An Ohio restaurant owner hires former criminals

• The owner of Hot Chicken Takeover credits his company’s success on the ‘alternative resumes’ of his employees.

• 70% of employees have criminal records.

• The company wants to give an opportunity to those with criminal records to prove themselves.

At Hot Chicken Takeover, a popular fried chicken restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, 70% of employees have criminal records.

That’s by design, according to owner Joe Deloss, who shared his story on NBC’s Today show.

“Because we believe a crime record is often about circumstance, not character … we’re giving an opportunity for somebody to demonstrate a different story for themselves,” Deloss said.

Deloss opened Hot Chicken Takeover with his wife in 2014 and had just three employees. Today, the couple own three restaurants and have nearly 200 employees. Deloss credits the success of his business to the team he’s built, touting his employees’ “alternative resumes” as a benefit to his company.

His employees say they feel at home.

“Everyday I come in here I feel accepted,” Jameel H., one of Deloss’ employees, said. “The love is genuine. I’ve worked for numerous companies and I’ve never felt anything like this.”

Jameel, whom NBC identified only using his first name and last initial to protect his privacy, noted the difficulty he experienced when he tried to re-enter the workforce following his criminal record.

“I kinda lost hope a little bit, found myself back in streets,” he said.

Jameel’s experience isn’t unique. Many individuals who seek rehabilitation into the workforce after stints in prison experience difficulty finding jobs.

Many fast food restaurants conduct background checks, as do certain licensed jobs, like barbers or athletic trainers.

On top of that, individuals with criminal records struggle to find housing. Until recently, using criminal background as a reason to turn down applicants was legal, but there are still no guarantees exist that discrimination won’t occur.

Deloss is conscious of these impediments to success and offers his employees benefits for housing, transportation, and counseling. His philosophy of fair chance employment is making a difference in their lives.

“When I came here and they gave me a chance to show my talents, it gave me a reason to believe in myself even more,” Jameel said.

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