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Ohio Restaurateur Founds Hot Chicken Takeover, Hires Ex-Cons

by Scott Grammer

In 2013, Joe DeLoss founded Hot Chicken Takeover in Columbus, Ohio. HCT is a “Nashville Hot Chicken” restaurant that has nearly 50 employees, 70% of whom have had trouble finding work due to criminal records or other issues. DeLoss has also worked to establish other programs to help such people, such as food service training and financial aid programs. Since then, two other HCT locations have opened in Columbus.

The recruiting website for the company says its brand mark is a chicken with an asterisk. “That asterisk represents the mission: to create extraordinary experiences for extraordinary people – our team, customers, community partners and our neighbors. As a Fair Chance Employer, HCT provides supportive jobs to men and women who need a fair chance at work.”

As an example of what Hot Chicken Takeover does, consider Shannon Wilson. She has worked for the company for two years and is now an executive coordinator for the firm. Before that she was in prison. At 31 years old, she was incarcerated for nearly four years and had been addicted to drugs for 15 years. She was released with no clothes, money or food, and was hired by Hot Chicken Takeover as a dishwasher “just like everyone else,” she said. “It’s a wise business choice to hire people who will work hard and stay in their job,” Wilson added. HCT’s employee retention rate is twice that of similar businesses.

The company offers cash advances to employees who need them, to keep them away from predatory lenders. Workers are taught to live on a budget and save, and HCT matches certain savings for things like a security deposit on an apartment. Wilson said her boss believes that “if someone isn’t stable in their personal life, they won’t be stable in their professional life.” 

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Sources: accessventures.org, usatoday.com, foodandwine.com, hotchickentakeover.com, hctjobs.com