Food

The Behavior That Drives Chipotle Employees Crazy

Written by Sheree Wilcox

One member of the crew reveals her biggest pet peeve, her least favorite order to fill, and how she deals with rude customers.

You probably know Chipotle for its locally sourced ingredients, fast-moving lines, the happy feeling in your belly after eating a carefully orchestrated burrito bowl (*extra cheese, please*). But what really happens behind that glass counter guard? Cosmopolitan.com caught up with a college student who works at Chipotle to get the details. “I smell like chicken right now,” she says.

Do you like working at Chipotle?
I like working here, but it’s so stressful. That’s the only thing that makes me not like it as much as I could. It’s really nice to work there because of the people and the food is really good, but it’s a lot more stressful than people think.

What’s the most stressful part?
Moving quickly and trying to get people’s orders correct, because if you don’t, that slows everything down.

Do people make mistakes a lot?
No, we’re pretty good about that because we’ve all been there so long that we pretty much get it right 99 percent of the time.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
People lean over the glass and rest their arms on the glass. They’ll point over it. I find that really annoying. They’ll put their hands literally over the glass and point their fingers, like, two inches from the lettuce or cheese. I’m like, You do not have to lean over here and do that. I can tell what you want. Leave the glass alone.

Do you have regulars? And do you know their orders by heart?
Oh, yes. Yes, I do actually. One gets white rice, black beans, chicken, pico de gallo, mild corn salsa, hot salsa, cheese, and lettuce. And a bag of our chips and a Coke. We make the tortilla chips by hand, so we fry them, and then put lime and salt on them. Those are really good.

Do you get any super-annoying regulars?
Oh my gosh, there’s this one woman. She actually tells me to shush. Once I was talking to one of my coworkers, and she said, “Listen, you don’t talk, I just tell you what I want.” I was like, Are you serious? She’s so rude. I was ready to punch her. But I kept quiet and completed her order. She’s rude every time she comes. Every time. She points over the glass. People point over the glass all the time and pretty much touch the food. It makes me itch. She does that a lot.

How do you deal with rude customers like that? Do you snap?
I haven’t snapped yet. I just suck it up and try to talk it out with them. Or I go get my manager so they can solve it. Like, someone was complaining because we didn’t have any more cilantro. They wanted extra cilantro on their burrito but I couldn’t give it to them because we had a shortage that day. They got really pissed off. I’m like, There’s already cilantro on your rice. Why do you need extra? But whatever.

What’s the biggest complaint you get from customers?
Mostly people complain when we run out of stuff. We run out of cheese the most. People get so pissed off when we are out of cheese.

What other kinds of things do they get pissed about?
If we have no more salad dressing or if we run out of lettuce or other ingredients. If there’s no lettuce, no cheese, or no sour cream, they just leave. It’s like, get over it. They just stop us and say, “I don’t want it. If you don’t have cheese, I don’t want it.” I’m like, “But I don’t have cheese. What do you want me to do? Run to the clouds and magically make cheese appear?” I’m not magical. Sorry.

So then you’re left with a half-made burrito bowl?
Yeah, but someone working will eat it. We’ll put it to the side and one of us will take it home. We don’t waste it and throw it away.

What do you think would surprise people about what goes on at Chipotle?
I don’t think everyone knows that we make all our stuff in the back of the store. That’s one of the reasons people get so mad. It’s not going to be done in, like, a second. We don’t just pull it out of the refrigerator. It has to be made. All the guacamole, all the salsas. And we cook the chicken right there, so everything is a process. People just don’t get that.

How often do you stir or replace the meat? Do you ever feel like it isn’t fresh?
When the meat is on the line, it’s basically on a stove. So the bins keep it hot and warm. And everything on the line goes really fast so it’s not sitting there for longer than, like, five or 10 minutes.

What about the guacamole? Do customers ever complain if it’s mushy or brown?
Avocados get really ripe after you mush them down. Sometimes guac is brown because of how ripe they are, and sometimes it’s really green. If it’s brown, the customers don’t even notice.

Do people complain about having to pay extra for guac?
Sometimes they talk about the price, but they really like the guac. Our guac is $2.05. So they get really pissed about that. They complain, but they still get it.

What’s the most requested ingredient?
Sour cream. People love their sour cream. It goes on most of the orders we make. Even if it’s just a little dollop of it, everyone gets it. But people call it every type of thing. They’ll call it mayonnaise or cream or yogurt. That’s just nasty.

What do you think would happen if you guys didn’t have any sour cream for a whole day?
Oh, that’s happened before. Most people left and didn’t get food. But we run out of stuff every day. Sometimes we oversell, so we will have, like, $2,000 over our expected sales. We have a certain [number] of supplies that we request because we try to figure out how many people are going to come that day. Like on a Tuesday, we’re not particularly busy so we won’t have that many supplies on our truck. So when that happens and we oversell, we run out of stuff. One night, we ran out of every kind of meat. Tonight, we ran out of lettuce and guacamole.

Do people have a preference between shredded lettuce and chopped lettuce?
Yeah, they don’t even want to use the salad lettuce. Very ridiculous.

What’s your least favorite order to fill?
I hate making tacos. You have to put ingredients on three tacos, and it usually takes longer. I hate making tacos. I hate it. Especially the hard tacos. It takes so long, and people want so much stuff on those little, tiny taco shells, and they tend to break. I’m like, Really? You can’t fit that much on there. You should have just gotten a frickin’ burrito if you wanted that.

What’s your favorite order to fill?
I like making burritos, but sometimes they break because people like to shove a lot of stuff in that too.

What do you do if you’re making a burrito and it breaks?
Sometimes I leave it if the hole is really small. But otherwise I rewrap it or double-wrap it. I don’t like rewrapping it because you have to switch tortillas and that’s annoying. You have to dump all the ingredients into a new tortilla when it’s fresh and hot, and then you have to wrap it when it’s still hot. But sometimes they won’t shut up until I do it.

Do people ever try to get away with ordering extra ingredients without paying for them?
People like a lot of meat in their stuff. They try to get as much meat as they can without paying extra. That’s the only thing we charge extra for, that and guac. Everything else, you can really get as much as you want. People will want three kinds of meat though, which I think is kind of nasty. They’ll want carnitas and barbacoa and steak, all three, and we really don’t know how to charge that because we only do half and half or double, so people are just difficult. We just don’t do it because we don’t know how to charge it.

Do you eat free Chipotle a lot while you’re working?
Oh my gosh, I used to eat it a lot, like every time I worked. We get an employee meal. But I got tired of eating it about four months ago so I don’t really eat it that regularly. Maybe once or twice a week. The first time I got it, I had everything on there. Rice, beans, chicken, steak, salsas, but over time, I figured out what I like and now I just eat what I’m not tired of yet. So it’s basically just pinto beans, chicken, and sour cream now. I sneak chicken off the line and eat it. It’s that good. I scoop it into a little 4-ounce cup and then I go to the side, pop it into my mouth, and go back to the line. They get mad at me, but it’s really good.

I love the smell of Chipotle. Are you sick of the smell after working there?
It still smells good. Sometimes it does make me a little eh because I smell it so much and I come home smelling like chicken. So that’s disgusting. I smell like chicken right now. There’s never a time that I don’t smell like Chipotle after work. My hair, my clothes, my hands, everything. A long shower usually gets it off. I’m smelling my hands right now, and they smell like rice and chicken. It’s everywhere.

What’s it like closing?
A lot of people will come up and ask us if we’re still open when clearly there’s no food and we’re back in the cooler. Like, does it look like we’re still open? No? It’s clear that we aren’t, but they still ask us as if we’re gonna get the food from the back just for them. It’d be nice if we could, but we really don’t have anything left at that point.

What happens to the leftover food?
We donate it to local homeless shelters. Someone comes every week to pick it up. Not the vegetables, but the rice and meat. We wrap up all the salsas and use them later because there’s nothing wrong with them. But meat and rice we donate because we can’t use it again.

Why isn’t Chipotle open for breakfast?
It’s already really hard to handle. I think if we had breakfast, it would be worse than it already is. That would be a lot because we’d have to prepare more stuff, and prep takes a lot of time. It would be a little much if we had breakfast. I don’t even want to think about it.

This story originally posted by Michelle Malia at Cosmopolitan.com



About the author

Sheree Wilcox

Sheree Wilcox is distinguished as the youngest winner of the prestigious Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism. Miss Wilcox received her Masters Degree in Journalism from DeVry University, and her B.S. from Google University. In her senior year of high school, at the age of 17 school administrators discovered that Sheree had a perfect IQ of 100. She rose to journalism notoriety when she broke an important story about wage disparity between the Aryan cafeteria workers and the Chicano librarians in Monmouth women's penitentiary where she was serving out her sentence for tax evasion. She spends most of her free time at her ranch in Colorado where she enjoys prepping for a variety of doomsday scenarios.


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