Mar 19, 2024

Boston Pizza’s Secret Ingredient is Diversity


Boston Pizza may be famous for their gourmet pizzas, but their commitment to developing a diverse workforce that includes employees with disabilities makes them even more remarkable in our eyes.

For over three decades, Boston Pizza – Enright Group has partnered with Connect Employment Services to offer employment opportunities to jobseekers with intellectual disabilities. Their first hire from Connect came in the 1990’s at the Pembina location, and since that time they have continued to be a leader in the supported employment landscape in Winnipeg, hiring multiple staff across several locations throughout the years. In fact, of the 11 Winnipeg locations, Connect alone has had candidates hired at 8 locations. Currently, Boston Pizza employs 4 candidates from Connect, at the Bishop Grandin, St. James and Portage locations.

At Bishop Grandin, General Manager James Williams hired Lisa in March 2018, recognizing that her extensive experience as a dishwasher with another restaurant would make her a great asset to their team. Lisa was the first employee that James’ hired through a supported employment program, and she has proven to be one of his best employees due to her strong work ethic, quality of work and excellent attendance record. James’ is a strong advocate for Lisa, and his support goes beyond the workplace, including providing her with guidance in planning for her upcoming wedding. James’ support has also extended to offering training and assessment placements for other Connect candidates who are considering the hospitality industry for a career.

Over at the Portage location, Andrea works with Kitchen Manager, Sara Arsenault, who has demonstrated a commitment to building an inclusive workplace, welcoming staff from many backgrounds. During Andrea’s interview with Sara at Boston Pizza, Andrea instantly felt delighted about the culture and inclusiveness. Andrea was hired for a part-time position, and often gets called for extra shifts. The management & staff have empowered Andrea to bring her authentic self to work, inviting her (and other staff) to play music of their choice in the kitchen, including from Andrea’s country-of-origin, Chile. Andrea is also invited and encouraged to join in the many social events staff attend together. Andrea works in a dishwasher/food portioning role, and while learning to weigh and portion food, she experienced some challenges reading and remembering numbers on the scale. Her manager quickly identified a simple accommodation to help Andrea, making it easier and less stressful to complete that task. The Portage location also employs another candidate from Connect, who has worked there since 2005.

Last but not least, we need to speak about the St. James location, where Craig Poleshuk, Managing Partner and Meagan Harvey, Kitchen Manager, employ Jon. Jon was hired in 2014, and all the managers he has worked with have consistently acknowledged Jon for his hard work and reliability. Boston Pizza was so impressed with Jon’s performance, that they have repeatedly tapped him on the shoulder to train new dishwashing staff when they join the team. Having the opportunity and responsibility of training new staff has really boosted Jon’s confidence, and has given him a great sense of pride and accomplishment at work. Jon has commented over and over about how everyone at work is so supportive and always encourages him, something that really helps him to get through the busy rushes. Boston Pizza also acknowledge Jon for his contributions in 2019, when he was selected as their Employee of the Year!

For all of these reasons and more, Connect Employment Services nominated Boston Pizza-Enright Group for the MSEN (Manitoba Supported Employment Network) Best Practices in Supported Employment Award – Large Business, for 2023. And they were chosen as the winner!

Karley David, spokesperson for Boston Pizza-Enright Group says their group is proud to work with Connect Employment and has benefitted from candidates it has hired through the agency:

“We have a number of wonderful individuals who have joined our teams that have so positively added to our company culture and diversity, which is very important to us at Boston Pizza. The team at Connect Employment has always been extremely professional and supportive to work with and we look forward to continuing our mutually beneficial partnership with their organization. We would highly encourage any other employers to engage with the staff and candidates at Connect Employment based upon our longstanding experience.”

Karley David, Boston Pizza – Enright Group

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