MOD Pizza finds strength as second chance employer

MOD Pizza

Kory Harp, MOD Pizza’s program manager – impact hires

Although named by Nation’s Restaurant News as the fastest growing U.S. restaurant chain in terms of sales for two years in a row, MOD Pizza sees the growth of its employees as more important than financial success.

And it prides itself on being a second chance employer. But second chance at MOD means more than creating opportunities only for formerly incarcerated employees. Although there are plenty of those. In fact, they make up about 21 percent of the company’s workforce.

“MOD gives a second chance to everybody,” says Kory Harp, program manager – impact hires. “We give a second chance to the mom who hasn’t worked in 10 or 15 years and the kid who wants to go to college, but this is his first job. We give everyone a chance no matter who they are.”

And giving those who want it a chance has created a company that’s about more than just pizza. Not to say that MOD’s “made on demand” pizza doesn’t have a following in places where it has opened outlets.

A platform for doing good

The way the company officially defines itself on the “Who We Are” section of its website: “At its heart MOD is a platform for doing good. The idea? If we take care of our employees, they’ll take care of you, and our business will take care of itself. We call it Spreading MODness, and after opening stores across the U.S., we think it’s working.”

Something must be working, or else it wouldn’t have made it to the top of the fastest growing restaurant list. The Seattle-headquartered company had a 44.7% increase in systemwide sales growth in 2018. It grew from 31 locations in 2014 to 476 outlets in 29 states – as well as the United Kingdom and Canada – today.

Part of the company’s success may no doubt be due to the fact that it is a second chance employer, a concept that more and more consumers are beginning to support. And it all began with Harp.

“I came in about 2010 (two years after the company was founded),” he says.” I had just been released from prison. I told them I hadn’t worked for a while, but the hiring manager said she kind of liked me.

Hiring formerly incarcerated employees for a decade

“The thing about MOD that puts us apart is everybody now wants to hire somebody that has a background. It’s the cool thing to do these days, but MOD has been doing that for 10 years. It was started by me.”

He worked really hard for the first six months. “The boss told me to hire more people like me who had the same kind of background. And every single one of us has been a manager at some point,” Harp says.

After Harp had been on the job for about three years, MOD Pizza began to put a big focus on hiring people in reentry. “So that took off to what you see now,” he says. “In the state we’re in (Washington),  66 percent of the residents of some of our districts have records. In the company as a whole it’s 18 percent to 21 percent.”

Although he had originally planned to work only a few months at MOD Pizza, Harp has been there more than a decade. He’s opened 91 MOD stores and trained employees across the nation.

Mentorship program to help employees deal with problems

Currently he’s in the process of creating a mentorship program that will launch in the coming months. The purpose of the program is to help people deal with the problems they’re facing in their lives, whether they’re reentering society from prison, are in recovery or whatever situation they’re facing.

“We’ll go in and help people combat their outside life. For me I didn’t know how to do anything on a day-to-day basis. I could come to work and be great, but I had a lot of trouble with handling ordinary life things. I can’t say what we’re going to be doing yet, but we have a big partner that’s going to help us do it,” he says.

In the meantime, “we are going to continue to build stores and keep the culture. Our main goal is to keep the teams happy and give back to the teams and the communities where they are located.”

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One Comment

  1. Excellent concept and I appreciate the open mindedness to afford ex-offenders employment opportunities. I will share your story with as many people as possible, because this is primarily what my job entails; finding employment for offender’s. Once the stigma’s and prejudices have been removed as barriers, the majority of ex-offenders given an opportunity to work, make great employees.

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