"Like all restaurants in the country, we’re desperate for employees," said Greg Jones, owner of the Xplore Restaurant Group, told FOX TV Stations on Monday. "This is an investment by the restaurant in these kids as well."
Xplore Restaurant Group operates multiple restaurants in Arkansas and is now paying employees who are in high school to devote an hour of their shifts to homework. The young employees will also get an extra $100 if they receive an "A" as their final grade, and $20 if they get a "B" grade.
An executive chef at one of the restaurants, 26-year-old Drake Bielert, came up with the idea and said he previously received complaints from dishwashers about their grades dropping because of their work schedules.
"So it just gives them just that one hour of no interruptions to get all of their work done that they could possibly get done for that day," Bielert said. "They thought it was a joke."
Bielert added that he’s currently working on finishing his GED, and highlighted the importance of young students doing well in school.
"When I was in school, I kind of didn't care that much," he continued. "I found myself down a bad road with some drugs and whatnot, and I still am trying to work my way through schooling right now."
"I want to see these kids do better than I did," he added.
The plan has already shown success. Jones said that he has received a lot of job applications from high schoolers since rolling out the plan, adding that he’s also looking to have tutors help out the student-employees.
"It’s a good selling point for the kids, and I think it’s a better selling point for the parents," he said.
One of the teenaged employees said that studying during work has helped him iron out a better schedule, and noted that the food he gets while studying is "amazing."
"The program that our Executive chef Drake Bielert has put in place to help us with our school work has been a huge help. It gives me a little more free time and relieves a tremendous amount of stress and worry," 17-year-old Payton Musler said in a statement.
"I use to get off work and have to go home and get all my homework done and stay up late but having the opportunity to get your work done while on the job is awesome! And the food they feed you while you're doing your work is amazing!" he added.
Staffing shortages have continued plaguing the restaurant industry in recent months, following the end of extra unemployment funds stemming from the pandemic.
One restaurant in St. Louis, Missouri, announced on Facebook this week that it was permanently shutting its doors after 46 years in business due to not being able to find staff.
"It's very sad and emotional to let go, but when we can't find enough people to staff the operation, there's nothing more we can do," the owners of Balducci's restaurant wrote on Facebook Sunday.
"We can't thank you enough for your incredible Support. We can't thank our amazing Staff enough for sticking with us and fighting to the end. We love them and hope you loved them too! God Bless You and your Families and say a prayer for this Great Country," the restaurant added.