NewsPinellas County


Largo diner provides job opportunities for individuals with special needs

Posted at 5:00 PM, Sep 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-03 17:04:44-04

LARGO, Fla. — A new Largo diner is helping individuals with special needs learn job skills they can use in their everyday life.

When you walk into Roo Roo’s Diner and see Emily behind the counter, you’ll know that every spoon, knife and fork was polished with love. She’s the silverware manager.

“I make people happy, I take my job seriously, and I love it here,” said Emily, who is one of 10 members with special needs working at Roo Roo’s Diner.

Her brother Nicholas Ellis and his partner Joseph Christianson have two children with special needs. When they opened the diner they immediately asked, “what can we do to help.”

“And I said, ‘hey, let’s talk about doing a volunteer program at the restaurant teaching job skills with the individuals with special needs,'" said Ellis.

A couple of hours a week, these men and women will come into the diner and learn from Nick and Joseph, everything from washing dishes to setting tables.

“I think a lot of employers look at these individuals as a risk rather than somebody that can be employed and I’m always the risk-taker, I want to see people succeed,” said Ellis.

The hope is what is learned in the diner, can be taken with them and used in other areas of life as well as other jobs.

“They are going to learn responsibility, how to be independent, they’re learning manners, ‘yes ma'am, no ma'am, hey how are you,’ saying hello to the customers when they come in,” said Ellis.

By opening a new restaurant during a pandemic, these owners say it gives them the time and space to focus on the training.

“We’re not allowed to get overcrowded with customers and people and we can slowly ease into cooking and doing a great job and not have a mad rush to the door and be able to keep up,” said Christianson.

When it comes to advertising, it all starts with Emily.

“Its the best food in the whole wide world it’s so delicious,” said Emily.