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.

PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION sponsored by:

Disability Solutions provides training and development to help your workplace leaders and employees integrate with and value people with disabilities.

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