Hiring individuals with disabilities is a ‘win-win’ for Salt Creek Grille

As businesses continue to face staffing challenges, Salt Creek Grille was happy to welcome back a valuable workforce — Eden Autism’s students.

Hassan helps to set up Salt Creek Grille so the restaurant is ready to open

Through the Eden School’s Transition to Employment program, students learn skills for jobs in restaurants, offices, hospitality settings, retail businesses, and numerous other paid employment opportunities.

Hugh Preece, Salt Creek Grille President & Operating Partner, said hiring Eden students is a win-win. “People with disabilities amaze you, and you learn from them on a daily basis as they learn from you,” he said.

The students take care of tasks in the front and back of the restaurant. They prepare the bar and drink areas, fold napkins, chop vegetables, and do other prep work to ensure things run smoothly for their colleagues and customers. These tasks may seem small, but they have a big impact on the overall operations of the restaurant.

Zach and Hassan help prepare Salt Creek Grille for opening

Zach and Hassan help prepare Salt Creek Grille for opening

As Eden’s students complete the prep work, other employees have more time to expand their own skills. They can learn to cook on the line, enabling them to grow within the company. “It takes a workload off another person to allow them to flourish and learn other skill sets,” said Preece.

Tyrone Burston, Lead Teacher of the Transition to Employment Program, said that creating a relationship with the business is a huge part of the program.

“We integrate what Salt Creek Grille does into our school kitchen as much as possible,” said Burston. This not only prepares students to work at Salt Creek Grille, but it enables them to secure jobs at restaurants all over New Jersey.

Hassan chops up Romaine lettuce at Salt Creek Grille

“We really want our kids to be prepared ultimately for jobs when they graduate, and the best place to get that experience is here, in a real kitchen,” said Burston. Many students who graduate from the Eden School enter Eden’s Adult Services program, where they continue to use the skills they learned to work at businesses across New Jersey.

Having individuals with disabilities in the workforce benefits the entire staff. “Many of the workers are immigrants, and in their countries, you don’t see people with challenges. They’re kind of invisible in the community,” said Preece. “So, this not only helps them have compassion for others, but it really opens up their mind to a different way of thinking.”

And that is an important part of what Eden is all about.

“Our mission is to have students integrate into the community and the workplace,” said Burston. “It allows our kids and his staff to be part of an inclusive, understanding community.”