Employer Spotlight with Chipotle Mexican Grill’s Marie Davis

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LeadersUp’s Employer Spotlight Series highlights companies that are helping to end the youth unemployment challenge in the United States, and at the same time, achieve organizational success with talent pipelines of qualified Opportunity Youth. Opportunity Youth are the 5.5 million young adults ages 16–24 years old who are unemployed, not in training, and not in school during the most critical professional and personal developmental years. Alongside community-based organizations (CBOs), government agencies, and educational institutions, today’s employers have an important role to play in ending youth unemployment and closing the talent divide. So to kick off our inaugural series LeadersUp is going to find out how and why international food juggernaut Chipotle became a champion for Opportunity Youth.


Manager of National Recruitment Programs & Partnerships, ChipotleMarie Davis, Manager of National Recruitment Programs & Partnership, Chipotle

“In my role I also train and educate our field-recruiting strategists and operations team on the importance of partnering with community-based organizations to create a sustainable and exceptional recruitment and retention culture in each of our 2000+ restaurants.”


Chipotle’s “hire from within” approach to cultivating talent offers a culture of inclusivity and openness that has attracted high-performing individuals of all ages, including young adults, who account for 40% of its U.S. workforce. In addition to its natural draw among young people looking to join their workforce, Chipotle has invested in hiring Opportunity Youth for entry to mid-skill level opportunities through partnerships with LeadersUp and the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative (100K Initiative, an employer-led movement launched by Starbucks and leading U.S. companies to connect 100,000 Opportunity Youth to career pathways). As a 100K Initiative partner, Chipotle recruits Opportunity Youth at hiring fairs across the country.

To find out about the impetus for the 100K Initiative partnership, discover tips to expand recruitment efforts and business benefits for connecting Opportunity Youth to employment through 100K hiring events, we spoke to Marie Davis, Manager of National Recruitment Programs & Partnerships at Chipotle Mexican Grill.


LeadersUp: What motivated Chipotle to support the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative?
Marie Davis: The 100,000 Opportunities Initiative is about providing opportunities to others and ensuring that they are setup for success. At Chipotle this is part of our culture. It’s who we are and what we stand for in each of our restaurants. It is not only about hiring crew members, it is about hiring our future leaders. In order for this to happen, Chipotle is committed to providing our hires with the training and mentoring needed for career success. When we were asked to join this movement we did not hesitate to participate. In fact, we jumped right in, eager to meet potential new hires. Many of the Opportunity Youth in the 100K Initiative possess the characteristics we are seeking. We call them the 13 Characteristics: ambitious, motivated, curious, polite, smart, honest, respectful, hospitable, conscientious, presentable, happy, infectiously enthusiastic, and high energy.

LeadersUp: Why are high volume on-the-spot hiring events, such as the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, critical for employers like Chipotle to participate in?
Marie Davis: These events allow Chipotle to attract and hire talent for several restaurants in one central location, versus having to participate in many job fairs for individual restaurant locations. It allows our managers and recruiters to think strategically about where additional hires are needed, what schedules need to be filled, and how these new hires are going to be best set up for success. Chipotle also uses these events to bring managers from various restaurants together to calibrate on interviewing and hiring best practices, as well as to find ways to share resources in hiring great talent.

LeadersUp: What advice would you have for employers that are interested in participating in these events, but maybe unsure about the best way to get started?
Marie Davis: There are so many benefits and ways to jump start a partnership with the 100K Initiative. Here are some ideas:

– Observe an event prior to signing up. This doesn’t have to be a large regional event, it might just be reaching out to your local Opportunity Youth CBO and participating in a hiring fair to get to know the young adults, learn more about the overall program, demographics and needs of the young adults (full-time/part-time/training/internships, etc.) and the organization.

– If you are a recruiter or in HR, bring someone from operations to an event or local CBO so they can learn first-hand about the available programs and 100K Initiatives.

– Talk to other companies who are participating. Find out what has worked or what strategies and processes they have changed or were enhanced and how to make the most of the programs.

Visit www.100kopportunities.org for the latest updates on upcoming hiring events across the country.


Event LU
Young adult participating in Chipotle’s career exploration table at October 25, 2016, 100,000 Opportunities Initiative hiring event, in Los Angeles, California.

LeadersUp: Describe the caliber of talent you interacted with at the hiring event. Are there any young adults who stood out who now work at Chipotle?
Marie Davis: The young adults who interviewed with us at the 100K Initiative hiring events were the type of employees you want in your company, with or without specific on-the-job experience. While not every candidate is a perfect fit, their participation in this type of an event showcases their commitment, dedication, and ambition to work hard and better their lives. The stories and experiences they shared were inspirational but also at times heartbreaking. As recruiters and managers, you learn just as much from the young adults as they learn from you; such as the skills many of the young adults have gained by not giving up, doing their best, and being open to learning. These qualities come from their life experiences and are at the core of any successful candidate. For example, I provided my card to a young lady who had a second interview at a restaurant after I had sent her on to the manager. She actually sent me an email thanking me because she had been hired. She is someone who needed a fresh start and I was excited to see that Chipotle provided that job to her.

LeadersUp: What are some actions that would help employers expand their impact following the conclusion of such hiring events?
Marie Davis: My advice to all employers who participate is to network with the community organizations during and after the hiring event. These are the people who can act on your behalf as advocates and promote your company. They can also promote your company’s hiring opportunities long after the event is over. Schedule meetings with regional or local community organizations as a follow-up and highlight the young adults you hired from their organization. This will make your work and company’s impact last longer than a one-day event.

LeadersUp: What are some of Chipotle’s opportunities that young adults may be unaware of, but may make them consider Chipotle to be a great place for career growth?
Marie Davis: There are so many opportunities for young adults who join the Chipotle team, especially those who understand the importance of strengthening skills and continuing academic advancement. Qualified employees can receive educational benefits and college credits while working at Chipotle, in addition to health and vacation benefits, and most importantly, the potential to grow into a management role.

LeadersUp: How can community organizations that focus on preparing young adults for employment strengthen their relationships with employers, especially as it relates to talent needs?
Marie Davis: I think this is an opportunity for community-based organizations and employers, so my answer would be that CBOs need to let us know that they exist.  The most difficult part of my job is actually finding which organizations are out there providing services and programs to job-seeking Opportunity Youth. On that same note, more employers need to be raising their hands to say that they are interested in hiring. The gap between CBOs that provide talent development services to Opportunity Youth and employers looking to hire needs to be closed. I am hopeful that both sides are getting closer to building that bridge for our young adults.

The food service industry is constantly evolving in how it engages consumers, so there is no surprise for the need to innovate how restaurants engage potential talent. Chipotle understands this and knows that investing in its employees is an investment in its overall success. Sustainable talent pipelines represent consistent service, fully supported teams and satisfied customers. Chipotle’s support of the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative proves that businesses can achieve this with qualified young adults, without having to sacrifice talent or their values. This is a talent recruitment and retention strategy not just for the future of food service but for industry-wide talent development. To learn more about Chipotle’s commitment to ending youth unemployment click here.

Is your company interested in being featured in the LeadersUp Employer Spotlight Series? We want to hear from you. Please contact Stephen Warwyk at Stephen@LeadersUp.org.

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