Inspired by their own son, the restauranteurs employing those living with disabilities
A chain of Santa Barbara County restaurants is offering unique employment opportunities for those living with disabilities.
It’s the lunchtime rush at Kyle’s Kitchen in Goleta.
There’s a steady stream of customers coming in to order from their menu of brioche bun burgers, fries, salads and more.
They’re here for the food, and the service.
But they might not know one of the other missions of the Santa Barbara County chain of restaurants.
"We want to eat food and help great people," explained Michael Kling, the General Manager at the Hollister location of Kyle’s Kitchen.
"That's something we do through our 'Giving Back' program."
The Ferro family opened its first restaurant location in Santa Barbara County in 2015, with the goal of creating a business which could help people with special needs reach their potential. A goal inspired by their own son, Kyle.
"Kyle was born with a brain injury. When he was born, the general thought was that he would never walk, he would be blind, he wouldn't talk," Kling told KCLU.
"Through a lot of hard work and therapy, Kyle is an active, normal, chatty 18-year-old boy. He does have some difficulties, and learning challenges and some special needs that need accommodation for," said Kling. "But he's super charming, super funny, and a great ambassador for our team into the community."
“PathPoint’s mission and vision to foster compassionate, inclusive, and equitable communities where all individuals have the opportunity to thrive is so close to our heart, and aligns beautifully with our philosophy at Kyle’s Restaurants,” shared Deena Ferro, who along with her husband Jay, own Kyle’s Kitchen.
“We have been lucky to have great support for our son Kyle during his childhood years, and now as we look ahead and help him plan for a future, we see PathPoint as an important resource for him, and also for our restaurants to support employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities and special needs, and are so happy to be able to partner with them," said Ferro.
Cynthia Torres is clearing a tray from a table.
She’s recently started working here at Kyle’s Kitchen.
"I really like working there and I like my co-workers," she told KCLU.
She’s one of many young adults who are building life skills with help from PathPoint – Kyle’s Kitchen’s partners in the Kyle Gives Back initiative.
"Kyle's approached PathPoint and they had a desire to employ people living with disabilities," Matthew Gibson, the Employment Specialist at non-profit PathPoint, told KCLU.
"They partnered with Pathpoint to really figure out how to make it work for their business," he said.
He explained that PathPoint were able to introduce them to incentives by the state and county, as well as providing on-boarding help, training and on-going support like mentorship and job coaching.
"What Kyle's has done is really unique," said Gibson. "They've created a space for the people living with disabilities to grow and to learn.
"Coming out of the pandemic, we saw people who may not have had a job for a couple of years, particularly in the service industry.
"They've created a space for those people to come back to work, and to learn new skills and engage with the community."
So those tucking into their burgers and salads are doing more than just eating great food - they’re also helping others.