Seven of the 10 Whaam employees are in high school or dual enrolled.
In just one year, Flagler Palm Coast High School junior Michael Akialis went from being a line cook to shift leader to assistant manager at Whaam Burger on A1A in Flagler Beach.
“You get out what you put in,” Akialis said. “I put in a lot of work here and that’s shown through the amount of promotions.”
Jaffy Lee, the operations manager for the Whaam Burger and four local A1A Burrito Works, said Akialis’ progress is the goal for their partnership with FPC.
For the last three years, Lee has visited the culinary classes at FPC to help students fill out applications, conduct interviews and hire them at one of the shops.
“We like working with young people as a starting point with their jobs,” she said. “We’re willing to train them in all aspects. And we look to just kind of mold them into a responsibility role — like Michael.”
This year, Akialis went into the culinary classes at FPC to conduct some of the interview for Lee, coming full circle himself.
Akialis started with 12-15 hours a week at Whaam and is now working about 30 hours a week at the store, while dual enrolled at Daytona State College.
“We find that young people are really smart,” Lee said. “We try to make sure that we hold them accountable to their responsibilities. ... but we’ll work with them as much as possible around their school schedule.”
When Whaam opened in July 2017, 75% of the store’s staff was high school students, Lee said.
“It’s awesome because it really motivates not only these students but my future students as well to pass their ServSafe manager’s certificate,” FPC culinary teacher Lorie Savoca said.
After her presentation at FPC this year, two students have been hired — one at Whaam and one at The Waffle Cone, which the store is partnering with as fellow family-owned businesses.
Lee is also reviewing six applications and will be doing call backs for three positions at Whaam starting over spring break. Currently, seven of the 10 Whaam employees are in high school or dual enrolled, she said.
“It shows that the business model works and that if you invest in your staff, they’ll invest back in your business,” Lee said.
Akialis hopes to work at Whaam until leaving for a university. He said the work ethic he’s learned there will help him prosper after school, as well.
Whaam was a familiar place to Akialis before he even began working there, as he used to frequent it with his friends, growing up in Flagler Beach.
“Michael is a very bright young man and he will succeed no matter what he does,” Savoca said. “He’s just one of those kids that’s a natural go-getter. And whatever he puts his mind to he’s going to accomplish.”
While the business partnership is currently only with FPC, Lee said she would love to work with the Matanzas High School culinary classes in the future.