Growing up, Cava co-founder Ted Xenohristos remembers how his mother, a Greek immigrant, worked day and night as a waitress in a Maryland diner. Voting on election day? She didn’t have time.
So when Xenohristos finally had the time and opportunity to vote himself, it was a particularly proud moment. “I felt like my parents came here and sacrificed something for me to have that chance,” he says.
Now, Cava wants to make it a little easier for its 1,600 hourly employees to vote by giving them two hours of paid leave to get to the polls on election day. As far as the owners are aware, the DC-based Mediterranean fast-casual chain is the first national restaurant group to offer the perk.
“It’s not always easy for everyone with childcare and finding transportation and working multiple jobs,” says Xenohristos, speaking from Pike 7 Plaza in Vienna, where the company is opening its 69th store today. “With the voter turnout being so low in the states, we’re trying to get people to be part of their communities and get them involved.”
Xenohristos says he see it as just another one of their employee benefits, which already include paid sick, parental, and vacation leave for full- and part-time employees in addition to paid community service days.
Cava is working with Vote.org to provide its employees in eight states and DC information about registering to vote, early voting, polling hours and locations, and more. (The same internal platform they’re using to disseminate the voting info is also used to help employees get details about financial literacy programs and ESL courses.)
Logistically speaking, employees will have to give two weeks notice to managers that they want the time off to vote. Xenohristos says they’ll arrange shifts so that they don’t have to close any stores, and that they’ll pay for additional staff to come in and cover shifts if necessary.
“We’ll make it work,” Xenohristos says. “If we have to, we’ll get in there and work too. We still remember how to make bowls.”