Did you know that spring is officially Burrito Season? It is, according to the folks at Chipotle who say their busiest time of year is from March to May.

Chipotle is gearing up and announced they’re looking to hire 15,000 restaurant workers — about a 15% increase in their total workforce. The company is looking to staff up existing restaurants and overcome the quick-serve industry’s consistent challenges with turnover.

Is This Mass Hiring Strategy a Smart Move?

This sounds like great hiring news for those looking for restaurant jobs, but is it a good move for the company?

Many companies in 2021 and 2022 worried about finding qualified workers and over-hired. Mass hiring also turned into mass layoffs in several industries in the latter part of 2022 and the start of 2023, especially in the tech sector.

Hiring fast and scaling quickly can be a recipe for trouble, but the company says there’s a method in its madness within the Chipotle hiring process. The company has an aggressive plan for expansion that would nearly double its stores nationwide to 7,000. They’re hiring en masse now to find those with leadership potential to be team leads and store managers.

Chipotle has found the best candidates for management come from within the company. More than 90% of management roles were internal promotions in 2022, including 100% of regional VPs, 81% of team directors, and 74% of field leader positions. To find tomorrow’s leaders, they need to hire and evaluate today’s workers.

Upskilling and promoting from within are increasingly part of the trends for frontline hiring within many industries today.

What Happens When Busy Season Ends?

Despite the company’s desire to grow, expansion takes time. It’s impossible to construct and open thousands of stores between now and the end of the busy season. Will Chipotle be looking at its own mass layoffs when the burrito season ends?

Maybe. Maybe not. When you consider that turnover rates at Chipotle for hourly crew members average more than 140% annually and turnover for salaried workers and managers can run between 31% and 49%, it may be a smart plan.

The company currently has 100,000 employees. If turnover’s that high, they might easily need to add 15,000 new workers a quarter just to stay on par. With such a significant amount of turnover, Chipotle can evaluate workers during the burrito season and then likely absorb most if not all of the workers that want to stay with the company.

Continued Industry Shortages

The National Restaurant Association says the industry still needs about 450,000 workers. Despite nearly across-the-board wage increases in the QSR and fast-food industry, hiring continues to be a challenge. A growing number of jobs outside the restaurant industry are also hiring workers from a similar talent pool.

While other restaurants may not be hiring at the same rate as Chipotle, the Association’s recent survey of operators showed that 87% would hire additional employees if they could find qualified workers.

Paul Dughi

Paul Dughi has held executive management positions in the media industry for the past 30 years. He earned his master of business administration degree while working full-time as President of a multistation television group and is the author of two books on marketing and management.