David Cantey, owner-operator of a new Chick-fil-A in Memphis, Tennessee, gestures animatedly as he makes a sales presentation in front of a roomful of middle-aged baby boomers at a suburban Memphis library meeting room.

Is he selling chicken dinners? No. In between the flashing of his wide Georgia-country grin, he’s describing to this assembled group of home-schooling parents the idea that part-time employment at Chick-fil-A can be part of a course of well-rounded education for their teens.

Cantey isn’t quite sure when other Chick-fil-A operators began to target home-schooled teens in labor recruitment, but it was a common strategy in Atlanta, where the company is based, and Cantey naturally carried the idea with him when he came to Memphis from Atlanta last year.

It’s a strategy that’s worked well for Cantey. His new store opened in the fall of 1998 in a booming southern suburb of Memphis, where he now employs five home schoolers, ages sixteen and seventeen. “Chick-fil-A operators in Atlanta recognized they share a common goal with home-school parents, who found that a job went well with what they were trying to do with home-school education,” says Cantey. “Parents are also looking for an environment they know will be healthy and positive for their kids.”

Cantey takes his responsibility to his young charges seriously, and tells parents he wants to know when school is going well and when it’s not. For their part, home schoolers have flexible schedules, which can help a quick-service restaurant cover the bases during rush times.

Several other Memphis Chick-fil-A’s employ home schoolers, and Cantey says the recruitment strategy helps meet the challenge of developing a team of staff during an ongoing labor shortage. Gloria Hailey, the high school director with Memphis-area Home Education Association, says she’s seen an increase in companies looking for home-schooled employees. “They’re pleased,” says Hailey, “with the quality workers that home-schoolers tend to be.”

This article originally appeared in QSR magazine. All rights reserved.

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