Fast Food and Free Tuition

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. has over 80,000 employees and 2,500 restaurants, and they are making a move as bold as their hot sauce. Chipotle is starting to offer its employees (who have been with the company for at least 120 days) free college tuition to earn a degree in 75 different business and technology programs in several educational institutions. Click here to read in greater detail about Chipotle’s innovative approach to valuing their employees.

This may be Chipotle’s next big move to ensure business success, because whatever it is they’re doing, it’s been working, according to their business results from the 2nd quarter of 2019:

  • Revenue up 13% to $1.4 billion
  • Net income of $91 million
  • Operating margins up over 20%
  • Expansion plan, including opening an average of 150 new stores next year

The question is why would Chipotle spend so much money on employee education? The most obvious answer is that they’re trying to improve their ability to recruit employees in a very tight labour market, but all HR professionals know that labour markets are cyclical, and there will always be ups and downs in hiring trends. This alone is not enough to sway an organization to commit to such an expensive employee educational benefit program.

Let’s take a closer look at Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc.’s organizational philosophy, and the place to start is with their mission statement:

Cultivate a Better World

What better way to “cultivate a better world” than to provide free education? There seems to be great benefit to a powerful mission statement. This can be seen on Chipotle’s company site on Comparably, where 100% of their employees said they were motivated by their mission statement.

It is inspiring to see an organization that is trying to make a difference, and is willing to spend resources to make that difference.

Discussion Question:

Research other companies in the fast food industry that are providing some type of educational support and/or benefits. Once complete, imagine you are a VP of HR in that industry; what type of educational support and benefits would you recommend to your CEO, and why?