Chipotle targets Gen Z workers with latest benefits

Dive Brief:

  • Chipotle is planning to hire 19,000 new workers to supplement its existing 110,000-plus employees ahead of its peak sales season between March and May, which the chain has termed “burrito season,” Chipotle said in a press release issued Wednesday.
  • Chipotle is offering several new benefits in a bid to attract Gen Z workers, which it says comprise 73% of its workforce, or the equivalent of about 80,000 employees.
  • New benefits include a maximum 4% employer matching contribution to 401(k) for workers’ eligible and verified student loan payments; a “premium banking experience” courtesy of Cred.ai that includes “faster access to paychecks”; use of a financial planning advice dashboard; and a mental health perk that covers six sessions with a counselor or “mental health coach.”

Dive Insight: 

Chipotle framed the benefits as a way to address the economic challenges faced by young workers. 

“Those born in the late 90s through the early 2000s are experiencing notable financial challenges, including racking up credit card debt faster than previous generations and being nearly twice as likely as the general population to not feel confident managing their money,” the company said, citing research by Credit Karma and Intuit.

Some of that anxiety may due to long-term trends in wage growth. Real wages increased marginally over the last 12 months, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but remained flat in real terms dating back to the late 1970s, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Despite high nominal increases in foodservice wages, a Restaurant Dive analysis found that hourly wages for restaurant workers have increased only about 9% since February 2020, when compared to a pre-pandemic baseline.

On Chipotle’s most recent earnings call, the company’s CFO Jack Hartung stated the company’s wages in California would see wage growth in the mid teens to low twenties percent to reach $20, implying the company’s average hourly pay in California is about $17.

A recent job posting in Los Angeles shows Chipotle anticipated paying its new hires about $17 an hour until the minimum wage for fast food workers rises in that state on April 1. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s living wage calculator, a single worker needs to make about $21.24 an hour to support themselves in California. Chipotle did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its average starting wage or on whether its efforts to financially support young workers would extend to an increase in base pay.

According to the press release, Chipotle is working with SoFi to implement its 401(k) match, which is conditional to employees making eligible student loan payments. SoFi was one of the financial firms that pressured the Biden Administration to end the student loan repayment pause last year. Chipotle’s partnership with SoFi also makes the fintech firm’s advice dashboard available to Chipotle employees. According to PYMNTS, SoFi has integrated a conversational AI program into its app. Chipotle didn’t respond to a request for comment on the process by which advice given through that dashboard is generated, or whether it’s reviewed by financial advisers before it is sent to consumers.

In addition to those benefits, Chipotle is working with Cred.ai to give its employees a “high-tech Visa card that offers security features, faster access to paychecks, and Cred.ai’s ‘Credit Optimizer.’” Chipotle did not respond to a request for comment on claims made by Cred.ai, which asserts its customers “never pay fees or interest, never overspend, build credit automatically.”