Share this:

How area restaurants are tapping into new talent

Over 50 businesses in Central Illinois have now completed LEAP (Leaders in Employing All People) training. LEAP is a free, one-hour, disability employment awareness training for employers in Champaign County. The training is a collaboration between two area nonprofit agencies, Developmental Services Center and Community Choices. Both groups provide services such as one-on-one job coaching and employment services for individuals with disabilities, which are covered by various funding sources and are offered for free to employers.

In 2017, the Champaign County Developmental Disabilities Board conducted a needs survey among individuals with disabilities living in Champaign County. A total of 24.69 percent of respondents answered that they wanted to work in the food service industry. That could bode well for employers in Champaign County because the community is also home to a large number of restaurants, who also have positions they need to fill.

To-date, six restaurants and cafes have gone through LEAP training, and many others have an established hiring history with local agencies, including Dish Passionate Cuisine, which won the Employer of the Year through DSC’s Annual Tree of Hope campaign in 2017, and Scotty’s Brewhouse, a restaurant in Champaign that has also seen success in hiring people with disabilities.

We recently spoke with Liz Lindemann, whose daughter Laura has Down syndrome and has worked at Scotty’s Brewhouse for over a year. One of the things that Liz attributes Laura’s success at Scotty’s to is the management team and overall work culture there. “Her managers at Scotty’s have been very supportive and encouraging of Laura,” Liz said. She has also received recognition for being Scotty’s Employee of the Month.

If you are a Central Illinois restaurant, you may be wondering what steps you can take towards hiring an employee with a disability. The most important thing to do is to create a culture where all people feel respected, including people with disabilities. A great way to do this is by hosting training opportunities for your team, such as the LEAP training, or other disability inclusion training. You can also reach out to your local Department of Rehabilitation Services office for candidate referrals, or a provider agency such as Developmental Services Center or Community Choices. It’s also important to create an inclusive environment, starting with the application process. One way to make candidates comfortable is to ask all applicants if they need any accommodations during the application process. This type of environment is the ideal setting for candidates to explore opportunities, ask questions and for job coaches to assist in making a good job match. Additionally, today’s job candidates both with and without disabilities appreciate a company that is inviting and inclusive.

If your business is interested in learning more about free resources available through LEAP,  contact Developmental Services Center at or (217) 356-9176.

LEAP-certified restaurants

  • Jupiter’s at the Crossing

  • McDonald’s

  • Big Grove Tavern

  • Strawberry Fields and World Harvest Café

  • Miga Restaurant

  • Original Pancake House