Hot Springs Village restaurant owner Greg Jones and his executive chef Drake Bielert have seemingly solved the age-old problem for students juggling work and school, and the new-age problem for employers short staffed after the COVID-19 pandemic.
This “happy medium” found by the Jones’ business Xplore, which owns seven restaurants across HSV*, is providing students with one paid hour of homework time before starting their restaurant work. To maintain consistent employment and ensure this homework time is working to the benefit of these students’ schooling, at the end of the academic semester students will be compensated $100 for making A’s and $20 for making B’s.
This local idea is gaining so much attention it even landed Jones, Bielert and Jessieville High School Senior Payton Musler on Fox News Wednesday. Check out the interview, here.
"My executive chef Drake Bielert was sitting outside with some of our high school dish and bus students a few weeks ago ... and they were saying that their parents were saying they couldn’t work as many hours or as many days because their school work was starting to suffer," Jones said. "And while they wanted to work all those hours to have money to buy gas or buy cars or whatever they’re spending money on these days, they weren’t going to be able to."
This led to Bielert coming up with the idea of making time for school at work.
During this first hour of clocking in, these student employees are provided with lunch, wifi and a computer if they don't already have one.
"Drake even goes up and monitors that they’re actually doing their homework and what they’re doing on the computers and stuff like that," Jones said, laughing. "So I mean we’ve … had some good results. Some of our kids, some of them have come up almost two letter grades, so it’s been good."
But while these student employees get paid, this concept is also paying to the benefit of the restaurant and community, and Jones encourages other restaurants to hop on the bandwagon.
"Right now, in the post COVID world, attracting employees and keeping and retaining them is a big challenge," Jones said. "We’re probably at least 20 or some odd employees down from where we probably should be to give the service that we’d like to give our guests. So it helps us keep our employees, it helps us retain them longer-term."
"I (also) think it’s great for the community," he continued. "It’s a challenge for kids in school, our executive chef tells a story about how he himself when he was a kid he kind of went down a wrong path in high school and he wished he had someone who was trying to help him back when he was in high school.
"I think it’s kind of a win-win for both the restaurant and the community too."
Currently, Xplore employs about 10 students, but they have already had two more start over the weekend after the announcement of the program broke.
"And we’ve had several others apply just over the last few days, so it’s been great," Jones said. "And some of them, it’s the parents helping them apply," he added, laughing, "because I think it’s a great thing for parents, too. They know where their kids are, they know they’re doing their homework and they’re still able to have some employment and make some income."
To make time for this program, they have had to create an overlap in schedules, but at this point they are finding it to be worth the expense of doubling up shifts for that one hour.
*Xplore began installing locations across HSV in 2018. Popular locations include the Bee Hive, Xplore Lakeside and Artfully Baked and Brewed.