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Research projects

Becoming a leader in the restaurant industry

About this project

Project information

Project status

In progress


Lotte Wellton

Research subject

The project aims to increase the understanding of how young employees in the restaurant industry become leaders and how young leaders can contribute to changing organizational forms and work practices to increase the social sustainability and attractiveness of the industry in the form of an improved work environment.

The hospitality industry, including hotels and the restaurant industry, serves as an export and job engine for the entire country, thanks in part to the gastronomic upswing in the Nordic region. A boost that generates creativity and innovations around the food and beverages and the guests' meal environment, which is quickly utilized and spread and adds value to players in both small and large companies. But despite the fact that young people's first encounter with working life often happens in the service sector, the industry is currently plagued by extensive labor shortages. Probably due to the high demands on personal commitment, high workload and often minimal control over the performance of the tasks, that create working environments that contribute to high staff turnover. The restaurant industry's workplaces are characterized by old structures with hierarchical leadership as well as a lack of understanding and confidence in the staff's abilities and needs. The restaurant workplaces are characterized by master-apprenticeship as an educational method. The hierarchical structures and the lack of trust in the staff, which often accompanies this type of training, contribute to a large loss of staff. At the same time, the young workers (19-27 years) who remain in the restaurant industry often early are placed into leadership roles, despite having limited or no knowledge of work management. The aim of the project is to investigate the daily work of young managers (head chef, maitre d´, food and beverage managers etc.) and to describe and understand the process of young workers from "novice to expert" (becoming a leader); and to illustrate the relationship between organizational forms, time use, the physical and psychosocial work environment using organizational theoretical perspectives.

The project takes off in the following research questions:

  1. How does a young worker become a leader in the restaurant industry, how do abilities and authority develop? How do you learn to be a leader?
  2. What factors contribute to young people being assigned leadership positions. How do young leaders see their assigned leadership themselves? how does their introduction to the leadership roles take place?
  3. What are the structures that primarily control the young leadership?

The project also takes into account variables such as gender identity, ethnic affiliation and sexual orientation in addition to age in relation to the practices that shape young leadership. The project's research focus is on young people in leading positions and their working environments in small and medium-sized restaurants in Sweden. The study's results are interpreted from an organizational  perspective based on practical theory. The analysis of the practitioners is expected to show how practices shape the respondents' professional roles and their path to leadership in the content and execution of daily work and how possible change can be understood, expressed and initiated. The results can contribute to measures to facilitate the day-to-day work of the young leaders and change their professional roles by means of knowledge and skills development through higher education, and through staff training where mentoring can be included. The identified work practices are also expected to contribute to knowledge about what can motivate the young supervisors to continue in the restaurant industry and how that motivation can contribute to changing attitudes and relationships in the workplace.

Research funding bodies

  • Örebro University