Chipotle staffing again at pre-pandemic ranges, firm is exploring automation, CEO says

Chipotle Mexican Grill CEO Brian Niccol told CNBC’s Jim Cramer on Tuesday that the company’s staffing levels are back where they were before the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our staffing is actually at levels pre-pandemic and frankly, our turnover is probably the best it’s been in, I don’t know, a couple years, especially at the manager level,” Niccol said in an interview on “Mad Money. “

Chipotle reported better-than expected earnings and revenue on Tuesday, according to Refinitiv, but saw higher costs related to labor.

The CEO’s comments come as employers have struggled to hire and retain a full staff as roaring inflation, unemployment benefits and Covid safety concerns have kept potential employees out of the workforce during the pandemic.

The March jobs report revealed that the US economy added slightly fewer jobs than expected last month, with a 3.6% unemployment rate.

Chipotle used a host of tactics in an attempt to entice applicants last year, including increasing wages, introducing referral bonuses and recruiting on TikTok.

Niccol said that the company also views automating the more unsavory parts of work as beneficial to retaining workers. Chipotle said last month that it is working with Miso Robotics to customize a device, “Chippy,” to cook and season the burrito maker’s signature tortilla chips.

“We’re looking for additional ways to [automate]. How do we eliminate dishwashing? How do we cut and core avocados? Our guys love mashing the avocados into guacamole, so we’re not looking to replace that,” Niccol said.

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