Untamed Brands — the 19-restaurant parent company of Hot Chicken Takeover and Taim Mediterranean Kitchen — has hired multiple new leadership roles in the company, including Kendra Hovey: the company’s first fair chance employment ambassador, and one of the first roles of its kind in the restaurant industry. Hovey’s role is dedicated to expanding employment and leadership opportunities for previously incarcerated and unhoused people, expanding upon Hot Chicken Takeover’s social justice-minded company mission.
“As Hot Chicken Takeover and Untamed Brands as a whole expand, we want to really embed this approach,” Hovey said. “I’m tasked with making sure those pathways to employment are there for people who are often locked out of opportunities, whether that's from incarceration, addiction, homelessness, etc. and create a pathway not just to employment but to a career. By promoting from within, we create opportunity for anyone to grow within the company.”
Although this is Hovey’s first time working for the restaurant industry, she has a background in working with individuals with challenging backgrounds, and for many years was the executive director of Healing Broken Circles—a non-profit organization that works to provide social alternatives to incarcerated individuals.
In her new role, Hovey’s job is not only to recruit individuals from challenging and at-risk backgrounds both for in-store and corporate roles, but also to create benefits and resources within the company with these employees’ unique needs in mind. She also wants Untamed Brands to become a voice for incarceration and post-incarceration reform.
One of the challenges Hovey said she is currently trying to figure out is how to collect data on their employees as fair chance employees who don’t do background checks, and they are currently working on collecting data through voluntary disclosure as a way to improve retention and create long-term opportunities for employees.
“There is a strong business case for hiring fair-chance, employees as the retention statistics are very positive, especially in the restaurant industry where turnover is high,” Hovey said. “Our message is that we hire people: we don't hire judgments, we don't hire backgrounds, and we don't hire legal records. We see the person in front of us and see if they're a good fit for our team. We hire people where they are right now.”
Hovey said she feels like her job is not that much different than what the rest of the restaurant industry faces each day, as so many immigrants and people with criminal records end up working in restaurant kitchens. But she hopes that Untamed Brands can encourage other restaurants to hire fair chance employees with intention.
Contact Joanna Fantozzi at [email protected]