Chipotle created “Emerging Leader and Mentoring” programs and launched a fresh learning management system called “The Spice Hub,” which focuses on up-skilling through gamification and immersive education. “The best thing we can do is make sure that they're trained, so that they're successful in their job, and then that we give them a culture and a leader that develops them so they realize they have the growth opportunities at Chipotle,” Niccol said.
“… That's our proposition,” he added. “That's who we are. If you want to be a part of that we're going to be building lots of restaurants that present an opportunity for you to be a part of it.”
Chipotle is on track for 8–10 percent net new unit growth, per year, as it targets 7,000 North America units (more than half of Chipotle's 3,000 stores have built in the past decade). Naturally, it’s going to require more crew, GMs, and field leadership to get there. That’s why the company created the “Restaurateur,” ladder, Niccol said, and also why Chipotle zeroed in on the GM trajectory in particular. They can advance to certified training manager, field leader, team director, and regional vice president. Two GMs who started as crew members have made it to that latter, high-level role.
Niccol said Chipotle is currently in the 85–90 percent range of restaurants staffed to model. Pre-COVID, it was closer to 80 percent.
“Going forward, one of the things that we’re really happy to see actually is at the manager level and above we’re seeing more stability,” he said. “So we’re seeing less turnover take place there. Usually, how that works then is that cascades into the crew.”
Chipotle’s salary level (apprentice, GM, restaurateur) turnover in 2021 was 43 percent, higher than 31 percent the year before, but better than 49.1 percent in 2018.
This past year was an Omicron rollercoaster, Niccol said. Stores were understaffed. It was increasingly difficult to get people to sign up to work. Through higher wages and more defined growth paths, however, he said Chipotle made “tremendous progress” in stabilizing, especially at the manager tier. “So what the challenges were in 2022—I think we get them,” he said.
Chipotle recently introduced a labor scheduling program as well and began testing radio frequency identification technology to enhance traceability and inventory systems.
Niccol said Chipotle will use the scheduling platform to refine deployment and forecasting. One of the brand’s pressing spots today is its expeditor role, or the task in between making a burrito and payment.