Chipotle Mexican Grill has announced plans to hire 19,000 new employees ahead of its busy spring season, an increase of 27% compared to last year. The hiring spree comes as the fast-casual chain prepares for rising consumer demand and introduces new benefits aimed at attracting Gen Z workers.
Chipotle Expanding Workforce by 27% From 2023
As reported by multiple news outlets, Chipotle is looking to bring on 19,000 new crew members across its over 3,000 restaurants nationwide. This marks a significant 27% increase compared to the 15,000 employees hired last year.
The ramped up hiring effort will ready Chipotle locations for its busiest time of year – the spring season between March and May. Warmer weather, spring break, and other factors typically result in heightened customer traffic and burrito demand.
To meet greater operational needs, Chipotle hopes to have new hires trained and in place prior to the spring rush. The new crew members will work across all areas of the restaurants, including the front-line, grill, prep, and digital make lines.
Targeting Generation Z with Student Debt Benefits
A key driver behind Chipotle’s expanded hiring push is enhancing benefits to attract Generation Z workers. According to Chipotle CEO Chris Brandt:
“With the war for talent at an all-time high, we continue to introduce new ways to engage with prospective team members while rewarding our existing ones.”
The chain has introduced a slew of new perks catered towards debt-laden Gen Z employees and high school/college students. This includes:
- Student loan and tuition reimbursement of up to $5,250 per year for 120 days of employment
- New mental health care options providing access to licensed therapists and coaches
- An extended friends & family discount increased from 50 to 75%
Such benefits build on Chipotle’s existing offerings like free food, scheduling flexibility, and quarterly bonuses. The goal is to stand out in a competitive hiring landscape and reshape conceptions of fast food work.
Early data suggests the strategy is working – over 75% of new applicants are Gen Z.
Financial Incentives for Referrals and Rapid Promotion
On top of the Gen Z focused benefits, Chipotle has added new financial incentives aimed at fueling its ambitious hiring goals.
The chain has rolled out an employee referral bonus program, offering current crew members $200 for referring a friend that gets hired. With over 100,000 existing US employees, referral networks represent a major pipeline for adding 19,000 roles.
Additionally, Chipotle has highlighted opportunities for rapid promotion and development into management positions. Ambitious employees could see their hourly pay jump from around $15 per hour to $18 within months through Restaurateur and General Manager promotions.
|Average Hourly Pay
Such incentives and growth potential may further entice applicants during a time of labor shortage across the service sector.
Preparing for Post-Pandemic Dine-In Traffic Rebound
Industry analysts see multiple factors motivating Chipotle’s push to rapidly expand its workforce over 2021 levels.
The hiring surge comes as dine-in traffic at fast casual chains like Chipotle rebound following 2 years of pandemic disruption. After a huge drop in 2020, customer visits to Chipotle locations have steadily risen back towards pre-covid levels.
With mask mandates fading and more offices reopened, analysts forecast a return to normal in-store volumes by early 2024. This makes staffing up with 19,000 crew members crucial for handling greater demand.
Chipotle customer traffic trend through the pandemic and recovery
At the same time, digital sales continue rocketing upwards. Chipotle’s digital channel has skyrocketed from just $1.2 billion pre-covid to over $4 billion expected for 2023. While the chain has invested in back-of-house tech to improve digital order throughput, extra staff remains essential.
Further Expansion Plans in 2023 and Beyond
The 19,000 new hires also provide necessary labor for Chipotle’s 2023 expansion plans and beyond.
Later this year, Chipotle intends to open 250 to 300 new restaurant locations – its largest number of openings since 2018. Each additional shop means filling ~25 crew member roles.
Longer term, Chipotle aims to grow its US store count from ~3,000 today to ~7,000 eventually. Achieving such scale would require a workforce expanded from ~100,000 employees now to over 200,000 in future years.
Thus, successful hiring and retention today lays the foundation for future locations and continued sales momentum.
Outlook: Can Hiring Goals Be Achieved in Tight Labor Market?
As of January 24th, Chipotle has over 11 weeks until its spring season rush begins in early March. In that time frame, the chain must screen applicants, conduct interviews, make offers to 19,000 candidates and have them sufficiently trained.
Some analysts are skeptical such an ambitious hiring target can be fully achieved given wider labor trends. The US economy remains over 2 million restaurant workers short of pre-pandemic levels as workers reassess their priorities.
However, others see Chipotle’s targeting of Gen Z and enhanced benefits package as positioning them better than competitors. The chain’s average hourly pay of $15-$18+ per hour also far exceeds restaurant sector norms.
Ultimately, the coming weeks will determine whether Chipotle’s workforce growth investments translate into hiring success by March. Doing so would help the brand maximize sales during peak 2023 demand and sustain its impressive post-covid growth trajectory.
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