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Hiring Heroes: Challenges Addressed at Restaurant Show

The nation’s unemployment rate is 8.1 percent. But the unemployment rate of America’s youngest military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan hovers at a stunning 29 percent, according to an op-ed Sunday in The Washington Post by Adm. Mike Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Steven A. Cohen, founder of S.A.C. Capital Advisors.

“Consider that: Nearly one in three Americans who fought to defend us in distant lands cannot find a job here at home,” Mullen and Cohen wrote.









Franchise leaders traveled to Chicago Sunday at a forum sponsored by Franchise Times to raise awareness about the crisis and efforts by the franchising industry to address it at the National Restaurant Show – the annual industry trade show of the National Restaurant Association.  IFA Past Chairman and Tasti D-lite Chairman & CEO Jim Amos led a panel discussion that included Mary Kennedy Thompson, President, Mr. Rooter and VetFran Chair, Cici’s Pizza Chief Development Officer Bill Spae, and Art Myers, Executive Director of the International Military Community Executives Association.

Amos started the discussion with a reference to history: “Anxious to forget an unpopular war and erase it from their memory, Americans in the wake of the Vietnam war also erased the returning vet,” he said. “There are 58,270 names on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, but more have committed suicide since then. What we don’t want to do is let something like that happen again.”

“The first and primary need that these folks have is a job,” Amos said.








Thompson reported that VetFran’s 460+ member companies are offering discounts and hiring initiatives that have led to new careers in franchising for over 2100 veterans since the launch of Operation Enduring Opportunity last fall. Over 120 of those are new franchise business owners.
CiCi’s Pizza’s Patriot program, for example, waives the franchise fee and cuts royalty payments in half for the first full year of business. “This is equal to a savings of $58,000 for each veteran,” said Spae.

But serious challenges remain. Transition programs offered by the federal government have been widely criticized as inadequate. Requests by Cici’s and others to publicize their career programs at military facilities have received little or no response.

“We see a lot of veterans who are homeless. As soon as the war wanes, people forget about them. That’s why need to do something now, while the spotlight is on,” Myers, a former Department of Defense official and Air Force veteran, said.

IFA members such as Domino’s, Two Men & A Truck, FASTSIGNS, Tim  Horton’s, Genuine Parts, Zoup! Franchisee Richard Simtob, Moran Industries, Cici’s and others are responding to the call by registering for first-ever “Taste of Franchising Pavilion” and hiring  fair at the National Veterans Small Business Conference & Expo June 26-28 in Detroit. Over 15,000 veterans and high-level federal officials are expected at the event.

IFA Board Member and Secretary Melanie Bergeron of Two Men & a Truck is spearheading the effort with Don DeSmith of Servant Systems and Jan Muhleman of the Michigan FBN.

Here’s how you can help:

 1) Exhibit in the Taste of Franchising Pavilion. Foodservice brands are strongly encouraged to join this effort, also taking advantage of this significant marketing opportunity to veterans and members of the military, that the organizers have asked the IFA to pull together.  This is to market your brand and to celebrate the vets.  The cost is $3,100.00 for an exhibit booth. Please contact Josh Merin at IFA at for more information.

2) Attend the free Hiring Fair during the event. There is no charge to participate. The price of admission is at least one job to offer a veteran. Please click here for more information and to register.

3) Join the IFA at the IFA/Michigan FBN Salute to Veterans Reception in the Taste of Franchising Pavilion June 26 at 5:00 pm.

Without jobs and opportunities, our veterans are at risk of crippling debt, family problems and even depression and suicide.  That’s why Melanie Bergeron says, “We Michigan zors need to rally to the cause.” Franchisors from across the nation are following her lead.