JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Feb. 19, 2007) – In between baking sausage and goat cheese pizzas, creating freshly made salads, and preparing hand-dipped milk shakes, The Loop Pizza Grill is serving an extra helping of tender loving care to its employees, courtesy of a Chaplaincy Program that caters to the spiritual needs of crew members and their families.
The non-denominational program puts trained chaplains inside restaurants to help employees manage stress and cope with life’s everyday challenges.
The chaplains are available to employees 24 hours a day, seven days a week and are paid a small stipend by the restaurant owner. There is no charge to employees. So far, six Loop restaurants have chaplains, and more franchisees are expected to embrace the program after noting its positive impact on morale, attendance and employee retention.
The program is the creation of Loop co-founder and CEO Mike Schneider, who envisioned a faith-based service that would elevate the company’s employee assistance program to a higher level. 
“Like many restaurants with young employees, we have kids who come from dysfunctional homes or have problems at school. The chaplains are a great resource for our people,” Schneider said. “They’ve helped us create an environment where employees feel valued and cared about.”
Most of the restaurant chaplains are trained youth pastors, and some have a degree or license in counseling. They visit their chosen restaurant several times a week, work alongside employees and, when asked, provide non-denominational, faith-based confidential support. Employees have given the program an enthusiastic thumbs-up.
“Our crew members in each restaurant feel like they have a friend to talk to. They don’t see the chaplains as a religious figure,” said Charles Moles, the general manager and operating partner of the Eagle Harbor Loop in Jacksonville. “The program is good for morale.”
“It’s a great program, especially for younger employees” said Stacie Clements, an Eagle Harbor crew member. “Our chaplain, Becky Curtis, is a happy, fun person to talk to . . . just a good friend. She’s someone we can lean on in times of need.”
Clements said she and many of her fellow employees don’t really think of the program in religious terms.
“For us, it’s not really a ‘Chaplaincy Program’. It’s more about the person serving as our chaplain,” she explained.   “As long as we have great, caring people like Becky, I think the program will always be welcome.   And I know my co-workers feel the same way.”
There’s also a bottom-line benefit to the program. Research by Corporate Chaplains of America reveals that every dollar invested in a Chaplaincy program like theirs nets returns between $5 and $16.   At The Loop, corporate managers have seen a decline in absenteeism and employee turnover, two big concerns in the restaurant industry. 
But what about legal considerations? In the United States, employers are permitted to offer faith-based services to employees, provided they do so without
discrimination and without creating an environment where employees feel pressured to conform to a particular faith.
The purpose of The Loop’s Chaplaincy program isn’t to push religion, stressed Schneider.
“We don’t hit anyone over the head with this. We have Jewish, Muslim and Hindu employees, and they know that our chaplains can help them locate a member of their faith community,” he said. “The chaplain is a conduit to assist all our employees.”
Headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla., The Loop Pizza Grill has 30 locations in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama and Louisiana.  
The Loop Pizza Grill is ranked on Pizza Today’s list of the “Top 100 Pizza Companies in the United States” and was featured in Nation’s Restaurant News’ “Top 50 Fast-Casual Players.” In 2006,the restaurant chain was ranked on Fast Casual’s list of “Top 100 Movers and Shakers.”
For more information, visit www.looppizzagrill.com.

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