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Chipotle Forges Ahead With Expansion Plans

After being sued by 10,000 employees, Chipotle will hire 5,000 more

Need a job? Not afraid of a little E. coli? Good news: Chipotle is hiring. Despite the fact that the burrito chain is currently embroiled in countless lawsuits from current and former employees, the company is set to hire 5,000 workers in a one-day hiring spree later this month as part of a massive expansion plan.

Chipotle’s second-annual National Career Day is slated for September 28, during which it seeks to hire 5,000 new employees; this will top last year’s goal of 4,000. The announcement comes at an odd time; the chain is still working to recover from its food safety disaster of 2015 when a combination of E. coli, Salmonella, and Norovirus sickened hundreds and led the company’s stock to plummet. Earlier this year, Chipotle settled with more than 100 diners who were sickened during the outbreak.

While Chipotle has been forging ahead in marketing to new audiences with a rewards program and giveaway after giveaway, bad news seems to cling to it like salsa on a corn chip. The fast-casual chain is currently being sued by nearly 10,000 current or former employees over unpaid wages. Claims of gender and racial discrimination have also recently dogged a company once known for promoting ethical and sustainable business practices.

In short, it doesn’t appear to be an ideal time to publicize a hiring fair, but more stores — which Chipotle plans to open despite sagging profits — require more workers. In a tweet before the hiring fair was announced, restaurant analyst and risk management specialist Howard Penney joked that no one wants to work at Chipotle in the first place.

Both diners and Wall Street seem to agree that Chipotle should focus on regaining its footing rather than embark upon expansion plans. But it's worth mentioning that for a company of Chipotle's size, plans for growth are often outlined and approved a year or more in advance. In a recent note sent to investors, restaurant finance analyst Mark Kalinowski, who specializes in Chipotle investments, argued that the company needs to undergo “a timely and thorough review of the cost structure of the entire organization — with a mind to Chipotle's business as it is realistically like to be in coming years, not as it was before the challenges of 2015-16 came to be known.”

Nevertheless, the chain seems set on following through with an expansion plan put into place long before E. coli was ever a thought. Executives say Chipotle will open at least 220 restaurants in 2016.

Which brings us to the hiring spree. In a press release, co-CEO Monty Moran said Chipotle hopes to hire 5,000 new staffers on September 28, adding that working at the chain “isn't just a job, but a career where employees learn how to make others better, run a successful business, master culinary skills, and most importantly, become true leaders, of teams of top performers."

So how long will it take for Chipotle itself to again be a “top performer?” In the current media environment, where celebrities like so-called fashion designer/Taylor Swift-hater Kanye West love to promote McDonald’s, Chipotle’s resurrection is still an uncertain thing.

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