Chipotle is a pioneer of the fast assembly-line restaurant format, where you get in line and guide a human worker through the process to build your meal while you watch. It’s a foolproof system, or so I thought before I checked out this investigative story by MarketWatch revealing how Chipotle is handling the growth of online orders in a pandemic world. Once I read the accounts of various Chipotle employees interviewed in the MarketWatch article, I was stunned by what they really go through.
One employee detailed the struggle with the onslaught of online orders:
“People would just stare at us, angry,” he said. “Orders were coming in faster than they could be made. We would frequently see orders of 75, 80, 90 items within a 15-minute time span.”
The idea that a comprehensive and option-fatigued robotic ordering system can mesh with an established real-life arrangement is proven very wrong, according to the article. Anecdotes from Chipotle workers describe how the company handles these complex online orders in your physical absence. For instance, what they do to your online order when they run out of steak or beans (which apparently happens often enough) is a real dilemma with a not so satisfactory official procedure:
“We’re told if we have no steak, give them chicken.” That kind of substitution has made some customers angry, and he said that at his store, “managers will step in to make sure workers don’t get yelled at.”
This piece not only describes what it’s like to work on the front line at Chipotle, but includes tone-deaf corporate statements, union-sponsored walk-outs (Chipotle is not yet unionized), and even burrito business stats. Go read this excellent article that shows what your burrito really costs. As for me, I’m now thinking twice before making Chipotle workers read off my unnecessarily complicated online order of half brown and half white rice with extra romaine lettuce.