Chipotle hired Tabassum Zalotrawala, formerly of Panda Restaurant Group and Arby’s, as CDO. Chris Brandt came over from Bloomin’ Brands. Chief people officer Marissa Andrada, who clocked in April 2018, hailed from Starbucks and Kate Spade. Last May, Chipotle tapped Tressie Lieberman as VP of digital and off-premises. She spent two years with startup Snap Kitchen as CMO, but worked close to five with Yum! Brands, holding digital roles at Pizza Hut and Niccol’s former stop, Taco Bell.
The entire picture has changed, and it was critical to refreshing the culture element of Chipotle’s turnaround.
Returning to the restaurant level, Boatwright says, Chipotle’s success throughout 2019 “absolutely” made it easier to hire employees. Why is that so critical? The fast casual just opened 80 locations in Q4—more than it has in any period at any time in its history. Chipotle plans to add 150–165 more in 2020, too.
Boatwright says it was “exciting” for Chipotle to open so many restaurants in a three-month window. He doesn’t expect the company to get there consistently, but it stressed Chipotle’s resources and capabilities in a telling way. They know they could do it, if the opportunity arises.
A big part of that is hiring off the back of brand perception. Chipotle has an in-house recruiting team working out of Columbus, Ohio, that scours career websites and funnels candidates to leadership. There’s also a national new restaurant opening team that coordinates much of the busy work that goes into getting the doors open. Recruiting team members is sizable part of that.
So, what this comes down to is two main points, really: A brand that people now want to be a part of, and having the systems in place to quickly and effectively hire the right kind of crew members to keep Chipotle’s momentum going.
And you can circle GMs to get the conversation started.
Niccol noted in Chipotle’s Q4 call, “during 2019, this emphasis on our general managers resulted in exceptional food that is being prepared more consistently.”
The year prior, Chipotle said one of its goals was to realize less than 25 percent GM turnover by 2020, and that it wanted to implement a GM success profile and establish a competency-based interview guide. The latter element would be used to help field leaders identify and hire better candidates.
Chipotle’s turnover rate in 2018 at the salary level (which includes GMs, apprentices, and restaurateurs) was 49.1 percent. The 35 percent improvement figure from 2019 measures against that, Boatwright says.