Hojeij Branded Foods' P.F. Chang's inside Terminal A at the Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport ranked number one in sales among Atlanta airport concessions in 2015, with $10.3 million in sales in the fiscal year. JONATHAN PHILLIPS / SPECIAL
Photo: Jonathan Phillips
Photo: Jonathan Phillips

Atlanta airport concessionaire joins ICE employee screening program

An Atlanta-based airport restaurant operator has joined a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement program for stringent screening of workers’ documentation.

Hojeij Branded Foods, which operates 22 restaurants at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, is the first airport restaurant operator in the country to be certified under the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers program. The voluntary program, known by the acronym IMAGE, started in 2006.

Hojeij-operated restaurants at Hartsfield-Jackson include Varasano’s, P.F. Chang’s, Gordon Biersch, Cat Cora’s Kitchen, Goldberg’s Bagels & Deli, Great Wraps, Chick-fil-A and others.

The certification process took Hojeij about six months, including an audit and establishment of a hiring and employment eligibility verification policy that fulfills the program’s requirements.

The benefits for companies that participate in the program include waived or reduced fines for inadvertent violations.

Ordinarily, the fines can add up to thousands or even millions of dollars.

Employment screening is important in the hiring of airport workers, according to Nick Annan, ICE special agent in charge of Homeland Security investigations in Atlanta. Employees at the airport have “access to certain areas of the airport that the everyday traveler does not have,” he said.

Those unauthorized to work in the United States may attempt to use fraudulent documents or engage in identity theft or use stolen documents, he said.

Overall, the world’s busiest airport has more than 300 concessions locations. Hojeij is one of the major concessionaires at Hartsfield-Jackson and has about 700 employees in Atlanta.

The certification is for Hojeij’s Atlanta operations, but the company said it plans to extend the program to its operations at other major airports.

Hundreds of other businesses and organizations are certified in the IMAGE program, including Chick-fil-A, Costco Wholesale, Publix, construction companies and local governments including Cobb County and the city of Acworth.

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