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Lettuce Entertain You: Nourishing Chicago with Every Meal and Every Job

Not only does Lettuce Entertain You employ our participants, but they have also been part of our fundraising events. Pictured here is Lettuce restaurant Wow Bao serving up some delicious bites at our 2019 Cara Summer Social.

Our participants’ long-term success is built on relationships with trusted employment partners that collectively provide more than 900 jobs annually to untapped talent across Chicago and beyond. We couldn’t create hope, jobs, and opportunity without them, which is why we are spotlighting our employment partners and their commitment to building an inclusive economy. In this blog post, get to know our longtime friend and partner Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants.

For members of our community who may not know the in’s and out’s of Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants, tell us a little bit about your company.

Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants is an independent, family-owned restaurant group based in Chicago that owns, manages and licenses more than 110 restaurants nationwide.  Lettuce just celebrated its 51st anniversary and thanks to the creativity of our leaders, we proudly serve guests at more than 60 concepts ranging from fast casual to fine dining.

What about Lettuce’s work and culture makes Cara Collective a great fit for your hiring needs?

From the start, we appreciated that Cara Collective’s program provides their participants with a structured learning experience and valuable resources, all in a caring environment. When they complete the program, the participants are eager to move forward with their career goals, ideally with a company that continues that caring approach. This makes Lettuce and our “Culture of Caring” a great fit – it’s all about caring for ourselves, caring for each other, and of course caring for the guests, the food, and the service.

Over the course of our partnership, what types of roles have you hired our participants for?

A number of our restaurants have hired Cara Collective participants and we’ve especially seen success for entry level roles like dishwasher and dining room stocker. These are key roles that provide a great stepping stone for growth in the future.

How have our participants impacted your organization as a whole?

Cara Collective graduates are really great hires: they’re ready to learn a new job, work hard and have a desire to grow their career. In our experience, Cara Collective graduates become terrific employees who fit into our Culture of Caring and help Lettuce continue to be a leader in the hospitality industry.

Do you have any specific stories of Cara participants who went the extra mile on the job? If so, we’d love to know them!

Yes! One of our favorite stories is Kenon. He was hired in August of 2021 as a dishwasher at Shaw’s Crab House. According to Chef Arnie Tellez, Kenon was eager to not only do a good job, but to get promoted – and he achieved it! He worked hard as a dishwasher for about three months, then moved up to an oyster shucker. As Chef Arnie pointed out, that’s one of the most skilled back of house restaurant positions!

What can participants expect to learn during their time on Lettuce’s team?

Expect to learn a lot! In addition to learning their job duties, participants are encouraged to develop and grow at their own pace and hopefully build their career with Lettuce. I like the way Chef Arnie describes it: “Participants can expect to learn structure and that you can always work your way up.  When you work hard, doors will open. Anyone who wants to work hard and grow, this is the place for you.  From a retention standpoint, there are so many opportunities in a restaurant.  If you don’t like what you are doing, there is always another fit and role to try.”

How has the partnership between Lettuce and Cara Collective grown over the years?

We’ve been working with Cara since 2013. When we started, we focused on a single restaurant location as the Cara Collective team got to know Lettuce. With each successful hire, we introduced new restaurant locations and teams. Cara Collective remains committed to the success of their participants and employer partners, which really helps us find the perfect match for every role. We look forward to many more years partnering with Cara Collective in the future. 

Do you work for a company interested in hiring our motivated job seekers? Contact us! Is your organization looking to deepen their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion? Check out Cara Plus.