Chipotle Covering Tuition for Tech and Business Degrees
For existing employees who want to study business or technology, the brand will cover college tuition to any of five specific schools, and in return asks employees to stay at the company for at least six months after they earn a degree. It’s an out-of-the-box move that’s proving necessary in the current tight labor market, particularly for restaurant brands that to want to buoy their retention results.
The Battle for Employees
The unemployment rate was 3.5 percent in September with a labor force of 63.2 percent, the best it has been in nearly 50 years. This reality has been particularly tough for restaurants, which have a notoriously high turnover rate of more than 70 percent and strong competition for talent with big box stores like Walmart and Target.
In the quest to win over workers, some fast food brands like Pizza Hut and Church’s Chicken offer same-day compensation instead of expecting employees to wait two weeks to get their paychecks. Other brands, like Starbucks, are paying exceedingly above minimum wage and have propped up mental health benefits to attract employees. And others, like Shake Shack, are trying out a four-day work week.
Chipotle’s new tuition benefit piggybacks on its existing $5,250 annual reimbursement program and the new employee bonuses based on sales and cash flow goals.
Student debt, which exceeds $1.56 billion in the nation, is one of the most stressful obstacles facing young professionals, often prohibiting workers from buying a house or relocating. By eliminating school debt for those studying technology and business, Chipotle is not only helping employees have a reason to stay loyal to the brand, but it’s also promoting careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), a job category with an ongoing shortage of workers.
The restaurant industry represents about $863 billion to the economy with more than a million restaurants located throughout the nation. Finding and recruiting talent is an ongoing issue that requires a new approach — and a new serving of perks to keep employees coming back.