Chipotle Mexican Grill has announced plans to hire 19,000 new employees ahead of its busy spring season, an increase of 27% compared to its hirings last year. The company is anticipating a surge in customer demand during “burrito season,” the period from March to May when warmer weather typically brings more people into its restaurants.
Key Details on the Burrito Season Hiring Spree
Chipotle aims to hire 19,000 new crew members across its over 3,000 locations in the US, Canada and Europe. This includes 10,000-15,000 employees for its 2,950 US stores.
The new hires will primarily support its front-line restaurant operations in order to keep up with rising dine-in and digital orders.
By comparison, the fast-casual chain hired 15,000 people leading up to 2023’s burrito season.
Applications are now open, with incentives targeted towards Gen Z workers who make up much of Chipotle’s frontline staff.
Chipotle has called it the “race to hire talent” as restaurants industry-wide face labor shortages. Competitors like Taco Bell have also announced major hiring initiatives for 2024.
“With the war for talent at an all-time high, we continue to introduce new ways to compete in wages and benefits,” said Marissa Andrada, Chipotle’s Chief Diversity, Inclusion and People Officer.
Why Spring Means Non-Stop Burritos
The period from March to May sees a predictable uptick in sales for Chipotle every year, dubbed “burrito season” internally. Here’s why springtime equates to a spike in burritos:
Warmer Weather: More consumers dine out and order takeout when temperatures start rising across the northern hemisphere. Lines can quickly build up out the door during peak mealtimes at many Chipotle locations.
Increased Marketing: Chipotle launches major ad campaigns and promotions like free delivery offers to align with rising spring demand. For example, it is bringing back its popular Burrito Builder game on Roblox.
Return of Students: College students make up an important segment for Chipotle. March sees spring break trips, while April to May has the return of students finished with exams back on campuses and placing frequent online orders.
New Menu Items: Chipotle’s seasonal offerings and limited-time options also drive interest and traffic in the spring months. In 2023, it saw success with its vegan chickpea tofu topping launched in March.
Battling the Tight Labor Market
The hiring push comes amidst a tight labor market, where the US restaurant industry in particular is struggling with staffing challenges. Chipotle’s new incentives aim to attract and retain Gen Z workers:
Starting wages have been raised to an average of $18 per hour for crew members, among the highest in the fast-food industry. Wages vary however based on role and location.
A new student loan assistance program will see Chipotle contribute a monthly $100 for employees with student loan debt. After 6 months, they can then access an accumulated up to $5,250 to pay down their principal student loan amount.
Mental health and wellness benefits include an Employee Assistance Program offering confidential counseling as well as Headspace subscriptions. Paid time off has also been expanded.
Referral bonuses of $200 have been introduced to incentivize staff to recruit friends. Crew training programs and internal career growth opportunities remain important retention levers.
Education assistance of up to $5,250 a year remains available for qualifying employees after 90 days, applicable for high school completion programs to college degrees.
Forecasts of a Burrito Bonanza
Industry analysts have forecasted continued positive momentum for Chipotle heading into burrito season:
Chipotle’s comps sales growth stood at a stellar +16% in 2023 despite price hikes and inflationary pressures. 2024 forecasts remain bullish on above-category growth.
Digital sales could make up 35% of total sales in 2024 according to Cowen, as consumers stick to ordering via online channels. Higher menu prices are also boosting transaction totals.
Staffing levels by late March are expected to reach pre-Covid levels, according to Chipotle CFO Jack Hartung, minimizing disruption to operations during the peak demand months.
Restaurant margins should stabilize from late 2023’s pressures, aided by moderating food costs and potential easing of wage rate growth.
Unit expansion remains on track for 235-250 net new restaurant openings targeted in 2024, supporting sales momentum.
Table 1: Key Figures on 2024’s Burrito Season
|% Change vs 2023
|Average crew hourly wages
|Digital mix of sales
|+3 pct pts
|Comps sales growth
|New restaurant openings
The substantial hiring spree indicates Chipotle is gearing up for another potential burrito bonanza this spring. The incentives introduced also showcase Chipotle’s efforts to retain its workforce amidst a hyper-competitive labor market, particularly for courting its young frontline crew members. While risks remain around inflation, analysts and management remain confident on achieving continued best-in-class sales momentum through 2024’s burrito season.
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