.

There’s a leap of faith involved when you partner with a vendor and layer in new technology, particularly when it impacts something as important and sensitive as how you pay your people.  We don’t take that lightly, and we are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to serve each and every customer who’s been on this journey with us.

>> Hear from our customers about their experiences with Kickfin

Our Team 

Every person on our team wholeheartedly believes in our mission and vision for the future. In short: we’re here to make the tip management process insanely easy for everyone so that paying out your people is (almost!) as great as getting paid. 

As backstory: Our co-founders, Brian and Justin, came up with the idea for Kickfin while dining out together and noticing that an armored car was dropping off cash. They asked why a restaurant would need a cash delivery when most patrons pay by card; the manager explained the cash was needed to pay out tips at the end of the shift. The inefficiency (and expense, and risk…) of that process was a lightbulb moment for Brian and Justin.

They set out to build a team who not only understood the problem, but could think critically and creatively about a solution — and bring it to life. 

From sales and marketing to product and support, every Kickfin employee has had a hand in the growth and success of our company, thanks to their passion for our purpose and their commitment to being best in class.

We’re proud of what we’ve achieved thus far, and we’re excited to continue collaborating with our customers, innovating on their behalf, and taking Kickfin to the next level together. Onward and upward!

See Kickfin in action!