July 6 is National Fried Chicken Day. While no one knows for sure how it got started or where, that does little to diminish the significance of the dish or the masses of fans it has. But instead of dedicating haikus, poems, or songs to the bird, one startup in Ohio chose to pay homage by changing lives — one piece of fried chicken at a time.
A-fowl in Columbus
Hot Chicken Takeover (HCT) is a fried chicken restaurant chain in Columbus, Ohio, that specializes in Nashville hot chicken. What’s that, you ask? Imagine the sassy and indulgent soul food whipping up a flavor bomb of spices, permeating into every sinew of a buttermilk-battered chicken breast, thigh, or drumstick, deep fried to a golden perfection and served with coleslaw, mac and cheese, bread, and pickles. Unlike the unknown origins of National Fried Chicken Day, the Nashville hot chicken was born of culinary punishment and opportunist entrepreneurship.
The story of Joe Deloss’ Hot Chicken Takeover, however, sings a different tune. After trying out the hot chicken in 2013, he and his wife, Lisa, decided Columbus, Ohio, needed to be in on the hot chicken scene and began hatching their plan. Initially a pop-up restaurant, they launched a crowdfunding campaign to help fund a food truck, before settling on the second floor of the historic North Market, where a line forms before the restaurant even opens. The success of this entrepreneurial endeavor could’ve ended on this high note alone. But Joe and Lisa chose to do something more.
Wanted: alternative resumes
Successful entrepreneurship creates wealth, not just for the entrepreneur but also the local economy in the form of taxation, which is then redistributed into the community. With HCT, the founders opted to cut the line at the unemployment office by hiring men and women in need of supportive employment.
Specifically, HCT focuses on a part of the workforce that most overlook, referred to internally as job seekers with “alternative resumes.” Approximately 70 percent of those employed at HCT are ex-prisoners, were once homeless, and are recovering addicts. For Joe and his team, they’re not giving the employees a second chance, just a fair chance.
“Because we believe that a criminal record is often about circumstance and not character, we’re not necessarily taking a chance. We’re giving the opportunity for someone to demonstrate a different story for themselves,” Joe summarizes. He also stresses how HCT’s labor strategy is one of mutual benefits, rather than one that’s just wetting its beak. And instead of ruffling the feathers of patrons, HCT has been greeted with nothing but support.
What’s good for the rooster …
According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), small businesses employ more than half of the working class in the U.S. and is often referred to as the backbone of our nation’s economy. But they also have a profound local impact.
Small businesses do more than just conduct business. Small business owners usually live in the same communities as their customers, so they’re more tuned in to local issues and more likely to design a business model that gives back. Ultimately, they’re defining the community’s identity and its overall health.
With helping small businesses succeed at the heart of all we do here at TSheets, we tip our hats to all the small business owners making a difference. To our readers, if this post has got you feeling a little peckish, be sure to scratch that itch by supporting a local business in your community.