Will debt-free college make Chipotle the place to work in the restaurant biz?

Discussion
Photo: Chipotle
Oct 17, 2019
George Anderson

Chipotle Mexican Grill has announced that it is adding a new perk to its employee education benefits package — debt-free college degrees.

The restaurant chain, which has provided over $20 million in tuition assistance to employees over the past two years as part of its Chipotle Cultivate Education benefits program, will now cover 100 percent of tuition costs for 75 different business and technology degrees through a partnership with Guild Education, an educational benefits firm. 

The goal of the program is to give employees opportunities to acquire the skills necessary to succeed in the current job market. Chipotle employees will be eligible for the program after 120 days on the jobs. They will be able to earn degrees from participating non-profit universities, including The University of Arizona, Bellevue University, Brandman University, Southern New Hampshire University and Wilmington University.

Marissa Andrada, chief people officer at the chain, said Chipotle “recognizes that financial barriers can be one of the biggest obstacles that impede our employees from achieving their fullest potential.” The goal of the new program is “to help our employees excel in all areas in their lives, both in and out of Chipotle.”

The chain’s current Cultivate Education program allows eligible employees to be reimbursed up to $5,250 a year at a school of their choosing. 

Chipotle says it has found that employees in the program are more likely to stay with the company and be promoted. Management reports that it promoted more than 13,000 employees last year and hopes to build on that number with investments such as the new debt-free college perk. Chipotle, which operates more than 2,500 restaurants in the U.S., Canada, France, Germany and the UK, employs more than 80,000 workers across its business.

Chipotle’s program is part of a broader trend among retail and restaurant industry employers to use education perks as a worker recruitment and retention tool. Amazon, Home Depot, Lowe’s, McDonald’s, Sheetz and Walmart are among those that have announced new educational initiatives in recent years.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How important are educational benefits in helping retailers and restaurants to recruit and retain their best employees? In what specific ways might Chipotle’s educational initiatives improve the chain’s overall performance?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"That is a great way to keep these new employees engaged, and after graduation they can move up the ladder to management. It is a good move."
"There will come a time when an older generation will require re-training; programs like this will become the most important employee benefit next to healthcare."
"By linking the employees’ futures to their own Chipotle has taken a giant step forward that ought to pay dividends for years to come."

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12 Comments on "Will debt-free college make Chipotle the place to work in the restaurant biz?"


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Tony Orlando
BrainTrust

That is a great way to keep these new employees engaged, and after graduation they can move up the ladder to management. It is a good move.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

It looks like Chipotle started at $5,250 a year and is now upping the deal to full tuition. That tells me that this program is working, which is wonderful for the students and for Chipotle. No company ever stands so tall as those that bend over to help others. Nice going Chipotle!

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

Chipotle stands out as a beacon of what a company could do to groom the next generation of its leadership team. It’s such a rarity to see companies the size of Chipotle incentivize their young employees, and help to relieve the significant burden of what college tuition is these days. Most young professionals are entering the workforce with an overwhelming amount of college loan debts that they will have to pay off for years, if not decades.

Kudos go out to the Chipotle organization, as this will only lead to a motivated growing workforce and employee retention. I only wish these sorts of programs were available for us Gen X folks back in the ’90s when we worked part-time during college.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

Providing meaningful benefits — and nothing is as meaningful as an education — is critical not just in attracting workers, but attracting the kinds of employees that sustain and grow businesses. Individuals coming to Chipotle because of the free college offer are looking for more out of life than a paycheck and that translates into a desire to make sure they keep their jobs and stay personally motivated. By linking the employees’ futures to their own Chipotle has taken a giant step forward that ought to pay dividends for years to come.

Ed Rosenbaum
BrainTrust

I rarely visit Chipotle for no particular reason. This makes me rethink where I go. It can be a beacon for other and larger corporations to watch and follow.

Carlos Arambula
BrainTrust

It’s a cosmetic and affordable public relations program for consumers to feel good about the brand.

If Chipotle wants to retain and help the majority of its employees it should simply increase wages. Consumers know that most QSR employees are adults needing to make ends meet, the idea of the student working part-time to cover costs is, unfortunately, not our current reality.

I applaud Chipotle for the program and I encourage them to increase the funding of its program. But if they are after employee retention and building goodwill from consumers, then increase wages. Consumers and employees will reward them for it.

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

This is a great program. For far too long, many employees did not regard retail as a true position, just something they did while looking for a real job. This provides Chipotle’s employees a path to management whether they stay with the company or someday leave to work elsewhere. For the company it provides a pool of people with the skill sets they will need for the future.

Mel Kleiman
BrainTrust
27 days 2 minutes ago

This is a great move in the right direction. It can become a great retention tool for employees who have a need and a want to grow. It will not replace great management but it will get employees who may not be totally happy with the job to stay for the benefit.

One suggestion I would make to management if they are taking the time to look at these comments is, don’t limit the tuition reimbursement to business degrees. Make it available to any degree a person wants to pursue. A lot of great employees don’t have or want business degrees. But they are still great employees and many of them would make great managers.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
BrainTrust

As a University Professor & former University College dean, I applaud the efforts of Chipotle to help its employees earn their college degrees. We have all heard the stories about college tuition debt. However, this program appears to support students who did not choose for economic or other reasons, to continue their education on a part time basis. This group is balancing work, family & school. Chipotle minimizes the financial burden.

I perceive this as a significant differential advantage.

Paco Underhill
BrainTrust

Nice idea.

Casey Golden
BrainTrust
26 days 21 hours ago

People tend to invest in the people and companies that invest in them. There will come a time when an older generation will require re-training; programs like this will become the most important employee benefit next to healthcare. I support employer-paid college programs!

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

This is a great move by Chipotle to retain and recruit employees, not to mention creating their future corporate leaders. This is a meaningful benefit and Chipotle should be applauded for it. Now, if they raised wages it would be an even bigger win, but this is a step in the right direction!

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"That is a great way to keep these new employees engaged, and after graduation they can move up the ladder to management. It is a good move."
"There will come a time when an older generation will require re-training; programs like this will become the most important employee benefit next to healthcare."
"By linking the employees’ futures to their own Chipotle has taken a giant step forward that ought to pay dividends for years to come."

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