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Playing Offense in a Crisis

With the rise of coronavirus, some employers are adapting quicker than others to the changes in human behavior and public consciousness.

One of those employers is Chipotle - a favorite guest and Joel's favorite burrito provider - is at the forefront in this movement, which makes them the perfect company at the perfect time for an interview.

Enjoy this prescient conversation for these trying times supported by Smashfly.


SFX: Oh my God, I Love Chipotle. Chipotle is my life.

Intro: Hide your kids, lock the doors, you're listening to HR's most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheesman are here to punch the recruiting industry right where it hurts. Complete with breaking news, brash opinion and loads of snark. Buckle up boys and girls, it's time for The Chad and Cheese Podcast.

Joel: Oh, yeah. Chipotle is my life.

Chad: My life.

Joel: Especially when there's free delivery on Uber Eats. Free plug there for those guys.

Chad: Suckers.

Joel: What's up everybody? Welcome back. We are The Chad and Cheese Podcast. I am your co-host Joel Cheesman.

Chad: And I am Chad quarantine Sowash.

Joel: We are honored to welcome back for the second time.

Chad: Woohoo.

Joel: Yeah, they're just that gullible, Joe and Mike or Mike and Joe from Chipotle.

Mike Miller: Hey.

Joel: Guys, what's up?

Mike Miller: How are you?

Chad: Just to get this right, first it's Mike Miller. He is the director of TA at Chipotle. And Joe Albino.

Joel: Albano.

Chad: Albano, that's it, that's it. Yeah.

Joe Albano: You're bringing up old childhood wounds of the albino talk.

Chad: After our last podcast, we definitely wanted to have you guys back. Unfortunately, it's during a crisis, but fortunately it's during a crisis so that we can talk about how Chipotle is managing a crisis situation. There are tons of companies that are out there today that are on the ropes and they don't know what the hell to do. I know that you guys wouldn't claim to have all the answers, but we've been sitting back and watching some of the things that Chipotle has been doing and I've personally been pretty impressed. And I want to be able to talk about some of those things today because you guys, the reason I believe you have an amazing brand is obviously product has a lot to do with it, but it's how you treat your people. And I think that's one of the things that we really want to focus on today. And also, I know Joel wants to focus on how he can get free food for the rest of the year.

Mike Miller: Those are two of our favorite topics guys. And so, no, thanks for having us back. And obviously

SFX: Hell yeah.

Mike Miller: The times are so different from a few weeks ago, much less a few months ago. But it really is part of our transformation, which is what we call the relocation and the reorg. And it's funny, because the other day I was, Joe and I were talking, I was thinking, "Hey, I think we're kind of post transformation." And in some respects I suppose we are. But here's the deal, is that those lessons that we learn, how can you be flexible? How can you be adaptable? And like you said, "How can you really ensure that you're listening to and caring for your people?" Those have really been the hallmarks of the last couple of weeks.

Mike Miller: And watching this team led by an amazing leadership team and everybody in the restaurants and everybody in our support centers has been really, truly, truly humbling. Because we talk about the Chipotle family, but we're seeing it man, we're seeing it every day in action. And for us, this is unprecedented for everybody. We're not going to sit here and be presumptive and say, "We've got this all figured out." That's not a fair statement. But I think what's really fair is to understand that we're caring for our people. And the thing that I was thinking about the other day is, we talk about cultivating a better world and I have a suspicion that we're kind of on the precipice of that being something that will be defined in a way we could have never imagined a couple of years ago.

Joe Albano: Yeah, absolutely. And I think one thing that makes me incredibly proud to be a part of Chipotle is, really for the past couple of weeks, couple of months almost, it's every conversation Mike and I have been a part of is, what do we do to take care of our people. And we have an organization of 80,000 plus human beings who rely on working at Chipotle and rely on that paycheck. And every conversation has been, how do we continue to make sure that our employees are safe, our guests are safe, and how are we making sure that our employees during a time of crisis are receiving a paycheck every two weeks. And that has been I think the biggest eye-opener for me. It's not surprising for us to be a part of those conversations. But it's been really inspiring to be a part of this message at Chipotle.

Joel: Can you guys sort of paint a picture, what is a current sort of day for a Chipotle worker look like? Are people that go in being replaced with delivery people from DoorDash and Uber Eats like just coming in and out regularly? Sort of, what does that picture look like for those of us that are stuck at home?

Joe Albano: Sure. Right now if you're ordering or if you're wanting to eat Chipotle, if you're going into our restaurants, we're offering pickup orders and to go orders and delivery orders. We've shut down all of our dining rooms across the country. In fact, I think we were one of the first major chains to announce that public closing of our dining rooms, even before it was mandated by cities and states across the country.

Joel: Good for you.

Joe Albano: Thank you. And again, it was because we want to make sure that we're doing our part and keeping our people safe, while also serving safe, delicious, craveable food. We've closed down our dining rooms. And then, since we're opening for to go orders in our restaurants, we've actually marked I guess spots six feet apart for our guests to wait at, if they're in our restaurants picking up food. Again, we are very committed to ensuring we are practicing social distancing.

Joe Albano: And then we also have, what a lot of our restaurants are doing is we have a crew member or manager in the front of the restaurant informing guests that we are to go only and our dining rooms are closed. And we actually have our people bringing the to go orders or delivery orders to the front. So eliminating even more people from walking into our restaurant.

Mike Miller: One of the things too, Joe, is 2015 we had some challenges and it really gave us an opportunity to build some pretty robust class leading practices from a food safety perspective. When you look at those good habits that we built in addition to the scrappiness that really became embedded in our DNA with our transformation. Again, not saying that we've solved this, I don't think anybody has. But I think that we're really well positioned to continue to be honored by being an essential provider and taking care of our people and people who need a good meal right now.

Joe Albano: Absolutely.

Joel: What kind of numbers are you guys seeing on the delivery side? And you guys almost have a glimpse into what different regions and cities are sort of preparing for this based on delivery numbers I would assume. What's going on there?

Mike Miller: We lead in gratefully, got some really sharp people on the digital side who have been leaning in heavily in building that infrastructure.

Joe Albano: Over the past couple of years.

Mike Miller: Over the past couple of years. Yeah. Which probably gives us a little bit of an advantage over some of the competitors who are looking to solve this now. Numbers have been really pretty impressive. I was chatting with our CMO, Chris, the other day and Uber Eats was a pretty flawless implementation. And so if you look at the various channels over the ... I don't have the hard numbers, but we're looking at doubling, tripling what we were used to prior to the craziness that we're all in right now. And so, again, I mean, pretty fortunate because I know a lot of our competitors probably can't say that.

Joe Albano: And it's really because of our increase in digital business, are we really able to keep our doors open, keep people employed and actually hire more people.

Mike Miller: Yeah, we are still hiring.

Joe Albano: We are still hiring. And also, we were one of the first

SFX: Hell yeah.

Joe Albano: We were one of the first national chains to really implement social distancing with interviews. We've been working with our leaders across the country to ensure that we are utilizing digital interviews, whether it's phone interviews, Skype interviews, FaceTime, et cetera. Really creating those best practices and implementing them a few weeks ago. Because we still need to hire people and serve our guests and we're still growing.

Mike Miller: We had these planning meetings a couple of weeks back, thinking how do we shift and we have to have these training sessions. And really what's been I guess inspiring from our perspective is that our people know how to shift. They know how to flex and they know how to adjust. And I really think that in all aspects of the business that was an advantage. But it's been really cool to see it because still need people but we want to keep people safe.

Chad: Let's jump into what you're actually doing for employees. Because I think that is incredibly important, especially as we see, we saw the unemployment numbers, they're record highs, right?

Mike Miller: Oh man. Oh God.

Chad: But Chipotle is now offering a 10% increase in hourly pay. First off, having a job is one thing. You were talking about living paycheck to paycheck in some cases. But in this case you're talking about going even further and going after that 10% increase. Tell me how that actually happened. It's an amazing idea. It's awesome. Tell us how that conversation started and how it came to fruition. Was it quick? Did it take a while?

Joe Albano: I think I'll kick it off and I'll have Mike close it down. But it was a really quick process and we are very fortunate to have an amazing total rewards team committed to cultivating a better world for the people who work for Chipotle. And when we first started going through this pandemic a couple of weeks ago and we saw the impact it had on the economy and people losing their jobs, the first thought behind the scenes was, I don't think we're going to have to have those same issues at Chipotle. We're growing our delivery business, we're keeping our doors open, we are feeding our communities and we want to take care of the people who are doing that every single day.

Joe Albano: Born through this was the 10% increase for our hourly workforce, which is roughly, I would say 95% of our total employees in the field are hourly based. What we did was we implemented the 10% increase for people who worked between March 16th and April 12th. We've given them a 10% increase in compensation.

Mike Miller: But Joe, you know this doesn't include you.

Joe Albano: It doesn't include me and I am okay with it. But maybe it should.

Chad: In this, you also have a paid sick leave starting on the first day of employment. That's fairly standard. What else is happening, again, as a response to be able to manage this crisis and ensure that you're, obviously you're shutting down the restaurant helps the employees to stay away from the public, but it also helps the public to stay away from the public. What else are you guys doing in managing this crisis? Whether it's your employee assistant program, whatever that might be.

Mike Miller: I'll touch on something that you were asking earlier, what did that conversation look like? How long did it take? That was a matter of operations leadership, our total rewards team, our people experience team as you guys know what we call human resources coming together in really a couple of days max. Which again doesn't surprise me, but also makes me feel really appreciative. One of the other things that we did was expanded the emergency leave benefits. And so that's really geared towards specifically taking care of those who are directly affected by COVID-19.

Chad: Awesome.

Mike Miller: And so yeah, it's really cool actually. As part of that, people who are effected would receive, pay this essentially equal to their upcoming two weeks schedule or their average hours worked, whichever is greater between the two. And so for us it's really a matter of ensuring that our people know their family and know that we're never going to make them choose between work and their health, their safety essentially.

Chad: Yeah. Well, and that's one of the things that we've seen because the 10% increase is obviously big to be able to help pad what's going on. But also you helping them to understand that you're here for them to keep them safe. You want to keep the customer safe, there's no question, but they are job one. I also like, and this is something that I think you guys have been doing for a while, you offer teams of medical care for $20 a year and it's like 24/7 virtual access with a dollar copay. And I think right now you guys have been doing this for a while. This is I think now going to have to be standard for everybody. And in this type of a COVID crisis, this is perfect. This is exactly what companies need.

Mike Miller: We were proud of it but it's, all of a sudden you look at it and you say, "How do we do without this?" It's going to be something that's so critical and such a hallmark of our offerings. And one of the things that we've tried to do too, from an internal employee perspective is make sure that there's one email address, there's one point of contact, there's one number. So essentially wrapping into this concierge service. So you don't have to go fumbling around figuring out if you need help or your family needs help. There's one point of contact.

Joe Albano: And I think just to re-emphasize something that Mike just said, it's not only for our employees, you can utilize that benefit for your family as well. And that's the part that I think is incredibly inspiring because we have, we employ a lot of hourly people who maybe they don't come from a family who has insurance or who has benefits that most might have. So being able to be an 18 year old employee of Chipotle and making sure that their family can take advantage of these health concierge benefits as well during a time like this or any time is truly inspiring.

Chad: And these are video calls, correct? With medical physicians or PAs or what have you, is that what they are for the most part?

Joe Albano: We offer a ... if our employees want to utilize a text-based conversation, a phone call or a video call.

Chad: Wow.

Joe Albano: All three are available to them and so ...

Chad: And good for social distancing.

Joe Albano: Especially with social distancing this is huge. And I utilized the service a couple of months ago and it really is as easy as it sounds. I was having a text message based conversation with an actual doctor. It was two in the morning, I wasn't feeling well. She prescribed medication for me and I picked it up at a 24 hour pharmacy about 20 minutes later. She knocked on the door, she hand delivered it herself.

Chad: Very funny.

Joe Albano: But it truly is a wonderful service.

Chad: We'll get back to the interview in a minute. Building a cult brand is not easy, especially when you're sending candidates into a black hole, which is why you need friends like Roopesh Nair, CEO of SmashFly on your side.

Joel: Having someone submit a resume that just goes into the black hole is devastating for candidate experience, doing to close the black hole and ensure everyone has a great experience when applying.

Roopesh Nair: We're doing a group of things out there. One is to ensure that the application experience itself is seamless by integrating with ATSs meaningfully and providing the statuses back and forth and ensuring that deliverers of communication are activated every time there's a status coming back and forth from the ATSs. So just kind of providing transparency in the application process by leveraging our candidate relationship management solution.

Roopesh Nair: The second aspect is then actually ensuring that we're using our matching algorithm to bubble up people pretty quickly where they are a great fit for that particular role in the company and ensuring that the conversational engagement starts right away and the recruiter is notified while the engagement is going on. It's critical then that ways we are prioritizing those engagements which are needed to the most important applicants right away. And then eventually ensuring that anyone who is not necessarily a good fit at that point, we have continued to engage them. Whether it is the job they applied for or for any other job or for that matter, just general brand awareness and general engagement around what might be a good fit for those guys, and shows that that black hole is minimized.

Chad: Let SmashFly help activate your brand and keep relationships at the heart of your CRM. For more information, visit

Joe Albano: One of the other benefits that we want to make sure didn't go, isn't forgotten about is, for those utilizing our debt free degrees or our tuition reimbursement programs, were not enforcing the hourly work requirements for this semester. We know that this is a scary time, whether you are impacted directly by COVID-19 or you are afraid to come into work or work as often as you were before. We're not holding that against our people who are utilizing our tuition or our educational benefit. We're waving the hourly work requirements because again, we want our people to focus on staying safe and taking advantage of these amazing benefits.

Joel: Hey guys, we're hearing a lot in this trying time about depression and worried about mental health. And not so long ago Starbucks announced that they would be providing mental health benefits as part of their package. Is that something you guys currently do as well or something that maybe you're thinking about with depression and mental health being at the forefront of our daily news cycle?

Mike Miller: Yeah. Absolutely. It's something that we currently offer as part of the programs and we're really proud of because there's such a notion that we should work on our physical fitness and sometimes I think historically that's been at the expense of going to talk about our mental fitness. And so actually right around the same time we launched ours as well. And so, again, coverage per incident. I believe we cover six sessions per incident and it's also available to the family as well.

Joe Albano: Yeah. And I guess you guys may have forgotten we talked about this on our last podcast, but that's okay. But you guys are dealing with pandemic depression and you just forgot about it, that's okay. But yeah, as Mike said, we introduced our mental health benefits to our entire company. I think it was around October or November of 2019. Anyway it's between six to eight sessions per incident reported. And even after you take advantage of those six to eight free sessions, if you still need someone to talk to or need support, we will recommend local mental health professionals within your area at a discounted rate as well.

Mike Miller: And since we last talked to you, we've had so much positive feedback. And we do this because it's the right way. When you look at building a business, you have the what and you have the how, we focus so much certainly in this conversation and with our business on how we care for it, how we take care of our people. And so one of the most rewarding aspects is when we hear back from them about these benefits, which are fairly class leading or we're in a class of a very few at least. It's the right thing, it's very validating, especially now we weren't anticipating the situation when we last talked.

Chad: Yeah.

Joel: Just so you know, working with Chad means I need mental health all the time.

Chad: Like everybody understands that already Joel. Somebody needs to pick up a part time job at Chipotle.

Mike Miller: Come on down.

Chad: For both of you guys, I mean I would really like to hear some advice to TA leaders because Chipotle, I mean you guys, from a leadership standpoint, you are aggressively going after these issues. I mean, you're looking for problems. You're not just trying to respond, right? I see that these things are happening and you're on the offense as opposed to the defense. Instead of being in the fetal position in the corner, sucking your thumb, like most TA directors and leaders are today. How do you get them into a mindset that is more aggressive and focused on going on the offense, so that you have these wonderful programs and obviously have a brand that will continue to withstand beyond something like COVID-19?

Mike Miller: A great question. And I would say that the key aspect is understand how you're collaborating with people cross functionally. We spend more time, I spent most of my career purposely avoiding compensation and benefits. Because I thought, all right, I do the sexy stuff, we bring people in, I get the high fives. I changed it here. So in my relative old [inaudible 00:22:45.05], in my old age, I look at it and say, "Hey look, I know how I think, I want to see which is frightening most of the time. Let me surround myself by people who think differently, who are complimentary."

Mike Miller: And then outside of our team we have this awesome team that Joe and I support. Outside the team, we've really forged some partnerships with people who, people in functions that I've never paid attention to before. When we reference marketing and Chris and his team and we reference total rewards with Scott and his team, and the level of partnerships that we have, it's because we're going out there wanting to learn to see how it informs what it is that we do. It's getting outside of the mindset of operations.

Mike Miller: Now, the way I look at recruiting operations is you have to have that nailed down and you have to effectively be able to do full life cycle recruiting and be responsive in order to kind of get that speed pass so that you can go play in what I think is such an impactful space, which is that no talent brand integration and forming that narrative. And you can't do that in a silo. You have to understand what it is that we're offering. So for years, a great example of this is, Joe you should chat about how strongly you felt about advocating for our benefits in the restaurants and how the last 18 months we've seen that come to light because of those relationships.

Joe Albano: Absolutely. I have been with Chipotle for a little over six years and I was always the person raising my hand saying, "We need to market our benefits." While people who work for Chipotle understand what our benefits are and how class leading they are, the general public doesn't know and we just didn't have the relationships with the right people at the right time. And the biggest part of this transition transformation is we have such an amazing company filled with people who just want to do the right thing. And I think when I look, whether it's COVID-19 or just a typical time in our life at Chipotle, we have the right people who want to do the right thing and work with each other to help cultivate a better world.

Joel: In light of that, guys, I want you to bring out the crystal ball a little bit. I want you to try the best you can to look in the crystal ball in the future. What is recruiting for you guys look like say a year from now? Will video interviewing continue to be a thing. Are you looking at more sort of automation tools to keep people out of the restaurant and providing applications that way like chatbots or other tools. Are you looking for a different skill set going forward in light of this tragedy? Are you going to be looking for drivers, you guys launching your own sort of delivery service? Tell us what the future looks like.

Mike Miller: Sure. I would say that pretty ... you don't need a crystal ball for this one. But if you look at our business and look at the increase in digital, look at our loyalty program, look at delivery given what we're in the midst of, I would see us continue to lean in pretty heavily in those areas. Joe, with respect to the technology and automation. What are your thoughts for the field?

Joe Albano: I think when I looked from a field perspective, I think there's definitely an opportunity to leverage technology to make the interview process easier for our general managers who are running a $2.5 million a year business. There have already been conversations of how do we leverage AI to better select candidates for our restaurants to talk to. But at the end of the day, I think when this pandemic is over, I really see us still being a people focused business, leveraging technology to make the interview process easier and simpler. But again, we are a people focused food business.

Mike Miller: And so we've been hesitant. We spend a lot of time really thinking about how we can implement and utilize technology without removing that personal touch and that human connection. And so we will continue to, because now we're really at the precipice of having to solve for a very different situation. So will we continue, will we look to technology? Will we integrate? Certainly. Do we want to have so many filters in place that it's all [inaudible 00:27:20.18], probably not. We'll take a look at how we can balance that.

Joe Albano: Yeah. I think I envisioned us utilizing technology to make the life of our crew members and managers easier in the restaurant. Whether it's how we prep, how we cook, how we serve our food. I don't see us leveraging technology to reduce the amount of people we have working for Chipotle.

Chad: Excellent guys. This is the reason why we have you on because we can talk about future as opposed

to playing in offense as opposed to playing that defense. That's Mike Miller and Joel Albano from Chipotle. Hey guys, where can our listeners connect with you? Jump on LinkedIn, Facebook. Where are you mostly socially at?

Joe Albano: You can find Mike on the Craigslist personals.

Mike Miller: I just had a birthday, which reminded me that for the last decade I've been all about social distancing.

Joel: Nice.

Joe Albano: But a more serious answer. You can connect with myself, Joseph Albano, I am on LinkedIn. I'm pretty sure it's just

Mike Miller: And you can always find us on Instagram.

Joe Albano: We're Instagram girls, we're LinkedIn bros, we do it all.

Chad: Excellent. Thanks so much guys.

Joel: We appreciate you.

Joe Albano: Thank you. Have a good day.

Mike Miller: Stay safe guys.

Joel: We out.

SFX: Oh my God, I Love Chipotle. Chipotle is my life.

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