Metz Culinary Management has committed so diligently to hiring workers who may need a little extra help, the stance has been incorporated as one of the company’s core values: “Respect and Caring—Honoring the culture and worth of people, seeing to their comfort without the expectation of return.”

The philosophy stretches across all Metz’s sites, which cover the U.S. east of the Mississippi.

Metz’ operation in Maryville College, Maryville, Tennessee, for example, includes five employees and two interns who are challenged. James Dulin is the general manager.

“We work with a bunch of good kids who have their hearts in front of them trying to better themselves and get a job,” he says. “Each have their own challenges, but each also comes with an earnest wish to do their best.

“They work in our utilities and in service—if someone chooses to shine that way. Most of them start in utility, which is our dish room, cleaning, housekeeping and what we call a lobby attendant. They make sure tables and chairs and floors are all taken care of.”

Dulin believes that the policy of hiring disabled workers yields numerous upsides.

“We work in higher education, a college atmosphere,” he says. “There’s an aspect to it of opening students’ world up to a wider spectrum of people. Some students may have had interactions with special needs populations, but other kids may have never had that. It starts a dialogue. I think that it opens us up—not only Metz, but us as a particular organization at Maryville College. For employees and our students, it opens up a wider world to them.’

Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, another Metz site, shares that viewpoint.

General Manager Zubair Shahid, says, “Our goal is to support students and the local community with our services. We are committed to meeting the needs of the entire population, which includes students and staff with disabilities. We feel that it is our duty to provide personalized services to these students and employees.

“We want all our guests to feel welcome, so it is important for our staff to pay special attention that we are adequately supporting our population with disabilities or special needs,” Shahid says.

Maureen Metz, Executive Vice President of Merchandising, encourages other businesses – large and small—to do their part in giving this segment of the workforce a chance.

“There is no doubt,” she says, “that this kind of experience is transformative for special needs workers. But what’s also emerging is a benefit to their colleagues and the customers they interact with daily. It’s a raising of awareness; it’s a heightening of sensitivity; it’s a chance to break down stereotypes about disabilities and physical and mental challenges.

“We don’t do this because it makes good business sense—although clearly it does. We do this because it’s the right thing to do.”

To companies that are considering the launch of an effort to hire challenged employees, Maureen offers wholehearted encouragement. Doing so can have far-reaching advantages to the lives of the workers and boost the company’s standing, reputation and overall success by:

  • Burnishing its good image, forging deep connections in the communities in which it operates
  • Placing it at the forefront of employers demonstrating social responsibility
  • Benefiting colleagues and other employees, as they learn first-hand how to be more empathetic and understanding of people with disabilities
  • Increasing customer loyalty and creating an organization with whom customers want to do business
  • Forging connections with other organizations in the area, which can open network channels to new business
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